Lochte sets world record, tops Phelps again

Soon after defeating 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps by 0:00.35 to win the 200-meter freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in China, former Florida Gators standout Ryan Lochte continued his efforts to become the face of USA Swimming with a world record performance on Thursday.

Previously the owner of four world records, Lochte added a fifth by topping Phelps for the second-straight race and finishing the 200-meter individual medley with a world-best time of 1:54.00 in Shanghai, China.

Lochte shaved 0:00.10 off his previous best and set the first world record since high-tech bodysuits were banned at the beginning of last year.

“I wanted to do something that everyone thought was impossible,” he said after the race. “Since they banned those suits, everyone thought a world record would never get touched again. I just wanted to show everyone that can happen. That’s why we have records — they’re meant to get broken. Hopefully everyone now can start realizing that, ‘Hey it’s possible,’ so hopefully a lot more records will fall.”

Last December, Lochte set two world records and won seven medals at the 2010 FINA Short Course World Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The two world records were the only ones set during the entire year.

With two more races to go and a pair of gold medals to potentially be won, Lochte is not nearly done at the championships. He hopes to continue improving his technique as he looks ahead to the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

Ex-Gators the center of NFL moves this week

Updated on July 29 at 2 p.m.

One day after defensive end Jarvis Moss re-signed with the Oakland Raiders for one year and $1.25 million, a trio of former Florida Gators football players found out there would be changers to their respective NFL careers.

The flurry of happenings started early when Denver Broncos wide receiver Jabar Gaffney learned he had been traded to the Washington Redskins in exchange for DE Jeremy Jarmon. Gaffney likely would have seen a reduction in field time and may even have been cut from the Denver roster had the team not found a suitor for his services.

Going into his 10th NFL season, he posted career-highs in receptions (65) and yards (875) in 2010 during his second year with the Broncos. Gaffney previously spent four seasons with Houston and three with New England.

San Francisco 49ers DE Ray McDonald, who impressed in a reserve role during the 2010 season, re-upped with the team that selected him with the No. 97 overall pick in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft to the tune of five years and $20 million. McDonald recorded 19 tackles and an interception (which he returned for a touchdown) one year ago and will move into a starting role with the ball club.

He received $7 million guaranteed in the deal after saying earlier this summer that he was tired of coming off the bench. “I know I’m an every-down player, a starter,” he said, “and that’s what I’m looking to do this year. I’m not looking to back up anybody.”

The news was not as pleasant for Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Max Starks, who was informed by the team late Wednesday that his services will no longer be needed just two years after signing a four-year, $26.3 million contract that included $10 million in guaranteed money.

Likely a cap casualty due to his release saving the team $5.14 million in salary, Starks could rejoin the team at a reduced rate, though he may be able to sign a larger contract elsewhere. The 2004 third-round pick is a two-time Super Bowl champion who traveled to the big dance three times and started in 68 of 95 career games.

Positive news came early Thursday morning for Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson, who announced via his Twitter account that he agreed to terms to return to the team. Details of his new contract are currently unknown.

Former first-round pick defensive end Derrick Harvey and linebacker Channing Crowder concluded the week by finding themselves out of work after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, respectively. After three disappointing seasons, Harvey only racked up eight sacks in 47 games (32 starts) for Jacksonville. Crowder, who was selected in the third-round of the 2005 NFL Draft, amassed 469 tackles but only 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in six seasons with Miami.

Photo Credit: Unknown

TWO BITS: Moss re-signs, Thompson ready

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Jarvis Moss, who spent the conclusion of the 2010 season with the Oakland Raiders after being released by the Denver Broncos in Nov., agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with his new club on Tuesday to remain in Oakland for the 2011 season. Moss, who has only registered 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble in his four-year NFL career, will be used as an end with the Raiders after being moved back-and-forth between end and linebacker in various defensive schemes with the Broncos. The former No. 17 overall pick hopes to start from scratch and pick things up in Oakland.

2 » Recounting when he and the team learned that head coach Will Muschamp tabbed Charlie Weis as the team’s offensive coordinator, redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that it came as a shock to everyone. “We were at the Outback Bowl,” he said, “and one of the receivers came in and said, ‘We’ve got Charlie!’ We were like, ‘We ain’t got no Charlie Weis.’ Then it came across the TV, and we were like, ‘Oh, man, Coach Champ is making moves already.’ Everybody was on board, and it gave us a sense of energy.” Thompson, who stated multiple times during the 2011 SEC Media Days that Weis’s goal is to keep it the offense “simple” and “fast” so everyone can pick it up quickly, believes 2011 will finally be his breakout season. “I think it’s going to happen this year,” he said. “I think it’s a matter of getting the confidence going and just getting the quarterback’s confidence going and the whole offense, and everything should fall into place.”

RB Demps will return to Gators for 2011 season

The University of Florida officially announced Tuesday that Florida Gators senior running back Jeff Demps remains committed to football and will join his team during the first week in August to begin preparations for the 2011 season.

Though fans have wondered whether or not Demps would eventually give up football to concentrate solely on a career as a track & field sprinter, he made it clear Tuesday after meeting with head coach Will Muschamp that he only has one focus going forward when the fall semester begins.

“When I came to Florida I wanted to compete at a very high level in both sports and I’ve done that,” Demps said in a release from the school. “Football has been my first love but I also love running track. All of my coaches have been supportive and I’ve always been able to concentrate on whatever sport I’m competing in during that season.

“I concentrated on track this past spring and summer and I’m now ready to concentrate on football. I’m looking forward to getting back together with my football teammates and having a great senior season.”

Muschamp also commented on Demps’s decision and conveyed his excitement for having Florida’s leading rusher in 2010 returning to the sidelines as expected.

“As I stated last week in Birmingham, Jeff Demps will be joining our football program when our squad reports for camp on Aug. 5 and when we start practice on Aug. 6,” Muschamp added. “I met with him today and Jeff is looking forward to focusing on football for his upcoming senior season.”

Rumors about Demps possibly forgoing his final year of eligibility to go professional in track were fueled two weeks ago with various reports stating he had yet to make up his mind and was even considering a lucrative offer from Nike. However, his high school football coach told OGGOA on July 16 that no such move would take place.

“I spoke with Jeff [Friday] night and he has every intention to be a member of the football team this fall,” South Lake High School coach Walter Banks said. “Jeff also said the thought of leaving the University of Florida has not crossed his mind.”

Demps, who was one of eight Southeastern Conference rushers named to the 2011 Doak Walker Award watch list on July 15, is set to begin the season as Florida’s starting running back. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is excited about his potential.

“6.53 [seconds in the] 60-meters?,” Weis joked on March 16. “I might be able to figure out something to do with him.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

FOUR BITS: Lochte, Tebow, softball, Watkins

1 » Continuing his efforts in replacing Michael Phelps as the face of USA Swimming, former Florida Gators standout Ryan Lochte defeated the 14-time Olympic gold medalist by 0:00.35 to win the 200-meter freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in China. Lochte, the owner of four world records, took home gold in the event as he continues his trek to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » The Denver Post reported early Tuesday that the Denver Broncos have been entertaining offers for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton after putting him on the trading block, setting the stage for former Gators signal caller Tim Tebow to take the reigns in Mile High. Tebow, who arrived for the first day of practice at 7:45 a.m. even though the doors did not open until 8:01 a.m., was the second player to make it to the facility (a practice squad offensive lineman got there minutes earlier).

3 » USA Softball won the 2011 World Cup of Softball on Monday, defeating Japan 6-4 in the finale of the event at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK. Florida junior right fielder Brittany Schutte contributed a sacrifice fly to plate a run in the contest; Gators senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was also a member of the team.

4 » Friday Night Lights, though it has not directly resulted in any commitments as of press time, made quite an impression with a number of top players who visited for one of Florida’s biggest recruiting nights of the year. Four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (Forest City, NC), the No. 8 player at his position and a member of the Rivals100, told The Gainesville Sun that the Gators bumped their way up his list, which also consists of Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina. Florida three-star safety commit Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC), Watkins’ friend and fellow North Carolina product, believes the player’s most recent trip may have turned him to the Orange & Blue. “I think Friday Night Lights might have just did it for him,” he said on Saturday. “I told him once you get down to Florida and you see that place, you’re gonna love it.” Ledbetter is recruiting both Watkins and five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) hard, hoping both of his friends join him in Gainesville, FL. “He always gives me the Gator Chomp when he sees me,” Watkins said about Ledbetter’s recruiting tactics. “He wants all of us to come there.”

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

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