4/20 SEC: Muschamp on roster and leadership

With the Florida Gators first year of spring practice under head coach Will Muschamp now in the books after a lackluster 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, he spoke with the media during the first Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference of the young season to provide some insight about where his team is at going into the summer.

ROSTER UPDATES

The story of the spring game was how banged up Florida was as a team – especially on the offensive line. Muschamp said Wednesday that he expects all of the team’s injured players to be ready to go by June 1 with the exception of sophomore running back Mack Brown, who has been given a June 22 return date.

Overall, the team should be completely healthy by the time fall practice begins. “We should be full-bore going into August,” he said. Speaking about redshirt junior left tackle Matt Patchan in particular, Muschamp said he has been cleared for lifting for a while but sat out of practice to avoid contact on his wrist.

He also spoke about the recent wide receiver transfers, nothing that freshman Javares McRoy simply wanted to play with his brother and redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley did not think UF was the place for him. “Chris felt like sometimes things don’t fit,” Muschamp said. “He and I had a long conversation. We wish him all the luck in the world and are trying to help him get in a situation where he’ll be better off.”

PLEASED WITH BRANTLEY

Though fans may be up in arms after seeing his performance in the spring game, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley continues to have the confidence of Muschamp, the coaching staff and (according to the head coach) the players as well. “[I’m] really pleased with his poise, leadership and habits off the field studying what we need to do to be successful,” he said. “He’s got the ability and we’re very pleased.”

Muschamp said Brantley proved he has talent, had a really good spring overall and needs to have a great offseason in order to become a true team leader. As for his performance in the game, he said the outstanding play of the defensive line and “moving parts” of the offensive line made it nearly impossible for Brantley to succeed. “I don’t think in the spring game John had much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “I was behind him and saw it coming pretty fast, too.”

LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT OVER SUMMER

With the coaching staff mostly barred from contact with the team over the summer, the players are in the hands of strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti. Often called the offseason head coach, Marotti will be working the players hard while also trying to build character and leadership throughout the group.

Muschamp said that leadership is “still something we’re sort of trying to identify” but that it should be worked out over the summer. He pointed out Brantley as well as linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins as guys who do things right both on and off the field. When discussing others who impressed him throughout the spring, he made it a point to name redshirt senior wide receiver Denote Thompson; redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey; sophomore athlete Trey Burton; redshirt sophomore offensive linemen Jon Halapio and Jonotthan Harrison; defensive ends senior William Green and redshirt junior Lerentee McCray; and sophomore defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley.

NOTES & QUOTES

» On how the spring went overall: “[I’m] pleased with the progress we made as far as the installation, identifying the playmakers on both sides of the ball.”

» Muschamp said the thinness on the lines was “frustrating” for him toward the end of spring and that the team needs to vastly improve depth on both sides of the ball.

» On greyshirting: “At Florida we don’t greyshirt. That’s not something we do. That’s not a policy of ours.”

» Muschamp said the coaching staff is “working very well” together. He was enthusiastic about what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis brings to the table both offensively and as an experienced head coach. He also praised defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and how well they mesh when discussing defensive philosophy and strategy.

Tim Tebow action figure to debut in June

He’s recently had a bronze statue unveiled outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in his honor, took part in a documentary made about his trials and tribulations while preparing for the 2010 NFL Draft and will be releasing a memoir about his life in the coming weeks, but former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will also be in the toy collections of young boys and girls (and superfans) in a form of an action figure.

McFarlane Toys will be releasing eight College Football Series 3 action figures for ages 5+ featuring eight NFL players who starred for their colleges. In addition to Tebow, McFarlane’s SportsPicks will feature Joseph Addai (LSU), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma), Troy Polamalu (USC), Ray Rice (Rutgers), Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Beanie Wells (Ohio State) and Charles Woodson (Michigan).

Below are pictures of Tebow’s six-inch, originally painted action figure (more here):

TWO BITS: Haden sponsors team; scholarships

1 » It wasn’t an April Fools joke when Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden agreed to sponsor a baseball team on April 1. The rookie responded to a Twitter request from the manager of a youth team who asked him if he would be interested in fronting the money after the team’s sponsor dropped out. Haden responded immediately and, $325 later, Haden’s Nation in the Plain Local Baseball and Softball Association was born. “The boys seem pretty excited,” team manager Mike Clapper told the Canton Repository. “Joe said he hopes to come down to a couple of games.” Now Haden has something else to keep him busy during the lockout.

2 » With wide receivers Chris Dunkley and Javares McRoy deciding to transfer away from the Florida Gators, the football team has been left with 10 available scholarships under the NCAA maximum of 85, according to numbers crunched by InsideTheGators.com. Because 10 seniors on scholarship will be moving on after the 2011 season, Florida will have at least 20 scholarships (likely more) to hand out to recruits for 2012. Nine verbal commitments have already been made for 2012, leaving approximately a dozen (give or take a few) spots left to be filled.

SIX BITS: awards, Tennessee, blog, BCS, SEC

1 » Learning they earned a unanimous No. 3 ranking on Tuesday – earning placement in the top-three for the first time program history – Florida Gators lacrosse continues to celebrate their 2011 ALC Championship while riding a 14-game winning streak. The team finished the ALC schedule 5-0 and completed the regular season 11-0 at home. With all six ALC schools ranked in the top-20, Florida is among great company and only behind Maryland (15-0) and Duke (13-2). The team also received great news as sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen was named National Player of the Week by WomensLax.com, National Offensive Player of the Week by WomensLacrosse.com and Offensive Player of the Week by the ALC. Joining her is redshirt freshman M Hayley Katzenberger, who took home ALC Rookie of the Week honors.

2 » The Gators brought home two other Player of the Week awards on Monday, with the Southeastern Conference recognizing senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder for softball and sophomore Allie Will for women’s tennis. Bruder hit a home run in three-straight games, while Will won two matches (including the 75th of her career).

3 » The Tennessee Volunteers are planning to begin their annual spring tour in Orlando, FL, prompting columnist John Adams of GoVolsXtra to point out that Tennessee fans in general have a number of conspiracy theories about some of their own in regards to connections with Florida.

4 » Former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, the No. 4 overall pick of the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks is back with the team after spending two years in Washington and continues to play great. In addition to winning tow Olympic gold medals and a pair of WNBA Championships she is 11th all-time in both scoring and rebounding, sixth all-time in steals and eighth all-time in minutes played in the league. Milton-Jones wrote a guest blog for SLAM Magazine, which you can check out here.

5 » Whether or not you like the BCS is no matter as its existence may be a matter of legality going forward. The United States Justice Department is currently looking into whether or not they should investigate the BCS for violating federal antitrust law, and a University of Florida professor is lending his hand (and signature) to the anti-BCS regime, according to The Gainesville Sun.

6 » For the first time since 1999, the 2011 SEC Tournament for men’s tennis will be held at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gaiensville, FL. The event begins Thursday at 9 a.m. and will continue through the championship game on Sunday.

Former Gators PG Jason Williams retires

Former Florida Gators point guard Jason Williams announced his retirement from the NBA Monday night in an official press release from the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 12-year veteran missed the final 17 games of the regular season with an injured back and was left off the team’s playoff roster.

Selected No. 7 overall in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, Williams played for four teams in his professional career.

After spending three years with Sacramento, Williams was traded to the then-Vancouver Grizzlies (which relocated to Memphis), where he played from 2001-05. He was again traded to the Miami Heat and won a NBA Championship in 2005-06, his first season with the team. Williams played there for three years before signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers; however, instead of playing for the team, he decided to retire.

Coming out of retirement after a full year away from the game, he played 98 games in an Orlando Magic uniform before being cut in January; the Grizzlies signed him just over a week later. He ends his career as Memphis’ all-time assists leader (2,069).

Known by the nickname “White Chocolate,” Williams finished with career totals of 8,266 points, 4,611 assists, 1,810 rebounds and 933 steals. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds for his career while shooting 39.8 percent from the field, 32.7 percent from three-point range and 81.3 percent from the free throw line.

Before making his career as an NBA point guard, Williams played one season (1997-98) for the University of Florida and averaged 17.1 points and 6.7 assists per game. Already having received three suspensions, he was permanently dismissed from the program due to drug use after the season and immediately declared for the draft .

While with the Gators, Williams recorded a school single-game record 17 assists. Upon entering the NBA as a rookie, his No. 55 jersey was top-five in the league in sales. Williams was disciplined numerous times throughout his professional career.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Florida adds 2011 walk-on punter Todd Fennell

Looking for competition for freshman three-star punter Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN), the Florida Gators have accepted a walk-on commitment from Todd Fennell (Vero Beach, FL), OGGOA exclusively learned on Monday.

“Todd’s a high level student and wanted a strong athletic and academic school. He grew up a Gator fan and Florida fit the type of school he was looking for,” his kicking coach, Brandon Kornblue, told us in an interview. “He was really impressed with how the staff and players welcomed him on his unofficial visit. With Chas Henry graduating, the coaches told him they want him to compete for the starting spot.”

Listed at 6’2” and 185 lbs., Fennell made his decision on Sunday, picking Florida over an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at N.C. State. Michigan was also highly considering offering him an chance to compete, Kornblue said.

“Good punters are tougher to find than good kickers and Todd is a pure punter. He’s also a good athlete, similar to how Henry was out of high school,” he explained. “He doesn’t have the leg strength or size that Henry has but very few do. Punting at the college level is all about consistency, so if Todd can get a little stronger and comfortable mentally in that environment, he’ll have a good chance to contribute.”

Fennell, also Vero Beach High School’s staring quarterback, is an unranked prospect.

Photo Credit: Michael C. Bielecki

Gators baseball, softball each win weekend series

Both suffering through some midseason struggles, Florida Gators baseball and softball each won their respective three-game series over the weekend. No. 4/4 Florida baseball (28-9, 11-4 SEC) won two of three in Athens, GA, while No. 10/10 softball (37-7, 13-6 SEC) swept a three-game road series in Auburn, AL.

BASEBALL

Coming off a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Florida State, the Gators were faced with the tough test of facing another rival on the road just a few days later. Florida rebounded, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 5-4 in Friday’s contest behind a solid effort from sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (6-1). Randall allowed three runs (two earned) but tossed 6.1 innings for UF before giving way to three relievers. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez came through with his second save of the season after striking out the final batter. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-5, R), junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI) each connected twice, but sophomore first baseman/reliever Austin Maddox (3-4, 2 RBI, R) led the way offensively with a two-RBI single to center in the sixth.

The Gators were not as lucky Saturday, falling 7-2 to the Bulldogs after junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (4-2) blew a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning. Relieving sophomore LHP Brian Johnson (6.0 IP, 4 K, ER), DeSclafani got one out before walking the next batter, giving up two hits and intentionally loading the bases before being pulled. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (3-3, BB) hit two singles and a double but his teammates were never able to capitalize.

Wrapping up the series, Florida watched as Tucker took over Sunday’s contest with an absolutely explosive performance. Down 7-6 to Georgia through six innings, UF jumped on the back of Tucker, who came through in the clutch. He hit home runs in back-to-back innings in one of the best performances all season for the Gators. Tucker (2-4, 6 RBI, 3 R) hit a two-run moon shot in the seventh and grand slam in the eighth to propel his team to a 14-7 victory over the Bulldogs (19-18, 9-6 SEC).

Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (5.0 IP, 5 K, 3 ER) got the start but lost his opportunity at a win when junior LHP Alex Panteliodis coughed up four earned runs on four hits without recording a single out in his relief appearance. Junior RHP Greg Larson (1-1), pitching the final 3.2 innings of the game, recorded the win striking out one and scattering five hits. Other top-notch offensive performances came from Fontana (1-3, RBI, 2 R, 2 BB), sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, 3 R, BB), Maddox (3-4, RBI, 2 R, BB) and DH Johnson (3-4, 3 RBI, R).

SOFTBALL

Rebounding from a six-game losing streak with seven-straight wins, Florida softball outscored the Auburn Tigers (32-12, 11-9 SEC) 35-10 over the weekend beginning with an impressive 14-4 victory early Saturday.

Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers earned the victory in a complete game performance due to an impressive rally by her offense over the final four innings. Down 4-1 through three, the Gators scored 13 runs in the last four frames including five in the seventh. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-5, 3 RBI, R), senior LF Kelsey Bruder (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R), senior 1BMegan Bush (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB), senior C Tiffany DeFelice (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) and freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (2-2, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB) all showed major power with a combined five home runs.

Coming back out for the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, Florida saw the return of ace senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher. Out since March 12 (bicep), Brombacher (15-0) did not throw her normal complete game effort but earned the win by striking out four and only allowing one earned run in 4.2 innings. Rogers (S2) got the save while Bruder (2-5, HR, 2 RBI, R), sophomore RF Brittany Schutte (3-3, R, BB), Coyle (2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) and sophomore designated hitter Kelsey Horton (2-2, RBI) did the heavy lifting for the team offensively.

Rogers (22-5) completed the weekend with two victories and a save, earning her second win Sunday in yet another complete game performance. The Gators’ bats were alive once again as the team connected for eight total home runs. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), Bruder (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), Schutte (2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), DeFelice (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB), Horton (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, R) and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R) all connected to earn Florida the series sweep.

Bruder ended the weekend 7-13 with three homers, five RBI and four runs, while Coyle was an outstanding 5-7 with three homers, five RBI, seven runs and five walks.

Gators rack up five titles over the weekend

The weekend of April 15-17, 2011 was a good one for the Florida Gators as University of Florida student-athletes brought home five separate titles for the school.

No. 3/5 Gators men’s golf won the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, leading after every single round of the event. Florida finished with a combined 848 (+8), five strokes ahead of second-place Alabama to win the school’s 200th all-time SEC title.

Competing for the Gators in the event, redshirt senior golfer Andres Echavarria also won the 2011 SEC Men’s Individual Championship with a three-round total of 209 (-1).

With No. 7 Florida gymnastics failing to advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Six, the team had three student-athletes competing individually. One came through as sophomore Marissa King claimed the 2011 NCAA Championship in the vault on Sunday. King scored a 9.8750 in the vault and became UF’s first NCAA event winner since 1998.

Two other Gators teams clinched outright conference titles over the weekend.

No. 5/6 Florida lacrosse (14-1, 5-0 ALC) defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-7, 1-4 ALC) 8-7 Sunday to continue a 14-game winning streak and take sole possession of the regular season 2011 ALC Championship. No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-1, 11-0 SEC) followed suit, shutting out the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-9, 4-7 SEC) 7-0 on Saturday to go undefeated in conference play and capture the 2011 SEC title.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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