ATH Travon Van headed to Marshall instead

Former Florida Gators four-star athlete commitment Travon Van (New Berlin, NY) has enrolled in summer classes at Marshall University with hopes of improving his grades in order to qualify academically to play next season for the Marshall Thundering Herd, according to numerous sources.

Van, who moved from California to New York to attend Milford Academy in order to improve his grades so he could enroll early at Florida, was denied admission in January due to an academic qualification issue. He kept his commitment to the Gators – spurning suitors like West Virginia – and hoped to enroll during the summer session.

OGGOA has confirmed that Van has been released from his National Letter of Intent primarily due to his inability to qualify academically but also because of depth concerns.

He has since signed with the Thundering Herd to play under head coach Doc Holliday, the former associate head coach and safeties coach at Florida from 2005-07.

Van’s summer grades at Marshall will determine whether or not he will be eligible for the 2010-11 season; if they do not improve, he may be forced to sit out a year.

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TWO BITS: Beal to Minnesota, Florida loses Hale

1 » Following up on OGGOA’s exclusive report from May 12 stating that former Florida Gators linebacker Brendan Beal would be transferring to another school, it has now been confirmed the former four-star high school recruit will be playing for the Minnesota Gophers in 2011-12 after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer regulations. Beal, who received a medical hardship redshirt from the NCAA, will actually have three years of eligibility left when he finally suits up for Minnesota. Asked by to comment on his reason for transferring out of Florida, Beal declined. “Sorry, I would not like to comment on that,” he said.

2 » Though the Gators were only one of his 17 scholarship offers, Florida (along with Penn State) was in the final three for four-star defensive tackle Joel Hale (Greenwood, IN). Unfortunately for head coach Urban Meyer, Hale publicly committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes Monday evening, becoming the school’s second commit in under a week. At 6’4” and 290 lbs., Hale’s commitment is No. 14 for the Buckeyes, one that will help them immediately get more athletic on the front line.

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Florida commits ranked as 2011 ratings released

While some programs are racking up 2011 commitments early, the Florida Gators are taking a more concerted approach, sporting a foursome of four-star players set to join the team next season. ESPNU and Rivals have both come out with their first round of high school football recruit rankings within the last week, each with a different perspective of where the Gators’ current commitments fall.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL)
No. 14 – ESPNU (No. 1 QB)
No. 31 – Rivals (No. 1 QB)

Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC)
No. 19 – ESPNU (No. 4 DE)
No. 25 – Rivals (No. 3 DE)

Tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL)
No. 66 – ESPNU (No. 7 ATH)
No. 89 – Rivals (No. 6 TE)

Athlete De’Ante Saunders (Deland, FL)
No. 74 – ESPNU (No. 8 ATH)
Outside top 250 – Rivals

Though Pagan is noted on the above list, he has come out publicly and said that he will be taking a number of official visits before his commitment is 100 percent solid to Florida. He is interested in schools closer to home but also has big-name programs like USC, Ohio State, Georgia and Tennessee vying for his services.

Rivals’ Mark Wheeler notes that the Gators are either targeting, being prominently mentioned by or in the mix for 29 more of the company’s top 100 recruits, including four players in the top 10: No. 2 linebacker Tony Steward (St. Augustine, FL), No. 3 ATH James Wilder, Jr. (Tampa, FL), No. 7 offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, MA) and No. 8 LB Curtis Grant (Richmond, VA).

Photo Credit: ESPN

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TWO BITS: Ingram’s return, Rivers’ planned visits

1 » Last week, former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram opened up to the Philadelphia Enquirer about his recovery from a second ACL surgery and ambition about returning to the practice field for the Philadelphia Eagles. Thursday, he spoke with the Associated Press about the same subject. “Any time you get hurt, suffer a major injury, it’s going to be tough,” Ingram said. “When it’s the same injury, the same part of your body, it’s tougher. [It was] terrible, just terrible. But what could I do, except rehab, and work hard to get back.” Ingram now says he is 100 percent healthy and is practicing at full speed. “It feels great,” he said. “Mentally, you have to get that confidence back; you have to learn to trust your knee. It’s scary, because it’s always in the back of your mind, especially when it’s happened twice. But right now I have the confidence. I’m ready to go. I couldn’t wait to get back on the field here. Now, I can’t wait to get to training camp.”

2 » In his latest Dime Magazine hoop diary, five-star 2011 guard recruit and former Gators commitment Austin Rivers once again discusses his recruitment. “I still keep in touch with Coach K at Duke and Coach [Billy] Donovan at Florida,” Rivers said in the middle of the piece. “I only get five official visits so I want to definitely go back to Duke. I’ve got to go to UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida, too.” Previously, Rivers had not mentioned taking an official visit to Florida, seemingly because he knew the program so well. Apparently that has changed.

Extra Bit » Former Gators and NFL star Ike Hilliard has been named the wide receivers coach of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers according to a press release from the league. He was a volunteer assistant coach on the team last season and was recently hired to a full-time position by new Tuskers head coach Jay Gruden.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wilcox/The Gainesville Sun

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Andrews, softball, NFL

1 » ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario, who was hoping to enroll at the University of Florida for its Summer A session, will instead join the Florida Gators for Summer B as he is stuck in New Jersey finishing classes. “Rosario might end up being one of the most important transfers Donovan has had in his career,” Katz wrote. “[He] will push Kenny Boynton in practice every day.”

2 » Former Gators dazzler and ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews finished third in her quest to win ABC‘s Dancing with the Stars competition. Andrews got further than many expected on the program and is rumored to have begun a relationship with her dance partner on the show. She is currently in the process of finalizing a new contract (including a significant raise) with the Worldwide Leader in Sports and hopes to expand her horizons beyond college sports and baseball.

3 » Two Florida softball players – juniors pitcher Stephanie Brombacher and outfielder Kelsey Bruder – have been named 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans by the College of Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Named to the third- and second-teams, respectively, each earned at least a 3.30 GPA.

4 » Former Gators inside linebackers Channing Crowder and Andra Davis were both in the news Wednesday. A report from the Sun-Sentinel states that Crowder may begin the season on the Miami Dolphins’ physically unable to perform list if his foot does not heal properly, while another from the Buffalo News infers that Davis is set to start for the Buffalo Bills alongside Paul Posluszny.

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FOUR BITS: Shipman playing football, two signees

1 » According to his father, former Florida Gators guard Ray Shipman, who transferred from the basketball team just a few weeks ago, has decided to switch sports. Rather than transfer to play basketball, Shipman will leave to try his hand at playing football – more specifically the position of safety. Shipman was named the state of Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 2008 but never really established himself on the college level.

2 » No. 4 Gators baseball (40-13) will begin the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament as a No. 1 seed Wednesday night against the defending national champion LSU Tigers (36-20). The double-elimination event, which is being played in Hoover, AL, will feature Florida in its third game and is set to air live on CSS at 5:30 p.m. The Gators swept the Tigers during the regular season, outscoring them 28-14 in three home games from April 30 to May 2.

3 » Florida softball signed a fifth player to their 2010 signing class on Tuesday, receiving a National Letter of Intent from Ashley Snedeker (Bloomington, MN). “Ashley is a very good addition to our 2011 roster,” head coach Tim Walton said in a release. “She is dynamic and is going to provide us with some athleticism at the plate and in the field. She is a proven winner at every level, and I am really excited to add her to our program.”

4 » Also signing a National Letter of Intent with the Gators Tuesday was sprinter Darshay Davis (Miramar, FL), who is joining the school’s women’s track & field team. “I would like to make the biggest impact as possible as a freshman next season,” Davis told the Miami Herald. “I know I will have more competition. I won’t be on top, but I expect to run pretty fast. At least finish top eight indoors and outdoors in the SEC and NCAA.”

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Tishman’s decision opens up 13th scholarship

Faced with rebuilding his program, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan had been dealing with one final obstacle – having enough scholarships to sign his six-player 2010 recruiting class. That issue has now been resolved.

Donovan, who finished the 2009-10 basketball season with only two commitments for next year, signed four more players in just under a month’s time – Rutgers’ four-star transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), three-star forwards Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and three-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL). Unfortunately, the Gators only had two remaining scholarships to offer with four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN) already taking up two other spots.

Sophomore guard Ray Shipman had previously decided to transfer (or else the team would have only had three total scholarships), but Donovan needed some help in order to get his program to the NCAA-mandated maximum of 13.

As OGGOA initially projected, the extra vacated scholarships ended up coming from redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen (who gave up his so the team could sign Wilbekin) and now freshman point guard Rod Tishman (who has decided to remain in Israel instead of returning to the team).

“For [Tishman], coming the distance he came and not getting and opportunity to play much here was a part in his decision. I think part of him wanted to come back again, but I don’t think he wanted to come back if it was going to be the same situation as last season. Coming over here to play in the States was an adjustment period for him. He’s got some opportunities in Israel right now that he’s going to probably pursue professionally,” Donovan said. “I loved coaching him and I still have a good relationship with him and his family, but he’s going to stay back over there. We certainly appreciate him coming here and giving it a shot. For him coming all the way, the distance that he did and not getting the opportunity to play as much as he would like too [was difficult].”

Donovan informed the media of Tishman’s decision Monday, one that was assumed by many but not previously confirmed. Tishman barely got on the court last season, playing a total of 16 minutes in seven games. He played his last game on Jan. 16 against LSU and did not step onto the floor again the rest of the season.

Allen has qualified for a Bright Futures academic scholarship but may instead decide to take a medical hardship. He could also decide to transfer if he feels he can get healthy and play for another program. Either way, he will open up an additional slot.

“Adam hasn’t played ball in two years. I want to give him every opportunity to come back and to play and that’s what he wants to do,” Donovan said. “There’s such an uncertainty about where he’s going to be at physically when our season starts. […] He realizes he has a tremendous uphill battle, his skill level and more. There are a lot of unknowns.”

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Cody Larson contrite, apologetic after sentencing

Incoming Florida Gators 2010 three-star power forward commitment Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) spoke about his recent legal ordeal with The Argus Leader on Saturday, one day before receiving his high school diploma and one day after being sentenced to 120 days suspended jail time and two years probation in a Minnehaha County court. He will also volunteer three days a week until he leaves for Gainesville, FL.

Larson who, according to court documents, was found with Hydrocodone (pain killer) in his home during an investigation into extensive prescription drug abuse at Roosevelt High School, was charged with a misdemeanor for being in a room where it was known that drugs were stored and utilized. He accepted a plea deal Friday, avoiding a trial and potentially the maximum allowable punishment of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Should he stay out of trouble for two years, he will never have to enter a jail cell – and Florida head coach Billy Donovan believes that he will successfully avoid just that.

“Cody and his family were very upfront about the situation,” Donovan told the Leader on a separate occasion. “When we first got in touch with him after he got his release from Iowa, we didn’t know any of this. He brought it to our attention and made it clear that he was ready to learn from it and move on. This is a young man who made a mistake that he’s paying for. I think he’s embarrassed, and I think there was naiveness on his part about what he was getting into.”

Nevertheless, Larson’s qualifying for admission to the University of Florida was far from a decision that Donovan could make on his own.

“Anytime something like this happens, where an athlete is brought up on charges, it’s not just my decision,” Donovan said. “It goes through the athletic department and our compliance person, and it’s a matter of getting more information. Our school felt like the situation was not as severe as some people thought it was going to be. Based on the information we had, we decided that we would definitely recruit Cody and offer him a scholarship.”

Below are portions of a lengthy and informative interview Lasron did with the Leader. He speaks about why he took and shared the pills, why he decided to join the Gators and how he has changed as a person…after the break.

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