FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Harvin, FSU, Tebow

1 » A rough rookie season has not deterred the Miami Dolphins from committing to former Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis. Though he started his NFL career on fire with 10-straight makes, Sturgis suffered a slump where he missed 5-of-8 (some of which were in tough conditions and others from absurd long distances). He ended the 2014 season by making 13 of his final 16 tries and should only get better in his second campaign. “Every day you go out there, you want to hit every field goal,” Sturgis told his team’s website. “You try. When you get in a rhythm where you’re hitting every field goal you make, you stay at a consistent level.”

2 » The Seattle Seahawks continue to treat oft-injured wide receiver Percy Harvin with kid gloves, only allowing him to work out every other day in training camp. After an off day Saturday, Harvin returned to action Sunday and impressed once again. Head coach Pete Carroll explained to the team’s website how the Seahawks are being cautious with Harvin. “We want to work our way into camp and make sure we don’t overload him early,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what kind of work load he can handle. He works so hard and so fast at practice that we think we can do this for a while. We’ll see how it goes and we’re just going to learn as we go.” For Harvin, who was famous for trying to avoid practicing every day with the Florida Gators, this appears to be as ideal of a scenario as he could imagine.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Harvin, FSU, Tebow

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

Florida sees four players decommit in 10 days

Four times in the last 10 days, a 2015 prospect previously committed to the Florida Gators has changed course and taken back his verbal pledge.

On Monday, less than 24 hours after three-star athlete Jalen Julius (Orlando, FL) reopened his recruitment, Florida learned that its second-highest rated pledge, four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis (Washington, D.C.) has decided to decommit as well.

“I am officially announcing my decommitment from the University of Florida. I am grateful for the opportunity the university granted me,” Lewis wrote on his Twitter account.

According to InsidetheGators.com‘s Blake Alderman and many other recruiting analysts, Lewis’s decommitment was a “long time coming.” He visited Michigan over the weekend and is expected to eventually make a pledge to continue his career there.

Rated by Rivals as the No. 84 overall player in the nation, Lewis committed to the Gators back on April 17. He cited Florida’s ability to put defensive backs in the NFL and the program’s recent addition of freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor, also a Washington, D.C. product, as big reasons for his decision.

Julius pulled his trigger on Sunday. The Gators were recruiting him 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.

Continue Reading » Florida sees four players decommit in 10 days

TWO BITS: Noah poking James, support for Rainey

1 » Former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah has been a thorn in the side of LeBron James since the day Noah was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Mostly nudging James in a joke-serious fashion, Noah has never shied away from challenging the league’s best player (or James’s former team, the Miami Heat) with humorous yet pointed remarks. “I’m happy for LeBron James,” said Noah while hosting a charity event in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday. “He gets to go home. People are happy over there. But I really hope that we can kick his ass as many times as possible.” The 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Noah will have his best chance to compete for a league title in 2014 with a healthy Derrick Rose and new contributing piece in Pau Gasol.

The charity event Noah hosted on Friday was to debut a new public service announcement for his Noah’s Arc Foundation, one made in an effort to help stop gun violence and promote peace in the Windy City. “All this violence that’s going on in Chicago, I feel like it’s all our problems. It’s not just a South Side problem. It’s not just a West Side problem. This is a city problem,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We all have to come together. I don’t know what the answers are. I really don’t. I’m just trying my best.”

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Noah poking James, support for Rainey

TWO BITS: Hill signed by Ravens, Pounceys sued

1 » Former Florida Gators safety Will Hill is being given yet another chance by an NFL team with the Baltimore Ravens signing the free agent and adding him to their training camp roster on Friday. Hill, who is serving a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for a second time, has also previously been suspended under the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He will be cleared for reinstatement on Oct. 13, at which time he will be able to play for the Ravens. Until then, Hill can practice with the team and participate in preseason games in hopes of earning a roster spot. In his second year with the New York Giants in 2013, Hill amassed 77 tackles with two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. He has proven to be a capable NFL player and even a spot starter but is still struggling with off-the-field issues that have prevented him from keeping a job or earning a healthy contract.

2 » After weeks of accusations, a lawsuit has finally been filed against brothers and NFL centers Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey for an alleged assault at a night club in early July. Though neither man has been charged for a crime by the Miami-Dade Police Department, and both Pounceys claim their innocence through their lawyer, the accusers are nevertheless suing for damages in excess of $15,000.

The accusers claim that both brothers began by addressing Ricquan James with “derogatory and homophobic remarks and anti gay slurs” before shoving the man. Eventually he claims, Maurkice struck him “in the face several times,” causing him to fall to the ground in a fetal position. At that time, he claims Maurkice, Mike, “their security and agents all began to punch, hit and kick” him. When his friend, Niya Pickett, “attempted to intervene and requested that the Pouncey group seize from beating” James, “Maurkice then grabbed [her], spun her towards him, punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious.” Furthermore, the suit states that “James and Pickett were then violently beat and thrown throughout the club and eventually thrown outside the club.” The victims are claiming blunt force trauma, contusions, bruising, broken teeth and an eye injury. The Pounceys are each being sued for assault & battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and vicarious liability by each of the three co-defendants.

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

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.

Continue Reading » Previewing Florida’s 2014 Friday Night Lights

ESPN, SEC Network reach agreements with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks

Florida Gators fans across the state of Florida and country can rest easier as ESPN and the SEC Network announced Thursday that they have reached a deal for the channel to be distributed by Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks when it launches nationwide on Aug. 14.

Already set to be available on AT&T U-Verse, DISH Network, Google Fiber, Cox Communications and Xfinity TV, as well as a variety of local cable carriers, SEC Network will now be in approximately 60 million homes after these latest agreements.

“We know we have customers who want the SEC-ESPN Network, and are pleased to bring it to them,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable in a press release. “This deal will help ensure that fans and alumni of SEC universities won’t miss any important games.”

Multiple reports over the last few weeks have DirecTV near a deal with ESPN to carry the SEC Network. It and Verizon FIOS are the only major providers not currently slated to have the channel when it launches.

Every major cable operator in Florida, plus DISH Network subscribers, now has access to the SEC Network. DirecTV is available throughout the state, while Verizon FIOS currently only available in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

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