Donovan gets commitment from F/C Pitchford

With five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) seemingly the only member of the Florida Gators 2011 signing class, head coach Billy Donovan made a splash Wednesday by gaining a verbal commitment from former DePaul singee forward/center Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI).

“I really like the coaching staff,” Pitchford told Scout. “I like the players a lot. The relationship that they have is so strong. [I like] the campus and the students on the campus and I like how everybody gets involved on campus. They recruiting me hard and they didn’t sugarcoat anything.”

Between 6’9″ and 6’10” and 210-220 lbs., Pitchford originally signed a National Letter of Intent with DePaul in 2010 but asked for and was provided with a release when the school switched head coaches. He has spent the last year playing prep school basketball and is averaging approximately 17 points and nine rebounds per game.

Rated as a three-star athlete by Rivals, Pitchford is listed as a two-star by ESPNU and was widely considered one of the best uncommitted post players in the country.

Pitchford visited the University of Florida last week and obviously came away impressed. Like most of Donovan’s big men, Pitchford runs the floor very well and is quite athletic. His jump shot is solid, but he has plenty of growing to do both as a defender and back-to-the-basket scorer.

In addition to Florida, Pitchford considered and received significant interest from Arizona State, Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa, among others.

Size is a much-needed attribute for the Gators in 2011 as redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus will all be graduating.

Pitchford’s decision was first reported by Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.

FOUR BITS: Webb in CFL, Gaffney, Miller, Horford

1 » Former Florida Gators cornerback Dee Webb, who spent a portion of 2010 with the Jacksonville Sharks of the revamped AFL, has signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL for the 2011 season. A former draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Webb tried out for the Miami Dolphins last year but did not make the cut. He will be playing in the CFL for a second time after previously trying out for Toronto (in 2007) and joining the Calgary Stampeders (in 2009).

2 » Though Denver Broncos wide receiver Jabar Gaffney is getting up there in age (he turns 31 next season), it appears that he will remain an integral part of the team’s receiving corps in 2011. With two starters recovering from surgeries, The Denver Post expects Gaffney to have the opportunity to capitalize on their absences. Posting career-highs in receptions (65) and yards (875) in 2010, Gaffney thrived under quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow and is not costing the team much money with a $2.4 million salary set for next season.

3 » Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, who left Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers after getting hit in the head, stayed overnight for concussion tests and will miss at least one game. It is the second time in as many games Miller sustained a blow to the head, though the first did not appear to cause any damage necessitating further tests.

4 » Just over two weeks ago, the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks clashed in a heated contest that ended with a 111-102 victory for Atlanta. During the game, a fight broke out between the teams. Forward/center Amare Stoudemire of the Knicks took exception after Hawks F/C Al Horford was “particularly vocal and demonstrative,” according to ESPN. Now Stoudemire is looking forward to going up against his NBA All-Star teammate in a rematch between New York and Atlanta on Wednesday. “It’s going to be a very, very intense game after what happened in Atlanta,” he said. “[Horford] don’t want to see me. I watched him play in Florida, and I’ve seen him play a few years in Atlanta. We’ve got two different games, and we’ll see how it plays out.” Horford responded Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t understand what he means by that, ‘He don’t want to see me,'” he said. “Like we’re supposed to be scared of [Stoudemire]. Ain’t nobody scared of him. We’re all grown men, so it’s all good.”

LB Neiron Ball in hospital with vascular condition

Florida Gators freshman linebacker Neiron Ball is currently in Shands Hospital being treated for a congenital vascular condition, the University of Florida’s University Athletic Association disclosed on Monday.

Ball, a special teams standout this past season who registered 10 tackles in 13 games, was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.

The Cleveland Clinic defines vascular conditions as any that affect the circulatory system. “This ranges from diseases of your arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation,” the clinic notes. Due to it being congenital in nature, the condition has existed since birth though it may not have developed until recently.

The Palm Beach Post reported on Wednesday that, according to Ball’s older sister Natalie Myricks, his hospitalization occurred after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured. Though doctors have stabilized him, he is currently in the Intensive Care Unit being monitored. His family is hopeful Ball will make a full recovery with Myricks saying in an e-mail to the Post that “he should be in the clear in three days.”

OGGOA will update you when more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Is a huge turnaround ahead for John Brantley?

Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley decided to finish out his career in the orange and blue once he learned offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Charlie Weis would be the one providing him the opportunity to turn everything around. The “Football Scientist” KC Joyner believes Brantley was not as abysmal as he appeared in 2010 and has the opportunity to be elite in 2011.

Citing evaluations he made during Brantley’s performances against three FBS top-31 defenses of Tennessee, Alabama and LSU (all games that came before Florida moved to a QB rotation), Joyner concludes that the signal caller “had very little to do with the terrible state of the Florida offense in 2010.”

Read Joyner’s analysis of Brantley and the offense…after the break!
Continue Reading » Is a huge turnaround ahead for John Brantley?

FOUR BITS: Crofoot, Easley, Beal, Brombacher

1 » In addition to earning a commitment from four-star 2012 running back Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) on Monday, the Florida Gators also found out that long-snapper/tight end Kyle Crofoot has decided to accept an offer to be a preferred walk-on for 2011, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays. The brother of Florida redshirt freshman walk-on kicker/holder John Crofoot, Kyle will enroll in the summer with hopes of eventually earning a scholarship.

2 » The subject of rumors throughout the season, Gators freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley recently spoke with his hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance, about his tumultuous season and newfound happiness at Florida. “I thought about leaving,” he told the paper, citing the demanding nature of head coach Urban Meyer and the stage of The Swamp as tough obstacles to overcome. “I was just uncomfortable with a lot of things. I was wondering if I was at the right place for me. […] It wasn’t what I was used to. [Gainesville, FL] is a lot different than Staten Island.” With an improved mindset and new coaching staff behind him, Easley is hopeful to turn things around at the University of Florida. “They let me know what they expected, and said they’d give me an opportunity to show them what I can do,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to hear, and I feel a lot more comfortable about the way things are going.”

3 » Florida basketball is in the middle of putting together what looks to be an exciting season, but plenty of discussion continues to surround five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO), who will join the program at the end of the year. Featured along with his Chaminade High School teammates on ESPNU Saturday, Beal exploded for 40 points, six assists, six rebounds and four steals as he propelled his team to a 76-58 victory. “That was something, really something,” the opposition’s head coach, Randy Reed, said of Beal’s showing. “He has a smooth, old-school spirit. One of the best I’ve ever seen in St. Louis. […] His basketball IQ is so much higher than these high school player. His IQ is like a junior in college. He’s so smooth I don’t think he even sweats on the court. I don’t think we’ll see another kid like him around here for a while.” [VIDEO]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell described Beal’s performance this way:

Randy Reed kept running different defenders at Beal, tall ones and short ones, quick ones and burly ones, and Beal lit each and every one of them up. Slashing drives down the lane. Muscling spin moves in the paint. Three-pointers and mid-range pullups that kept making sweet, sweet string music from every conceivable angle. […]

Watching him play basketball against other high school kids with less sparkling hoop résumés like this is almost unfair. He is that good. He is that smooth. He is that completely aware of how to play the game the right way, even with the dazzling athletic flourishes he put on display on national [TV].

4 » Starting her senior season with a bang, Gators pitcher Stephanie Brombacher was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week after posting a 3-0 record including her second perfect game in as many seasons. Read more about Brombacher’s trio of stellar performances over the weekend right here.

RB Matt Jones is Florida’s third 2012 commit

Less than 10 days after 2011 National Signing Day concluded, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has made his first splash for the 2012 cycle, earning a verbal commitment from four-star running back Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) over the weekend.

Jones, a member of the Rivals250 who is considered by many to be the best rusher in the state of Florida, was thrilled to hear about the Gators’ pro-style offense when he sat down with Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis during Florida’s Junior Day. Though he gave them his verbal pledge over the weekend, he wanted to make his decision public in order to avoid dealing with the stresses that come with recruiting.

He plans to make a “solid commitment” (the words of his high school head coach) to UF on Wednesday at 7 p.m., according to The Tampa Tribune.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Muschamp and Weis told Jones he was their No. 1 target at his position and that he is unlike any other back currently on the roster. At approximately 6’2″ and 210 lbs., Jones rushed for 1,447 yards and accounted for 29 total touchdowns as a junior at Armwood High School.

“When I was at Florida [on] Saturday, I knew that is what I wanted. I love the staff and coach Muschamp is great. I knew I was going to do it but I did not tell them until later in the day,” Jones told Scout.com. “I felt great up there and the Gator Nation better be ready. When I told coach Muschamp, he was real jacked up and I made his day. He told me they needed a guy like me and great players want to play with other great players. I just want to go up there and compete. I plan on rocking the entire Gator Nation.”

Jones joins four-stars defensive tackle Omari Phillips (Venice, FL) and wide receiver LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) as the Gators’ third 2012 commitment.

Photo Credit: Chris Zuppa/St. Petersburg Times

OGGOA Caption Contest Result: Spikes on field

We received over 300 submissions for the fifth ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive caption contest and a winner has been chosen to receive a FREE copy of Into The Swamp courtesy of photographer Jason Parkhurst (click the ad below).

Reader Caleb H. sent in a few strong entries and came away with the No. 1 spot.

Team watches as Brandon Spikes completes an interview with Florida alum Erin Andrews

Because we had so many good entries, honorable mention for this contest goes out to the following readers for their submissions.

Chad C.: Of all the traditions Urban Meyer started at UF, halftime Jaeger shots proved to be the least effective.

Christina B.: Ah… Gator Heaven

John S.: In a symbolic gesture following their final home game, the 2009 senior class decided to leave their Spikes on the field.

Ryan S.: Brandon Spikes doing his best Uga impression.

OGGOA has given away multiple Florida Gators DVDs, a Florida Field rug, a Game Day purse, pieces of Gators art, T Bow Towels, Gillette Pro Fusion razors, a Turlington Scarf and a variety of other goodies throughout our 17 months of existence. There are a number of other giveaways coming up in the near future, so stay tuned!

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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TWO BITS: Jenkins’s plea, Parsons’s injury

1 » Gainesville, FL attorney Huntley Johnson entered a “not guilty” plea on behalf of Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession on Jan. 23. According to The Gainesville Sun, Johnson requested a jury trial and may do so again at the pre-trial conference on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. Jenkins signed a notice to appear in court upon his arrest and was scheduled to do so on Feb. 17 prior to Johnson entering the plea.

2 » During his appearance on the Southeastern Conference’s weekly teleconference, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan updated the injury status of senior forward Chandler Parsons, who suffered a deep thigh bruise early in the first half of Saturday’s game against Tennessee. As he alluded to in his post-game press conference, Donovan does not expect Parsons to practice this week (Thursday at the earliest) and is hopeful but not certain he will have him for Sunday’s game at LSU. Apparently his bruise has begun to bleed and Parsons is currently walking on crutches in order to take pressure off the injury. He will be reevaluated throughout the week, and a decision on his playing status may not be made until the weekend.

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