FOUR BITS: Elway, Haden, Pouncey, Spikes

1 » Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway continued to support Denver Broncos rookie signal caller Tim Tebow, calling for analysts and media to be fair when evaluating the former Florida Gators star on a game-to-game basis. “There’s just so many positives about this guy, and yet all the focus seems to be one negative,” Elway said on Denver radio Monday. “He didn’t get drafted in the first round because of his release. He was drafted in the first round because he has so many intangibles that you can’t coach.”

2 » Stepping into a starting role while veteran Eric Wright was on the mend, Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden worked with the first-team during practice all last week. But when it was game time, Wright resumed his role and Haden was shifted over to nickel back, a position he is still learning. “It just shows I’m starting to gain coach’s trust,” Haden said about working with the starters all week. “They keep putting me out there with the ones, so I’ve just got to keep getting better every day. I feel like I’m just getting better.” Head coach Eric Mangini agrees. “The key for Joe is to figure out a place of how he can help us and then to keep making his case to play more,” he said. “But those other guys, they’re making their case for him to play less and I think that’s a good thing because that’s competitive and you want that to be the situation. Nothing is given to anybody, it has to be earned. He’s working at it, but those other guys are working at it too and however it pans out, those guys will play.”

3 » Pittsburgh Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes rookie center Maurkice Pouncey has already won the starting job outright after two preseason games. “He’s no longer competing for the starting job at center. Give it to him now,” he wrote Sunday. “Pouncey is so dominant at the position that it’s not even close. He looks like a Pro Bowler after two preseason games. Not only does he block his man, he often blocks TWO men, getting one and then running downfield to obliterate someone else. The man consumes defenders.” Pouncey entered Saturday’s game during the second series, came back in for the third series and never left – playing through almost three full quarters.

4 » New England Patriots veteran linebacker Gary Guyton injured his knee on the fourth day of camp, allowing rookie Brandon Spikes to step in and get the majority of work as a starter next to Jerod Mayo. Now that Guyton has returned, his starting job may be gone for good, as ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss notes that Spikes “is getting starter-type respect” from coaches. Guyton is hopeful he can win his job back throughout the remaining few weeks, but Spikes is impressing everyone from head coach Bill Belichick to veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “He’s every bit the person I thought he was,” Wilfork said about Spikes. “Looking at the guy playing in college, he’s playing with that same mentality on this defense. He’s a hard-nosed, tough player who loves football. That’s exactly what he’s brought. That’s exactly what we need on this football team – somebody that loves this game and is not afraid to hit, tough, smart.”

Photo Credit: John H. Reid III/Cleveland Browns

08/23: Florida Gators 2010 fall practice updates

The 2010 version of the Florida Gators is beginning their third week fall practice and, while the activities were once again closed to both the media and public, some notable things did occur Monday. OGGOA has compiled some of the key details.

REPLACING BRANDON JAMES…

During his media availability Monday, head coach Urban Meyer announced that junior running back Jeff Demps would be handling kickoff returns, while redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey would get the vast majority of work as the team’s punt returner for the upcoming season. Meyer added that junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will see time bringing back punts on occasion. OGGOA continues to believe that – considering Demps, Rainey and Jenkins are all very important starters at other positions – fans may see another player (freshman WR Robert Clark?) take over some of these duties as the season progresses (especially if any are nursing injuries).

THE ‘STACHE IS TRASH

Redshirt junior starting quarterback John Brantley had a mustache. Now he doesn’t.

Moving on.

MOVEMENT AT LEFT TACKLE

Whether it is due to a knee injury sustained by sophomore Xavier Nixon, the talent and progression of redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan or both, it appears that the latter has the inside track on the Gators’ starting left tackle job. Patchan, who is returning from a wrist injury and not yet participating fully in practice, could very well supplant Nixon, who started the final five games of the 2009 season.

Starting middle linebacker – being contested by sophomore Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins – and starting cornerback – a battle between redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown and senior Moses Jenkins – both remain open position battles.

PROVING HIS WORTH

When punishing sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr., Meyer chose to take him off of scholarship rather than immediately suspend him from games or kick him off the team, giving the player a chance to earn his way back in his coaches’ and teammates’ good graces. Hammond has been doing just that over the last few weeks, proving that he has his head on straight, will not duplicate his mistake and is an integral part of the team. Though Meyer will not reinstate Hammond’s scholarship before the season, a successful year off the field could get him back on track before spring or summer

IF YOU GON’ DO IT – DO IT JUST LIKE THIS

After the scrimmage on Saturday – the team’s final one of the fall – Meyer graded out a number of players as Champions of the team. Offense: QB Brantley, senior center Mike Pouncey, redshirt senior T Marcus Gilbert, redshirt sophomore fullback T.J. PridemoreDefense: senior safety Ahmad Black, defensive ends senior Duke Lemmens and junior defensive end William Green, linebackers sophomore Jon Bostic and senior Lorzenzo Edwards.

INJURY UPDATES

Meyer said that redshirt senior defensive tackle Brandon Antwine has been out of action the last few days after suffering a concussion; he may return on Tuesday if cleared by doctors. Redshirt senior WR Justin Williams hurt his shoulder during practice and has been using a sling. Junior WR Deonte Thompson’s hamstring acted up on him, causing him to sit out Saturday’s scrimmage, but he will be fine; likewise, freshman WR Chris Dunkley’s hamstring injury is believed to be behind him.

QUOTES

Meyer on Saturday’s final scrimmage and where the team is at right now: “We weren’t very good. … It really was not a very good scrimmage. Defense played well – about what you’d think for where we’re at right now. I’m hitting the panic button a little bit right now. We’ve got to get better faster than what we are at right now. It’s not that we’re not good, it’s just consistency of the offensive and defensive line[s]. We have to get them all in there. Once Patchan comes back and Xavier Nixon gets back, we’ll look a little better on the offensive line. When DT and Carl [Moore] and Omarius Hines [are] all together, we’ll look a little better, but right now, it’s not Florida football yet.”

Meyer comparing Brantley and Tim Tebow: “Somebody asked me today about the difference between John Brantley and Tim Tebow. Outward appearances, there’s a big difference. Inward … his competitiveness and leadership are fantastic right now, much better than I thought. I was really worried about that. When you have a guy like that [Tebow] in front of you, [Brantley] didn’t show much. Today we did the two-minute drill and he did fantastic. He ran the whole show and acted like a veteran quarterback – like he is. I’m really encouraged by John. Everybody knows he can throw the ball. The other part is fantastic right now as far as management of the team and leadership.”

Meyer on how the freshmen are performing: “Just OK. Actually, [I'm] a little disappointed in some of them. I thought they’d go take a spot. A few guys are doing decent – [safety] Matt Elam, [DT] Dominique Easley and [WR] Quinton Dunbar – who has been very good for us and might play this year. [DE] Ronald Powell had a great practice today, but didn’t have a great camp. He’s coming on strong now. Some of those big-game guys, I thought we’d have some of them cracking the lineup right now … but not yet.”

Special thanks to The Gainesville Sun and Palm Beach Post for the above quotations.

FOUR BITS: Theismann, Chow, Hill, NFL Draft

1 » Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow’s initial performance as a professional did little to sway his doubters – most notably former QB Joe Theismann and UCLA Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Theismann, who has been on Tebow’s case since before the 2010 NFL Draft, claims that many of his contemporaries were surprised to see the signal caller drafted I n the first round. “I would hope there isn’t anybody who would say Tim Tebow was going to come in and start for the Broncos this year,” Theismann said, according to The Denver Post. “It would have been too great an expectation for him. […] if you can’t refine his delivery, then he’s going to struggle to become a consistent quarterback. […] It’s long and low. Randall Cunningham had a long windup, but it was high. Tim’s is long and low. The ball is away from his body a long time.”

Chow agrees. “I don’t think Vince [Young] was ready because of where he came from. I don’t think Tebow is quite ready because of where he came from,” he said. “The intricacies of a pro passing game are unbelievable. It takes time. […] They said they were going to change his throwing style and that’s a bunch of bologna. You don’t change, in one summer, the throwing style a guy has been using for 20 years of his life.” Chow doesn’t even thing Tebow will survive as a running QB. “Tebow’s strength, obviously, is running the ball, and he’s not going to be able to do that in the NFL. We tried to do some of that stuff my first year with Vince, and he had a little success. But once teams figured it out – which in the NFL it usually takes them a half, or a quarter to figure things out – it wasn’t very effective anymore. All it’s going to do is you’re taking a lot of hits. And you’re not going to survive if you take a lot of hits in the NFL.”

2 » Florida Gators junior safety Will Hill knows it is his time to shine in the team’s starting secondary. Now holding the full-time job, Hill is aware that he will have an important role in the team’s success. “I feel the same responsibility as when Major [Wright] was here last year,” Hill said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “Just become a leader and help the team win the next game. […] I’ve been looking forward to [starting] for a while now. I just have to sit back and do my job and everything will come to me.”

Two more BITS on the 40-second clock and 2011 NFL Draft…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Theismann, Chow, Hill, NFL Draft

USC’s Baxter admits he “misspoke” about contact

In early June, administrators for the USC Trojans accused five schools – the Florida Gators, Alabama, Oregon, Washington and Fresno State – of illegally contacting running back Dillon Baxter about a transfer to their respective universities.

Less than a month later, USC athletic director Mike Garrett was forced to send letters to each school apologizing for the previous accusations and attempting to make amends for “any inconvenience or embarrassment” that was caused.

ESPN’s Shaun Assael has since uncovered a letter of admission from Baxter, who fessed up to misleading his university about what exactly happened in June.

“I misspoke when I said coaches had contacted me from other schools,” Baxter wrote in a letter to the school. “I am truly sorry for all of the chaos I have caused and it was not my intention to implicate other schools and their coaching staffs.”

Baxter began his letter by explaining that he spoke with friends at the implicated institutions, not coaches or administration officials. While he claims he did not understand the rules, many – including USC – appear to believe the whole situation was a hoax and that Baxter purposely misled them.

That is part of the reason that he has been suspended for the team’s opener against Hawaii on Sept. 2. “I’ve done a couple things, and things happen, and I made a mistake,” Baxter told reporters last week. “But I’m going to move on from here on out.”

USC head coach Lane Kiffin called Baxter’s one-game opening-season punishment “an extremely strong message and a very severe punishment for a player that may potentially be the most skilled player on our whole roster.”

Florida rookies complete less impressive week

The first week of the 2010 NFL preseason saw 10 Florida Gators rookies in action, many of whom contributed nicely to their respective team’s performances. Due to injuries and other circumstances, there was much less action in the second week of the preseason for these Gators. Nevertheless, OGGOA is here to recap.

QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos
Game 2: Did not play – ribs
Game 1 Passing: 8-of-13 for 105 yards (8.1 avg., 87.0 QB rating)
Game 1 Rushing: Two carries for 10 yards, one touchdown

CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns
Game 2 Defense: Two tackles (one solo), two passes defended
Game 2 Kick returning: Two attempts for 43 yards (long 28)
Game 1 Defense: Three solo tackles, one pass defended
Game 1 Kick returning: One attempt for 34 yards

G MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers
Game 2: Worked as first-team center
Game 1: Worked as first-team guard, second-team center

LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots
Game 2: Did not play – undisclosed
Game 1: Did not play – concussion

DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals
Game 3 Defense: Four tackles (three solo), one sack, one Gator Chomp
Game 2 Defense: One tackle
Game 1 Defense: Did not play – concussion

LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots
Game 2 Defense: Three solo tackles
Game 1 Defense: Eight tackles (three solo) [team-high]

S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears
Game 2: Did not play – finger
Game 1 Defense: Seven tackles (six solo)

TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots
Game 2 Receiving: Four receptions for 46 yards [team-highs], one touchdown
Game 1 Receiving: Three receptions for 26 yards (long 21)
Game 1 Rushing: One carry for six yards

WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles
Game 2 Receiving: Two receptions for 22 yards
Game 2 Special Teams: Two tackles
Game 1 Receiving: Three receptions for 61 yards (long 46) [team-high]

WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills
Game 2: Did not play – ankle
Game 1 Receiving: Five receptions for 47 yards [team-highs], one touchdown

KR BRANDON JAMES, Indianapolis Colts
Game 2 Punt returning: Two attempts for 22 yards (long 19)
Game 1 Kick returning: Four attempts for 99 yards (avg. 24.8, long 28)
Game 1 Punt returning: One attempt for five yards
Game 1 Receiving: One reception for two yards

Migraines not the cause of Harvin’s episode?

It is no surprise that migraine headaches have been taunting former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin since his youth, and it was no shock to anyone when the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year missed a few weeks of Minnesota Vikings training camp while dealing with an extreme bout along with the loss of his grandmother.

What was both surprising and shocking, however, was news Thursday that Harvin vomited, collapsed and was rushed to the hospital while standing on the sidelines during a team practice.

Migraines have caused him to react similarly – but less violently – in the past.

Calling Harvin’s headaches “the riddle they can’t solve,” Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman informed NBC Sports’ Andrea Kremer over the weekend that the team’s medical staff believes something other than his migraines caused his latest episode.

Sugarman said Harvin did not pass out as a direct result of the migraine but rather as a complication of other factors, which may include an adverse reaction to medication, dehydration and low blood pressure. Sugarman, who spoke carefully because of privacy issues, said that Harvin has tried so many different medications that the treatment becomes a puzzle – trying different pieces before finding one that fits. He will likely need to be on medication for life for which doctors must find the proper formula.

When OGGOA interviewed Harvin in May, we asked him specifically about his trip to the Mayo Clinic and whether or not doctors there had been able to help him make any headway in overcoming his lifelong battle with migraines.

“It’s a work in progress. I had a few of them still over the break. It’s just something I’ll either have to grow out of or figure out something,” he told us. “I’ve been to numerous doctors and it’s a work in progress. It’s different things. It can be the weather, the pollen. It can be a lot of things that can trigger them. And that’s what we’re trying to figure out now – certain things to help me.”

Harvin’s most recent hospital stay revealed that he neither had a heart problem nor a seizure; oxygen was not cut off to his brain when he passed out. He was simply monitored and given an IV along with standard care at the facility before being released.

Even so, he has visited with “approximately 20 doctors” including neurologists, cardiologists, internists, nutritionists, physical therapists, acupuncturists and chiropractors over the last year. NBC Sports also reports that Minnesota receives “stacks of letters and up to 60 calls” a day from fans who believe they have remedies.

Overcoming numerous odds already in his life – from abandonment by his father to numerous injuries in college and even perceived behavioral problems in high school – Harvin’s greatest fight remains within his own body.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lochte concludes Pan Pacific with six golds

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte had a week for the record books, earning six gold medals and the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships over the last few days. The biggest international meet of the season saw the United States team bring home a total of 52 medals, 26 of which were gold and just under 25 percent of which were earned by Lochte.

His six golds came in the 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley, 400-meter individual medley, 200-meter backstroke, 400-meter free relay and 800-meter free relay. His final gold, the 200-meter individual medley won on Saturday, was completed in 1:54:43 – a meet record and the third-fastest time in the history of the sport.

Winning more golds than anyone else in Irvine, CA, last week, Lochte was named Swimmer of the Meet. He and Florida head swimming coach Gregg Troy, who also led America’s team at the Pan Pacific Championships, set the tone for the U.S. victory. With 489.5 points, America blew out Australia, the second-place finisher (311.5 points).

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Rainey, soccer, Nelson

1 » Florida Gators junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was honored with a nomination to the 2010 Lou Groza Award preseason watch list late last week. Given annually to college football’s best place kicker, the award is being defended by UCLA’s Kai Forbath. Sturgis will have to compete with four other Southeastern Conference kickers and a total of 29 others from across the nation. Last week, Sturgis told reporters that he has been working on his accuracy all offseason. “I want to be more accurate on field goals,” he said. “I had some easy misses last year that I shouldn’t have had. That has obviously been my biggest struggle. That – and put the ball in the right spot for the kickoff team.” Unlike last season, when Jonathan Phillips was the team’s starter, Sturgis already has the job locked up.

2 » Florida head coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff have been experimenting with using players at a variety of positions this offseason. With redshirt junior Chris Rainey, his move from running back to wide receiver appeared to be a given from the get-go. “I never thought I’d be a receiver,” Rainey said, “because all of the stuff I looked at on YouTube had receivers going across the middle and getting big hits. Now that might be me. I’m just going to try and keep myself from doing that.” That being said, Rainey is having a good time with his new position. “Receiver is fun,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “You don’t get many injuries from it. You do a lot of running. It’s harder than running back, but I’m good at it. […] For receiver, you have to know everything. For running back, you know one thing and you’re done. Receiver is everything, whether you’re on the ball or off the ball.” Even blocking plays are simpler. “It’s way easier,” Rainey said about blocking downfield rather than picking up blitzes behind the line of scrimmage. “Especially when someone is coming at you, full speed, about 250 pounds and wanting to kill you.”

3 » Following up a big double-overtime victory against the Miami Hurricanes (0-1) on Friday, No. 11 Gators soccer (1-0) defeated the No. 25 Central Florida Knights 2-0 on the road in Orlando, FL. The game, which began at 7 p.m. and aired live on FOX Sports Florida, was put away at the top of the second half when junior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis scored from eight yards out at 48′. Annis would double up less than five minutes later with a 10-yard shot to the far post at 52′ as UF went on to shutout UCF.

4 » After a rough 2009 season, Jacksonville Jaguars safety Reggie Nelson is looking to bounce back and return to the form that made him a first round pick coming out of college. Head coach Jack Del Rio believes that transformation is certainly a possibility. “What he’s doing right now gives him a chance,” Del Rio said. “He’s had some tough games, and when that happens, it can crush your confidence. We’re trying to build him back up right now.” Nelson may no longer be a starter, but he has been getting plenty of time in the preseason to prove that he deserves to get on the field a lot this season. “Whenever my number’s called, I just go play football,” Nelson said. “You’ve got to make the plays you can make, and if you don’t make one, you’ve got to move on from it. You can’t hold onto the last play. You’ve got to move on. You’re not going to do everything right. You can’t let the pressure bust the pipe.”

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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