Gators undrafted free agents agree to deals

Updated July 27 at 3:30 p.m.

The end of the NFL lockout sent the league into a frenzy Monday evening as teams were officially allowed to contact and agree to contracts with undrafted free agents who were not selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. With only four Florida Gators picked in the seven-round draft back in April, a number of well-known players remained available heading into one of the most questionable offseasons in pro football history.

With contracts now being signed as names continue to roll in, a number of former Gators have already been picked up to join NFL squads this year.

Everything started Monday evening as linebacker Duke Lemmens chose to stay out west and play for the Arizona Cardinals, defensive tackle Terron Sanders got a call from the Baltimore Ravens, and running back Emmanuel Moody decided to join 2010 undrafted free agent wide receiver David Nelson with the Buffalo Bills.

On Tuesday, punter Chas Henry chose to team up with wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Cornelius Ingram on the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive end Justin Trattou decided to play close to home with the New York Giants, and offensive lineman Carl Johnson joined up with DE Alex Brown on the New Orleans Saints.

Wednesday brought two more signings as LB A.J. Jones found a spot with the Denver Broncos and LB Brandon Hicks [unconfirmed] signed with the Bills. Jones joins quarterback Tim Tebow in Denver, while Hicks teams up with Moody and Nelson in Buffalo.

Safety Will Hill was originally reported to have agreed to a deal with the Washington Redskins; however, it surfaced Tuesday that those reports were premature and the two sides have not spoken about a contract.

OGGOA spoke with Sanders early Tuesday morning, and he related to us that former Florida defensive coordinator now Baltimore defensive backs coach Teryl Austin had a lot to do with him getting this opportunity with a top-tier franchise.

“Coach Austin, he’s up there now, and he put in a good word for me and told them that I can plug the hole and knock people back,” Sanders said. “He convinced them to take a shot at me. They called my agent, my agent called me and asked me if I’d be interested in going to Baltimore. I told them, ‘Yeah,’ and the deal is done.”

Though he has been hoping the lockout would end and has been keeping in shape, Sanders also kept himself busy with a regular job until his future was known.

“I haven’t put on a pair of shoulder pads in a while,” he said. “I’ve been working out, doing some running, and I started working at U-Haul about two weeks ago just to get some money in my pocket until this was decided.”

Other players who could be signed include WR Carl Moore and defensive lineman Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh.

OGGOA will update this post as additional signings are announced.

Muschamp goes through ESPN’s car wash, again

Just days after finishing up the 2011 Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, AL, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp traveled to Bristol, CT and was put through ESPN‘s self-named car wash – appearing on nearly a dozen of the network’s media platforms over the course of one business day. OGGOA followed Muschamp’s appearances throughout the day and put together the following recap:

He started the morning on the set of ESPN2‘s First Take, where he and Auburn head coach Gene Chizik competed in school trivia and a putting contest (neither made it).

Muschamp then taped a segment for GameDay Radio before heading over to the Scott Van Pelt Show to speak about representing the University of Florida, the passion of the SEC, his primary concern for the team (staying healthy), redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, being himself on the field and more. [Listen]

He continued his radio tour by visiting The Herd with Colin Cowherd, where he discussed the pressure to win, depth of the SEC, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, the NFL lockout, paying players and more. [Listen]

Next up were taped segments for ESPNU and Storycast, which he completed before moving on to do some work with the folks who operate Page 2 of ESPN.com.

Muschamp’s day then included a spot on SportsCenter, where Chris Fowler interviewed him about getting started in his efforts to turn around the Florida program.

After that was a Twitter chat, three more taped segments (College Football Live, SportsCenter Tonight radio, SportsNation), a trio of social media appearances (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) and a spot on ESPN Radio Dallas.

OGGOA will update this post with additional multimedia from Muschamp’s day in Bristol as it is released by the Worldwide Leader.

Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (49-40)

With just 40 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the sixth part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 49-40.

49 – Darrin Kitchens (Homestead, FL)
Sophomore linebacker
6’2” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Kitchens was a late commit to Florida who is currently majoring in social & behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: Played on the kickoff coverage team in 10 of 13 games during his freshman season, registering a pair of tackles.

2011 Outlook: Slotted as a second/third-string weakside linebacker on the spring depth chart, Kitchens may see the field on defense during his second year with the team but will do so in a reserve role.

48 – Neiron Ball (Jackson, GA)
Sophomore linebacker
6’2” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: An early enrollee last spring, Ball was a four-star prospect who was All-State in Georgia and currently majors in social & behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: On the field for all 13 games, Ball accumulated 10 tackles while mostly serving as a member of the kickoff and kickoff return special teams units.

2011 Outlook: After a blood vessel ruptured in his brain back in February, Ball hospitalized, treated and diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation in his brain. Now healthy and recovering, he has been unable to practice or workout with the team and is expected to take a medical redshirt for his sophomore season. Ball hopes to return when he is completely healthy and in football shape next year.

47 – John Crofoot (Windemere, FL)
Redshirt sophomore kicker
5’11” 155 lbs.

Quick Bio: A walk-on who majors in business, Crofoot spent his freshman year as a long snapper but eventually took a redshirt after he did not see the field.

2010 Season: Transitioning to a kicker and holder, he played in nine games last year and helped then-punter/kicker Chas Henry complete some important field goals including the 37-yard game-winner in overtime against Georgia.

2011 Outlook: Will compete for the holder job on field goals and extra points.

46 – Drew Ferris (Carlsbad, CA)
Sophomore long snapper
6’0” 215 lbs.

Quick Bio: A highly rated long snapper coming out of high school, the social & behavioral sciences major did not play as a freshman and took a redshirt in 2010.

2011 Outlook: Entered spring as the back-up long snapper and will likely retain that role throughout the season as long as redshirt sophomore Christopher Guido holds down his job.

44 – Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN)
Freshman punter
6’2” 195 lbs.

Quick Bio: An early enrollee this January, Christy was one of the highest rated punters in the nation coming out of high school and committed to Florida partially because of Henry’s departure and the ability to start right away.

2011 Outlook: The starter going into spring practice, he was called “a real talented guy” with “a real good leg” by head coach Will Muschamp in April. Muschamp has been putting extra pressure on him during practice by standing right next to him while punting in an effort to help him mature quickly and rid himself of any nervousness going into the season.

41 – Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL)
Freshman fullback
6’0” 237 lbs.

Quick Bio: The top-rated fullback nationally, Joyer enrolled in the summer and is expected to compete for time on the field right away.

2011 Outlook: On National Signing Day, Muschamp raved about how Joyer can help the team going forward. “We’re going to get back to more traditional as far as running two back runs. And he’s a young man that’s got a lot of lower body power, punch and explosion,” he said. “He’s a very strong young man. He lives in the weight room, and we’re excited to what he brings to our football team from a toughness standpoint.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

Gators safety Elam cited for underage drinking

Florida Gators safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking and given a notice to appear in court by Gainesville, FL police on Sunday, according to The Gainesville Sun.

Elam, who was also cited for possession of alcohol by a minor one year ago, was spotted by officers “with a plastic cup that contained a dark liquid,” the paper reports.

He then apparently tossed the cup, which allegedly contained Hennessy and Coca-Cola, before being written up on site for the violation.

On July 21, 2010, Elam pleaded no contest to his previous charge and was ordered to pay a small fine by an Alachua County court.

Set to start for the Gators at strong safety in 2011, Elam played in every game last season, registering 23 total tackles (three for a loss) and a blocked kick.

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Recapping Florida’s 2011 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 pull in some recruits over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough as recruits get coached up while getting to know each other.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 22, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below is a recap of the 2011 event which includes much of what was learned Friday evening in Gainesville, FL.

» Florida did not receive any commitments at the event, though that is not necessarily a negative. The Gators’ 15-member recruiting class is believed to be slightly larger already with a few silent commits in the fold. Most importantly, Florida’s new coaching staff made a positive impression on those in attendance and may have set themselves up for some big names to give their respective pledges in the near future.

» Five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Olney, MD) was the standout performer, hauling in catches, showcasing his athleticism and even performing a few Gator Chomps after scoring a touchdown. The No. 2 wide receiver in the 2012 class, No. 8 overall prospect and No. 1 player in his state, Diggs has 36 offers but has not narrowed his choices down yet. Former high school teammates with Gators redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins, Diggs stayed in Gainesville overnight and will get more personal time with coaches on Saturday. “It was a big stage out there tonight,” he told The Gainesville Sun. “I didn’t come down here for no reason. I had a feeling about Florida. I just knew it was going to be live, and that’s what I love.”

» Florida’s current commitments and players did what they could to help sway recruits to the Orange & Blue throughout the course of the evening. Most notable among them was sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell, who was in the ear of four-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, GA) all night long. The two reportedly got along great and developed a solid relationship at the event.

» Gators defensive coaches spent a ton of time with four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (Forest City, NC), sticking by his side until he left the field and eventually headed home. Close friends with recent three-star safety commit Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC) and top Florida target four-star DE Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC), Watkins has spoken with the duo about all playing college together. He is also seriously considering South Carolina and Clemson.

» Though he did make it down to Gainesville, five-star Florida State DE commit Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL) remains solid to UF’s rival. He has expressed interest in Florida lately even though his father has no desire to see him wearing the Orange & Blue. The Gators are nevertheless pursuing Fowler in hopes of turning him, but he reiterated on Friday that his commitment to FSU is solid as of right now.

» Former Florida players in attendance included running back Fred Taylor, quarterback Chris Leak and wide receivers Jemalle Cornelius and Jacquez Green. Taylor, who visited with his son, 2013 RB prospect Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL), served as a coach at the camp and was excited to finally bring his son to The Swamp. Cornelius and Green visited with players from the high schools they coach at and also had a good time. The younger Taylor showcased good hands and solid agility at the event, but it is unknown if the Gators have presented him with an offer yet.

» Five-star athlete Nelson Agholor (Tampa, FL) was planning to visit but ended up cancelling after he received a phone call from the hosts of the ESPN/Nike Gridiron Kings event in Orlando, FL, who asked him to fill in for a player who dropped out. Agholor, who has yet to narrow down his list which may or may not include Florida depending who you talk to, was just one of a few players who did not make it. Three-star cornerback Chris Bivins (Gainesville, FL) also took part in another event, and four-star cornerback Tracy Howard (Miramar, FL) stopped by for a few hours but left before FNL began. Four-star offensive tackle Avery Young (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) was planning on going but simply could not find a ride. He is believed to be a heavy UF lean.

» Having shortened his list to Florida, Southern California and South Carolina, four-star defensive end Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL) still has a ways to go in his recruitment (he does not plan to make an official announcement until January). Nevertheless, his time in Gainesville was well spent as he was able to continue developing his relationship with the coaches, who hope to earn his commitment as soon as possible McCord is one of the Gators’ top targets going forward.

Previewing Florida’s 2011 Friday Night Lights

Updated at 5:40 p.m.

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 pull in some recruits over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough as recruits get coached up while getting to know each other.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 22, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of the top 10 players that share mutual interest in attending Florida as well as list of the top five most talented prospects who will be camping in Gainesville, FL. Neither list is sorted in any particular order.

DE Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, GA) –
The No. 5 player at his position in 2012, Jenkins recently attended Dawg Night but has not narrowed down his list into a top-five yet. He will visit Alabama after taking his trip to Florida and has already spent time with Auburn, Georgia Tech and Tennessee.

DE Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL) –
Slotted two spots below Jenkins, McCord visited UF with his parents in late June and is now returning one month later. South Carolina and North Carolina are also working hard to eventually win him over and earn his services, but it is believed that his final two are Florida and USC with the Gators out in front.

TE Kent Taylor (Land O’Lakes, FL) –
The top-ranked tight end in the nation according to Rivals, Taylor has a myriad of offers on the table but appears to have narrowed his choices down to Florida and Penn State. His father seems to favor UF, but Taylor grew up as a PSU fan. Other schools in contention for his services include Florida State (where he nearly committed in the spring), Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Check out the other nine players featured in this post…after the break!

Continue Reading » Previewing Florida’s 2011 Friday Night Lights

Weis talks Brantley, Wenger at Gator Gathering

Just a day after head coach Will Muschamp entertained the media at the 2011 SEC Media Days, Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis filled in for him by participating in a Gator Gathering at the Marion County Gator Club.

During the event, Weis spoke about a number of topics but was most notably asked about the potential of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and the recent transfer of redshirt senior center Dan Wenger from Notre Dame.

After struggling one year ago, Brantley will be given the best chance possible to succeed, Weis said, because the goal is to develop the entire offense and not put all of the onus for success directly on his shoulders.

“When you put in a new offense, too much responsibility on any one player is not a very good philosophical idea,” Weis said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “The most important thing for me and the offensive staff is to figure out what we can do the best, and then just do a lot of that. Too many times in football people try to reinvent the wheel. What we have to do is develop a personality and find out what [Brantley] can do the best, and do that.”

The Super Bowl-winning offensive mind also reiterated that film of Brantley from last year has not done much to help his evaluation, even though he is confident in his ability to handle the offense and succeed long-term.

“It doesn’t help me very much because it’s so different from what I do,” Weis said. “[Brantley wasn’t] really in a true drop-back setting, so therefore I need to be able to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. […] In a pro-style offense, it’s more about whether you have all the physical tools to be able to run the offense – which he does. Then it’s mentally how do you handle it.”

Weis also spoke for the first time about Wenger, who joined the team in the summer and hopes to earn significant playing time considering his experience in Weis’s offense and as an player taught directly by new offensive line coach Frank Verducci at Notre Dame.

“He started a whole bunch of games for us at center and guard,” Weis said, according to GatorZone.com. “You want to talk about a bonus, a throw-in guy who has started about 30 games at center and guard? You can’t buy things like that. He’s really helped with those guys when we haven’t been able to be with them.”

Photo Credit: Unknown

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