FOUR BITS: Tebow, Dunlap, Jenkins, Horford

1 » Just because Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow earned the starting nod for the team’s final three games last season does not mean he is guaranteed to retain that job next year, new team president John Elway said this past week. “Kyle [Orton] is definitely in the equation,” he said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to trade Kyle Orton. At all. We still have to evaluate that. A lot of people think it’s an automatic, but it’s not.” With player trades not able to be completed until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed, Orton would not be traded any time soon no matter what Elway and new head coach John Fox decide is best for the team.

2 » ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Cincinnati Bengals rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who concluded the 2010 season with an impressive 9.5 sacks (a franchise rookie record), has left agent Todd France and signed with Drew Rosenhaus. He currently has three years remaining on a four-year, $3.01 million contract with Cincinnati that included a $1.22 million signing bonus, $1.779 million in guaranteed cash and an additional $649,000 available through incentives.

3 » Receiving a commitment from four-star QB Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) on Friday, the Florida Gators were only awaiting word from one more potential signee. That wait is now over as four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) officially committed to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida has now finished the 2011 recruiting cycle with 19 commitments . Their class (not yet updated to include Brissett) is ranked No. 14 by Rivals, No. 18 by Scout and No. 12 by ESPNU.

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford was provided an opportunity to live up to his NBA All-Star billing as he was tested with the game on the line Friday. With nearly no time remaining and his team down one, Horford drove the lane and was met by Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who impeded his track to the rim with a flagrant foul. Landing on and injuring his back, Horford was slow to get up but eventually reached the line and hit both free throws to propel Atlanta to a 101-100 victory.

QB Brissett announces commitment to Gators

Updated Feb. 5, 12:30 p.m.

Though National Signing Day has come and gone, the Florida Gators added another commitment to their 2011 recruiting class on Friday. Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) of Dwyer High School committed to Florida at his school’s basketball game Friday evening.

Brissett planned to send his National Letter of Intent to the Gators via fax on Saturday; however, his mother Elicia Brown will make him delay that step until Monday as she plans to do anything in her power to convince him to change his mind and commit to the Miami Hurricanes instead. Because Brissett is under 21, a parent or guardian’s signature is required on his LOI in order for it to be official.

“It came down to UM and Florida. I just had to follow my heart, and my heart lies in Florida,” Brissett said in front of his school’s gymnasium Friday. “It came down to making the decision where I felt the best for me,” he told the Palm Beach Post. “I can’t please everybody, and I’m hurt that I hurt my mom, as you can see I was crying with her before the game. She means the world to me.”

Brown noted that Brissett’s decision to commit to the Gators was not her choice. “I’m very disappointed,” she told the Associated Press. “There’s a chance it might not be over yet, I’m going to try to talk him out of it,” she conveyed to ESPN. “He hasn’t faxed his letter yet, he is just orally committed.”

She also told ESPN, in harsh specifics, why she was disappointed in his decision to attend Florida. “I didn’t like the way Florida handled the [recruiting] process,” Brown said. “I’ve never met [head coach Will Muschamp] face-to-face and I find that very disrespectful. ‘The U’ showed respect to the mom and that’s what I had hoped would influence Jacoby’s decision.”

Brissett isn’t backing down. “I know she’s not happy and that hurts me because my mom is everything to me,” Brissett told ESPN. “But I know she has always supported me and will always support me. I had to make the decision for myself and my future. I’m very firm in my choice.”

With five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) already in the fold as an early enrollee, offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis made a strong push to get a commitment out of Brissett almost immediately when he took the job in January.

After meeting the student-athlete, Weis called Mushcamp to request a scholarship offer for Brissett. Muschamp quickly granted one even though the player had previously only been offered a greyshirt by former head coach Urban Meyer.

Brissett, who passed for 2,743 yards, 32 touchdowns and only one interception in his senior season, plans to make Driskel earn a spot ahead of him and is confident he will succeed in the orange and blue.

“I’m not moving no positions. I’m a quarterback. [Driskel will] have to prove to me every day, every year, that he’s going to be better than me for him to win that starting spot,” said Brissett, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Though Driskel is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Brissett is ranked No. 5 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and the No. 25 QB in the country. He has said on numerous occasions that he is not scared of competition and is confident he will eventually win a starting job at whatever college he chose.

A two-sport athlete, Brissett has indicated that he would like to pursue basketball at a collegiate level. Whether or not Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan will provide him with that opportunity remains to be seen. However, Brissett noted that Donovan said that he can attempt to earn a spot on the team if he so chooses.

Committing to Florida, he joins three former Dwyer teammates who decided to play for the Gators in 2010 – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark.

The Post reports that Elam and freshman WR Chris Dunkley both attended Brissett’s basketball game and commitment ceremony. Brown noted that Elam is the reason Brissett plans to attend UF.

“Jacoby’s best friend since he was six plays at Florida and that had everything to do with [his decision],” she said.

With his signing, it is almost a certainty that redshirt freshman QB/tight end Jordan Reed will permanently switch to TE and freshman QB Trey Burton will change positions, too. Muschamp noted on Wednesday that Burton can play either defensive back or a hybrid fullback/QB role on offense. The status of freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not been discussed, though the player has said he only wants to be a signal-caller.

The Post first reported Brissett’s decision early Friday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

SIX BITS: Pounceys, Jenkins, Meyer, Martin

1 » Contrary to his insistence that he would end up suiting up for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will not be participating in the NFL‘s championship game on Sunday. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told ESPN‘s Adam Schefter on Friday that Pouncey has yet to practice this week and, therefore, would not be ready to play. The former Florida Gators star suffered a high ankle sprain (and possibly a broken bone, too) during the AFC Championship against the New York Jets, left the game early and has yet to step on the field since. He is one of two former Gators (left tackle Max Starks) who are on the Steelers; neither will play in the Super Bowl as Starks has missed the majority of the season with an injured neck.

2 » While Maurkice watches the Super Bowl from the sideline, his brother Mike Pouncey is preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft. AOL Fanhouse interviewed the brothers this week and notes that Mike is doing whatever he can to get drafted early (perhaps higher) than his twin brother. The most interesting piece from the article, however, is Mike saying he prefers to play tackle instead of center or guard in the NFL. “You never know where you are going to play until you get to camp, but I honestly hope I get the chance to play tackle at the next level because I feel I am athletic enough,” Mike said. “When Maurkice went in [at Pittsburgh], he started at right guard before they moved him to center. I am just looking forward to the opportunity.”

3 » Four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) is set to announce his commitment on Saturday but has already decided where he wants to go, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “At this point I feel like I have decided; I’ve picked my school,” Jenkins told the paper Friday. “But I’m just gonna get in one last prayer tonight before I go to sleep before tomorrow. I’ll just pray that I’m making the right decision, which I believe I am, and just go with it after that.” Deciding between Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Miami, Jenkins is believed to have UF and UGA as his final two schools. The No. 6 JUCO recruit in the country according to Rivals, he took his last official visit to Gainesville, FL but was favoring Georgia before taking the trip.

4 » Former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is headed back to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish…for a few hours. A former Notre Dame wide receivers coach, Meyer will be the featured presenter for the 2011 Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic, an annual event by the university.

5 » Former Florida quarterback/punter/wide receiver Ingle Martin, who had a four-year career as a back-up in the NFL after transferring to Furman, was named the head football coach for Christ Presbyterian Academy high school in Tennessee on Friday.

6 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA first reported that seven former Gators would be participating in the 2011 NFL Combine. The University of Florida made an official announcement today, so we are referring you back to our original post.

2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his media availability on Thursday.

STRUGGLING STARTERS

Though redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker have by all accounts had solid seasons up to this point, Florida’s other two starters have yet to find a consistent groove. Donovan is not overly concerned with that fact, pointing out a few nuances to each player’s game.

“He really made a great jump in my opinion coming out of the Mississippi State game,” he said of sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. “In the Mississippi State game, he had some really, really good looks – open looks – and the ball didn’t go in the basket for him. And I really thought that affected him on the defensive end and his energy. He did a phenomenal job on [John] Jenkins. I know he scored 22 points, but it wasn’t from the three-point line, it wasn’t wide-open looks. I think we made him work for it. He got to the free throw line. He had some drives. Even though he was not having a prolific scoring night, he really was locked in defensively to try to do the best job he could on Jenkins.”

For his part, Boynton is getting the message Donovan is sending. “I just try to put the last play behind me,” Boynton said of his attitude when he’s struggling to knock down shots. “Coach Donovan, he doesn’t want anybody out there frustrated or thinking about the last play, he just wants us to play whether or not our shots are falling. Last year was pretty hard for me to do because I wasn’t used to it. This year is easier; [I] just go back and play defense the next possession.”

With senior F Alex Tyus, Donovan thinks the guys he has had to go one-on-one with have caused the biggest problem. “The one thing that’s been hard for Alex is he’s had a lot of very, very difficult match-ups at the power forward spot,” he said. “He’s had some really, really difficult match-ups. Alex has really been trying to focus on defending. Because when you’re going against those kind of guys, and we’re trying to provide some help for him, you probably have a tendency to focus a little bit less on your offense. […] You look at the match-ups he’s had to go against, there’s going to be a dip in offensive production because he’s had to focus so much on playing defense.”

EXPERIENCE DOESN’T WIN GAMES

Asked how the team’s veteran leadership and experience of playing four overtime games (and winning three) this season will help in the future, Donovan simply said it will not by noting that age and “being there” before don’t matter nearly as much as performing to the best of your abilities.

“I don’t think so,” he said of the notion. “Last year’s Kentucky team with all those young guys did pull out close games. There was a thought when I had [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and [Corey] Brewer and they were all sophomores that there was no NCAA Tournament experience … and you have to have an experienced team to go deep into the tournament … and they proved that wrong.

“Just because we’ve won some close games does not ensure the fact that we’re going to win all of them going forward. Anything that’s happened in the past has no bearing on the next time you’re in that situation other than the fact that there’s a level of familiarity. You still have to make the plays that are necessary [to win the game]. You still have to execute, perform and do those things in those situations. Just because you did it last time doesn’t mean you’re going to do it [another] time. You got to execute, focus and do the right things at that time to the best of your ability.”

Parsons neither agreed nor disagreed with Donovan but did point out that the team’s three overtime victories have given the Gators more confidence as a unit. “Having four overtime games and winning three of them really shows something about our team and how we keep playing,” he said. “It’s all about effort, executing our offense, playing defense and getting those big stops when we need them. And then obviously our guys coming up with some big shots.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

Report: QB Brissett set to commit to Gators

Updated 3:40 p.m.

Though National Signing Day has come and gone, it looks like the Florida Gators will add another commitment to their 2011 recruiting class. Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) of Dwyer High School will commit to Florida this evening, according to a source who spoke with the Palm Beach Post.

With five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) already in the fold as an early enrollee, offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis made a strong push to get a commitment out of Brissett almost immediately when he took the job in January.

After meeting the student-athlete, Weis called head coach Will Mushcamp to request a scholarship offer for Brissett. Muschamp quickly granted one even though the player had previously only been offered a greyshirt by former head coach Urban Meyer.

Miami (FL) and Wisconsin were also strongly considered by Brissett.

Though Driskel is the consensus No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Brissett is ranked No. 5 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and the No. 25 QB in the country. He has said on numerous occasions that he is not scared of competition and is confident he will eventually win a starting job at whatever college he chooses.

Brissett will officially announce his decision at his Dwyer basketball game Friday night.

A two-sport athlete, he has also given an indication that he would like to pursue basketball at a collegiate level. Whether or not Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan will provide him with that opportunity remains to be seen.

Committing to Florida, he joins three former Dwyer teammates who joined the Gators in 2010 – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark.

With Brissett’s signing, it is almost a certainty that redshirt freshman QB/tight end Jordan Reed will permanently switch to TE and freshman QB Trey Burton will change positions, too. Muschamp noted on Wednesday that Burton can play either defensive back or a hybrid fullback/QB role on offense. The status of freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not been discussed, though the player has said he only wants to be a signal-caller.

UPDATE: Since the Post first reported Brissett’s decision, The Gainesville Sun has confirmed it via sources of their own. However, the Associated Press‘s Tim Reynolds has reported via Twitter that he is hearing Brissett actually told two different schools that they will receive his commitment. Additionally, the Post has noted that Brissett will not sign or send in his Letter of Intent Friday no matter which program he commits to. OGGOA will keep you updated on this story as it progresses.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

Horford earns second-straight NBA All-Star nod

Former Florida Gators forward/center Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks has been named a reserve for the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.

His second-straight All-Star selection, Horford also played in the 2010 game along with then-New York Knicks F/C David Lee. He scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and accounted for four rebounds in 12 minutes of action in the game.

“It’s a real honor to be nominated to that game,” he told OGGOA in an exclusive interview last year. “The coaches really have a lot of weight into that decision, and I felt really special that they picked me over a lot of other guys.”

Horford continues to improve each year and is currently riding career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (9.9), assists (3.6) field goal percentage (56.7) and free throw percentage (81.3). He has 24 double-doubles on the season and is fifth in his conference in field goal percentage.

The No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, he was named a team captain this season and signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension in November 2010.

Al Horford for ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive

Photo Credit: Unknown

TWO BITS: McGriff walks on, Williams signs deal

1 » Gainesville High School quarterback Ryan McGriff has accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and will enroll in the University of Florida this summer, according to The Gainesville Sun. The son of former Florida tight end Mark McGriff and grandson of Gator Great and All-American wide receiver (and outfielder) Perry McGriff, Jr., McGriff will be the third person in his family to wear the orange and blue. He told the Sun that Muschamp contacted in just after being hired in December and that former head coach Urban Meyer had not previously offered him the opportunity.

“It’s not a scholarship, but it’s the next best thing for me at my dream school,” he told the paper. “I’ve lived in Gainesville my whole life, so it’s pretty much a dream come true, actually. I’m moving a mile and half from my house. It can’t get any better than that. […] I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not a big-name recruit. As a local kid, I know what it takes to work hard and earn what you get. I have no problem being the scout team quarterback, helping the defense, helping the offense, learning whatever signals, holding. Whatever I can do to help them be a better football team.”

2 » Waived by the Orlando Magic last week, former Florida point guard Jason Williams has signed a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies Williams, who was upset at his lack of playing time this season, will compete to be the back-up PG in Memphis. This is the second time Williams will play for the Grizzlies; he was acquired by them in a trade in 2001 and played there through the 2004-05 season.

Muschamp on positions, coaching, discipline

In addition to discussing his 18 new players and the recruiting process in general, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke on a number of other topics Wednesday during his National Signing Day press conference.

POSITION CHANGES FOR QUARTERBACKS

Addressing whether or not frosh quarterback Jeff Driskel has a legitimate opportunity to win the starting job in 2011, Muschamp (like most new coaches) related that every starting job on the football team is open to competition.

“It’s not just the quarterback position. I don’t look at that position as [different from] any other. Every position, every day needs to be earned,” he said. “The best motivator in any sport or anything is competition. When a guy knows he has to go out and compete for his job every day, he’s going to play well.”

However, Muschamp did note that Florida is deficient in their depth at signal caller, even though the Gators technically have five quarterbacks on the team with the addition of Driskel. In addition to redshirt junior starter John Brantley, Florida has QBs in redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and freshmen Trey Burton and Tyler Murphy.

As has been assumed, Muschamp’s comment cements the likelihood that at least two of those players will change or adjust their position assignments.

“Trey was a guy that’s been talked about as a defensive back,” Muschamp noted, “but I’m not so sure he’s not better suited to be on the offensive side of the ball as a fullback move and still have some sort of package for him at the quarterback position. Jordan’s a guy that we’re still working through the process with him of where he’ll end up. He’s an outstanding athlete and will be an integral part of what we do offensively, I can tell you that.”

Reed, who was moved to tight end before being needed behind center in 2010, may end up back in that role while Burton, who noted via his Twitter account that he was planning a move to defense, could be used as an H-back and short-yardage QB. That would leave Brantley, Murphy and Driskel as the team’s three signal callers.

INVOLVEMENT IN THE SECONDARY

With just three years of coaching experience, Travaris Robinson was hired by Muschamp to coach the team’s defensive backs. Though he has confidence in Robinson, who he described as “a winner” who has “competed at the highest level in this sport and is a good young coach,” Muschamp plans on being involved in the secondary just as former head coach Urban Meyer was in the special teams.

“I hope they play better than me, I can tell you that,” said Muschamp, who was a defensive back at Georgia. “‘Do as I say, not as I did,’ is my motto as a coach. I’m going to be very involved in the defense and very involved in the secondary. I’ll be working primarily with the safety position.”

FIRST TEST OF HIS DISCIPLINE

With junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins being cited for possession of marijuana, Muschamp was faced with his first discipline issue almost immediately after stepping foot on campus. Considering the matter closed and none of the public’s business, he said Wednesday that, “It’s all being handled internally, and I’ve handled the situation.”

Photo Credit: GatorVision capture

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