TWO BITS: Larson’s future, Johnson’s nomination

1 » Roosevelt High School head coach Lee Taylor, who has been teaching Florida Gators 2010 three-star forward commitment Cody Larson for the last few years, spoke with the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday afternoon about the player, calling him a “terrific human being.” Taylor told the Sentinel’s Jeremy Fowler that Larson is aware of his mistakes, has learned from them and takes the entire situation as a growing experience. “I think Cody understands this whole process will make Cody a better player and a better person,” Taylor said. “He’s a smart, terrific kid who does well in the classroom. Getting away and going to Florida will really help him move forward.” OGGOA’s Story

2 » Florida baseball’s left-handed starting pitcher and designated hitter Brian Johnson has been named to the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award watch list, according to the University of Florida. He is on one only 25 players to be recognized on the list and could receive it on July 2. Johnson, in his short career, is already a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week who is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 53 innings. In the batters box, he is hitting at a .385 clip with 10 RBI and a grand slam.

Extra Bit » Former Gators defensive end Bobby McCray, who won Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the New Orleans Saints, sat down for a wide-ranging interview with SportingNews. McCray touched on winning the big game, playing for defensive coordinator Gary Williams and what he would like to do when his NFL career is over.

Extra Bit II » Check out this video of Larson from one of his local news stations:

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New Florida basketball commit Cody Larson to make scheduled court appearance on Tuesday

One of the Florida Gators’ five incoming 2010 commitments, three-star power forward Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD), is facing a scheduled court appearance Tuesday for a misdemeanor drug charge dating back to February.

According to court documents, Larson was found with Hydrocodone (pain killer) in his home while the Sioux Falls Police Department was investigating extensive prescription drug abuse at Roosevelt High School.

Larson, 18, had injured his ankle in January and was suspended from the team after being charged with a misdemeanor for being in a room where it is known that drugs are stored and utilized. His teammate, Grant Wynia, 18, was charged with illegal use of the same prescription drug.

The Argus Leader reports that Larson’s charge can be punished with a year in jail, a $2,000 fine or a maximum of both. He is most likely looking at probation.

Larson’s commitment to the Gators came after his arrest, and the team’s coaches and administration knew about the issue before taking on the player, according to University of Florida assistant athletics director Fred Demarest.

“The [Larson] family was forthcoming and honest with us during the recruiting process, and the University of Florida was aware,” Demarest told Keoland TV on Monday.

UPDATE: Larson did not appear in Minnehaha County court on Tuesday but his lawyer, Dick Travis, was there representing him. According to the Leader, Larson’s motions are due June 1, he can make a plea deal up until June 15 and his trial is set for June 22.

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

OGGOA: Three’s a charm: Cody Larson commits to Gators

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“Driskel or LeMay?” becomes Driskel vs. LeMay

One of the Florida Gators’ main goals with their 2011 recruiting class was to bring in a top-flight quarterback to eventually replace redshirt junior John Brantley as the next great University of Florida passer. For a while, there was a debate among Urban Meyer and the coaching staff about who would be the better fit: Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) or Christian LeMay (Matthews, NC). In the end, Driskel looked to be the chosen one (of course, LeMay’s perceived lack of interest helped that along).

The Gators’ search came to an end on April 19, when they gained a commitment from Driskel, who impressed Florida greatly at the Gainesville Nike Camp that same weekend. Though he originally planned to make his decision at some point over the summer, his budding relationship with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler and desire to end the recruiting process led him to make an early commitment.

LeMay, on the other hand, had yet to decide where he would play college football beginning in 2011. That changed Friday, when he – alongside his parents (including former Gators chaplain Rev. Stacy LeMay) and friends – announced that he would be joining the Georgia Bulldogs next year.

Like Driskel, LeMay will enroll early. At 6’2” and 195 lbs., he is an inch shorter and 30 pounds lighter than Florida’s commit but has plenty of time to add some much-needed bulk before he dons the red and black.

Unlike Driskel, the competition in front of LeMay is a bit steeper. While the former will have three-star Trey Burton (Venice, FL) to beat out in 2012 (assuming Brantley sticks around), the latter will have to deal with four-star 2009 commitment and 2010 starter Aaron Murray (Tampa, FL), who will only be a redshirt freshman this year.

LeMay’s background with the Gators (his dad was wearing a UF shirt before his son’s announcement) and the duo’s future on opposite ends of one of the most storied rivalries in the Southeastern Conference should make for plenty of storylines and great head-to-head match-ups for years to come.

Photo Credits: ESPN, Tom Hauck/ESPN

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SIX BITS: Tennis, Tebow’s defense, Cunningham’s future, Mullen’s job, Johnson’s start, Moyer

1 » The No. 3 Florida Gators women’s tennis team was honored extensively by the Southeastern Conference on Wednesday, taking home the top three available annual awards. Freshman Lauren Embree won SEC Player of the Year, freshman Allie Will took home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Roland Thornqvist was named SEC Coach of the Year. Also representing the team were seniors Marrit Boonstra and Anastasia Revzina, who were named to the All-SEC First Team and Second Team, respectively. Embree and Will also earned All-SEC First Team honors and placement on the SEC All-Freshman Team. Florida was undefeated (11-0) during the regular season, won the 2010 SEC Tournament and will compete in the 2010 NCAA Team Championship beginning May 14.

2 » When it comes to former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow’s future with the Denver Broncos, you will find no stronger advocate or staunch defender than Denver Post columnist Woody Paige. As someone who suggested the team select Tebow from the get-go, Paige has gone on the offensive against a number of his readers who continue to question head coach Josh McDaniels’ decision, comparing Tebow to the likes of John Elway and San Francisco’s Steve Young.

Check out four more BITS on Cunningham, Mullen and Florida baseball…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tennis, Tebow’s defense, Cunningham’s future, Mullen’s job, Johnson’s start, Moyer

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FOUR BITS: Leonard, Davis, Tebow’s party, SEC

1 » Florida Gators 2011 tight end commitment A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL) will be transferring to his second high school in as many years. According to The Florida Times-Union, the goal is for Leonard to improve his test scores in order qualify for admission to the University of Florida. “Academically he’s on the right track,” University Christian head coach Heath Nivens told the paper. “His grades are solid, but he’s got to get his test scores up. We’re going to help him with some of those things this summer, as far as an SAT prep class so that in July he’s in great shape to qualify.”

2 » Former Gators defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who played his final college season with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks after leaving Florida due to academic and off-the-field issues, has agreed to a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers according to The Birmingham News. One of the nation’s top recruits in 2007, he is best known for making two exciting goal line tackles in the 2009 BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma. He will attempt to make the Buccaneers’ roster during mini camp workouts.

3 » Apparently a radio host in Boston, MA, named “Toucher” working for 98.5 The Sports Hub, after former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos, said his family’s celebration “looked like some kind of Nazi rally … so lily-white is what I’m trying to say. Yeah, Stepford Wives.” As David Whitley of Fanhouse explains, it will be interesting to see whether or not CBS decides to take action against the host like it did against Don Imus for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” Take a look at Whitley’s thoughts and decide for yourself.

UPDATE: On Monday, “Toucher” apologized for his comments. “Anyone who listens to the show regularly knows that I am not the most articulate person in the world,” he said. “I apologize to you that were offended. You know, I just apologize, and I regret what I said.” CBS still has a decision to make…

4 » Though he told reporters that he has yet to speak with any universities in particular, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said Monday that his organization is discussing expansion internally. “Given the success we’ve experienced over the past decade, we are comfortable in the position in which we find ourselves,” Slive said. “Having said that, if there’s going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful in order to maintain its position as one of the nation’s premiere conferences.” In other words, if the Big 10 chooses to expand to 16 teams, the SEC will do its darnedest to make sure they are not upstaged.

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Four commits in four days: Wilbekin to join Gators

The Florida Gators basketball team will have a drastically different look in 2010 as head coach Billy Donovan has acquired his fourth commitment in as many days. Florida Today is reporting that Donovan plans to sign three-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) to a 2010 basketball scholarship.

Though Wilbekin is only a high school junior, he has “excellent” grades and enough credits to graduate early in order to be eligible for admission to the University of Florida as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. Before he can do anything, he must complete standardized testing and receive clearance from the NCAA.

Wilbekin, who is quite familiar with the program, is very much a fall-back option for the Gators after the team failed to land two of the top point guards in the country in Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Ray McCallum (Detroit, MI).

They also lost out on three-star point guard Brandon Young (Baltimore, MD), who has decided to uphold his commitment to DePaul and enroll as a freshman.

Potentially the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin would join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), who will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign six recruits to scholarships, further changes are likely abound inside the Florida program. Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has already decided to transfer, many believe freshman point guard Rod Tishman may return to Israel, redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen could retire and junior forward Alex Tyus has submitted his name for evaluation for the 2010 NBA Draft. Florida would need two of either Tishman, Allen or Tyus to leave the program or else it would exceed its allotment of 13 scholarships.

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Three’s a charm: Cody Larson commits to Gators

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan added more depth to his frontcourt Tuesday, earning a commitment from three-star power forward recruit Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD), according to the Argus Leader. Donovan visited Larson’s hometown Friday, and the former Iowa commit returned the favor by taking a two-day trip to Gainesville, FL, beginning Monday.

At 6’9″ and 225 lbs., Larson is the second forward and third recruit Donovan has signed for his 2010 class in as many days. He averaged 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists at Roosevelt High School and was also being pursued by Kansas, Arizona State and Indiana (among others). However, per Big Ten transfer rules, Larson was prevented from receiving a scholarship offer from a conference team without an appeal.

He decided to seek a release from his commitment to the Hawkeyes after Iowa fired head coach Todd Lickliter and replaced him with Fran McCaffrey, formerly of Siena. The coveted student-athlete was reportedly suspended for the conclusion of his senior season, though the school did not make details public.

Larson is the second recruit Donovan has pulled out of South Dakota during his tenure as Florida’s coach (Mike Miller, 1998-2000). He may not even be the last high schooler on Donovan’s list this year.

The Gators’ coach is still reportedly pursuing two 2011 point guards who appear willing and able to graduate early in order to commit as a part of the team’s 2010 class. Either Matt Carlino (Bloomington, IN) or Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) could potentially be Florida’s fifth 2010 commitment.

Whoever chooses to sign would join Larson, four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-star Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), though Rosario will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign five recruits to scholarships, further changes are likely abound inside the Florida program. Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has already decided to transfer, many believe freshman point guard Rod Tishman may return to Israel, redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen could retire and junior forward Alex Tyus has submitted his name for evaluation for the 2010 NBA Draft. Florida would need either Tishman, Allen or Tyus to leave the program or else it would exceed its allotment of 13 scholarships.

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

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Nu’Keese Richardson laments spurning Gators

If he could do it all again, Hampton Pirates wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson would never have decommitted from the Florida Gators to join the Tennessee Volunteers back in 2009. At least that is what he told the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser in a wide-ranging interview he conducted this week.

“In an informal interview setting, Richardson mentioned how much he regrets spurning Urban Meyer and Florida,” Lieser writes. “He said the biggest reason he opted against Florida was the fact that former Pahokee teammate Janoris Jenkins was already there and Richardson felt he would be stuck in Jenkins’ shadow if he signed.

“However, he said if he had been a Gator, he never would have gotten in trouble. The reason? Jenkins. Richardson believes Jenkins would have watched over him closely and kept him away from problematic situations.”

One of the reasons for Richardson’s decommitment was a promise of immediate playing time by then-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin. That never came to fruition and Richardson seemed to know it right away.

“Yeah, [playing time] definitely was [the main issue]. I felt like I was the best player at the time and I felt like [Kiffin] was just holding me back,” Richardson said. “This is something I do. I felt like, if I wanted to do this, I could’ve stayed at Florida.”

Check out what else Richardson had to say…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Nu’Keese Richardson laments spurning Gators

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