Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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DE Bobby McCray signed by Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a tough year for former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray. Shining in the playoffs last season for the New Orleans Saints, McCray was unexpectedly released by the defending Super Bowl champions after the team acquired fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason.

McCray was initially cut because he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus even though he wrecked havoc on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 and compiled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans. The team re-signed him in July but cut him just a month later; he has yet to play in 2010.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release DE Derrick Burgess and tabbed McCray for their playoff run. He is expected to join the team immediately and could play as soon as Sunday at home against Dallas.

12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the players who spoke with the media on Wednesday.

THIS ONE’s FOR MEYER

Though the players – especially the seniors – obviously want to win their final game in the orange and blue for themselves, they all realize that it is important to send head coach Urban Meyer out on top. That was a common topic of conversation Wednesday.

“We are going to do everything possible to get this win, not only for us, but for him. It’s his last game as well as ours,” senior linebacker Brandon Hicks said. “It’s going to be an emotional time for all of us. I know he’s going to have some tears. Some guys may have some tears. I don’t know, I may have tears. Coach Meyer was a great person, a great coach, and it’s something that you can’t really exchange that for anybody.”

Redshirt senior LB A.J. Jones shared a similar sentiment. “I know it’s going to be pretty emotional because Coach Meyer’s a great man,” he said. “He’s done a lot for us and he’s done a lot for this program. As we want to go out with a bang, the seniors, we want to send him out with a bang, too. Because we know how much we’ve done for each other.”

Senior center Mike Pouncey recalled his thoughts of Florida under Meyer. “Dominant. When we stepped on the field, we never thought we would be beat. We won a lot of games,” he said. “He’s a real emotional coach. He loves to attack other teams, especially on special teams. That really gives him the edge, that he’s a real aggressive coach.”

EARLY THOUGHTS ON MUSCHAMP

They will not have the chance to play under him in Gainesville, FL, but Hicks and Jones also had positive things to say about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp in the little they have seen and heard from him recently.

“He’s going to do great here. He’s a coach that has a lot of drive and a lot of want-to to win,” Hicks said. “He’s excited about the program and what direction he can take it in. They’re going to get the program rolling,” added Jones. “When [athletic director] Jeremy Foley said he was going to be a coach in here, I knew he was going to bring in the best coach possible.”

REDEMPTION FOR THE GATORS

Hicks also sees Saturday’s game as an effort for the team to get a little redemption. “We are going to go out this last game and show what we can do, what we should have done and what we are going to do,” he said. Senior punter Chas Henry agrees. “It’s going to be a very emotional, very hard-fought game,” he added.

TURNING POINT IN THE SEASON

Looking back, Pouncey points to LSU’s come-from-behind win on a fake field goal and fourth down conversion as the turning point where things nose-dived for Florida. “That was the swinging point of our season. If we would have won that game, we would have had all the momentum going into homecoming to beat Mississippi State,” he said. “It came down to them faking a field goal and getting a first down on fourth and four. That’s how the game swung. Once your team has momentum, it’s hard to beat a team with momentum. We lost all our momentum especially when we thought we won the game again.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

Broncos QB Tebow mic’d up on NFL Sound FX

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow engineered a come-from-behind victory including a game-winning touchdown for his team on Sunday against the Houston Texans. The NFL was lucky enough to have a microphone on Tebow throughout the game and traveled with him in the huddle – and in the tunnel – before, during and after the contest. Check out what they recorded via the video clip below or on NFL Network at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

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Video courtesy of the National Football League and NFL Network.

12/29: Donovan discusses Florida’s struggles

Florida Gators 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 latest media availability in the following post.

TURNOVERS, FREE THROW SHOOTING ARE BIGGEST WOES

The Gators are struggling in a number of areas, but Donovan pointed to the team’s carelessness with the ball and inability to knock down free throws as its two biggest issues at this point in the season.

“The biggest thing has been our turnovers; about 22 percent of our possessions are resulting in turnovers,” he said. “The free throw shooting, coupled with the turnovers, has made us a team that has scored in the 60s. […] We got to make better decisions, we got to stop turning the ball over, and I also think we have to shoot the ball better from the free throw line. […] We’re leaving a lot of points out there in games because of the turnovers and the free throw shooting.”

Donovan added an interesting nugget. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who are supposed to be Florida’s most frequent visitors to the charity stripe from a game-planning standpoint, are also the team’s least effective shooters from that range. Parsons hits 50 percent of his attempts, while Macklin is only connecting on 39 percent of his opportunities.

SHOOTING NOT THE PROBLEM; THREE-POINT SHOOTING IS

Donovan did not have many answers when it came to diagnosing the Gators’ shooting issues, except to say that the biggest problem is the team’s percentage from downtown. “Three point shooting – that’s been a struggle for us – but from the field, we’ve actually shot a pretty decent percentage,” he said. “We’re getting good shots when we don’t turn the ball over, but we need to put the ball in the basket a little bit more.”

Though a Donovan-coached team should not be expected to check down from wide-open treys, perhaps it is time Florida starts concentrating on mid-range jumpers and driving the lane with its backcourt instead of counting on them to drain shots from beyond the arc. His most successful teams have been proficient from the three-point line, but the Gators are shooting 31.5 percent as a team this year with Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton each hitting less than 27 percent of their attempts. Boynton has shot it 76 times from downtown while UF’s best threat, junior point guard Erving Walker (45 percent) has thrown up 58 shots from long distance.

IS THERE A POSITIVE?

Though Florida’s offense is still working out the kinks, the Gators have significantly improved their defensive aptitude from the previous few seasons. That has kept them in some of their worst shooting games and helped fuel them to victories over Florida State and then-No. 6 Kansas State.

“The one thing that’s been really good for us as a positive – that maybe is not talked about – is that we’ve held teams down ourselves. We’ve played much, much better defense,” Donovan said. “We’ve rebounded the ball much better. We’re more of a physical team and have a better presence at the basket than maybe we’ve had the last couple of years. That’s a blessing.”

But can UF keep it up when their Southeastern Conference slate begins? “To consistently hold teams down game-after-game that low is hard to do,” Donovan added.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Donovan discusses Florida’s struggles

Muschamp could have coaches hired by Tuesday

Speaking with the media on Wednesday as the Florida Gators prepare for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions set for Sat., Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., athletic director Jeremy Foley said that he expects new head coach Will Muschamp to have most of his staff in place by Tues., Jan. 4.

“Some pieces are falling into place; still, there’s other pieces that have to fall into place,” Foley said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “He’s making a lot of good progress there and will be in position next week to hit the ground running and go recruit.

“January 4th you have to hit the ground recruiting, so I’m not going to say the whole staff will be in place by then, but we’ve got to have some coaches on the road. We will have some coaches on the road. I think things get really, really hectic the first part of next week.”

As of press time, director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti is the only confirmed member of Muschamp’s staff. It is a widely held belief that he will retain a few of the Gators’ current coaches though most hires will be from outside the program.

Because Muschamp has decided to consult head coach Urban Meyer on a number of matters, he will likely receive strong endorsements for some current assistants.

“He’s certainly respectful of the fact that this is Urban’s last deal,” Foley said, according to the University of Florida. “He’s not going to be in the forefront. We probably talk every day. He’s, trust me, rocking and rolling hard putting a staff together. Every time I talk to him, I know he’s chomping at the bit to get to Gainesville and get going recruiting and get this thing rolling.

“I know people are wondering why we haven’t announced this or announced that. It’s because that’s part of the plan. You wait until football seasons are over, individual teams are done playing and then you can start figuring out what are the final pieces of this puzzle.”

DEPARTING COACHES
Offensive coordinator/offensive line Steve Addazio » Named Temple head coach
Assistant head coach/defensive line Dan McCarney » Named North Texas head coach
Defensive coordinator/cornerbacks Teryl Austin » Does not anticipate being retained

REMAINING COACHES
Co-defensive coordinator/safeties Chuck Heater
Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton
Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni
Tight ends/fullbacks coach Brian White
Linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin

Photo Credit: Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun

FOUR BITS: Graham’s award, Nelson’s journey

1 » Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Earnest Graham was honored by his teammates with the Ed Block Courage Award this year. Coming back this season after tearing a ligament in his toe in 2009, Graham has dealt with a lot in 2010 including the loss of his mother and his brother recently being released from prison. A fan favorite, Graham recently started the charity Earnest Giving in support of early childhood development.

2 » ESPN’s AFC East blogger Tim Graham published an interesting story about undrafted Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson last week. Nelson, who took some time to develop while with the Florida Gators, performed admirably in his final two seasons but was not selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was picked up right after the draft by the Bills and fulfilled his dream of making the NFL even though talk show host Regis Philbin – a Notre Dame supporter – once said live on air that he was made a bad decision. “”Big mistake for you kid!” Philbin said live on his show when Nelson decided to switch his commitment from Notre Dame to Florida. “You start to think ‘What might have been? Maybe Regis was right,’” Nelson said on his early struggles at UF. “Looking back now, it’s easy to see I made the right decision.” Nelson has 31 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns already this season.

3 » Let’s just say Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons is not having the type of season anyone – including himself – expected. He has struggled shooting from beyond the arc and at the free throw line even though he continues to put in optimum effort each night. Nevertheless, he is not discouraged. “We can’t get down. I can’t get down because I was 0-for-3, 0-for-4 from the three-point line,” Parsons told The Gainesville Sun. “I’m going to keep trying to get to the foul line even though I’m not shooting the ball well from there. It’s all about confidence, getting good shots. I’m going to keep trying to get to the free throw line. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m not going to get down. It’s my senior year. I’ve been through slumps before so it’s nothing I haven’t experienced.” Head coach Billy Donovan and his teammates are certainly behind him. “We need Chandler and he needs us,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “So we’re going to be there for him. I’ve got confidence in him and if he’s got an open shot I want him taking it.”

4 » Coming off a win in the Gator Holiday Classic, Florida women’s basketball was hoping to keep the magic going with an upset win over the No. 23/25 Florida State Seminoles. Unfortunately they fell just short with the Seminoles (10-3) squeaking out a back-and-forth 74-72 win over the Gators (10-4) on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida shot 48.4 percent from the field (compared to 44.4 percent for Florida State) and out-rebounded their opponent 39-31 but still fell. Guards redshirt junior Jordan Jones and freshman Jaterra Bonds combined for 25 points and 11 assists.

Photo Credit: Daniel Wallace/St. Petersburg Times

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 16 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season still in full swing, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 16 action, some of whom had an impact on their team’s performance.OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second-to-last week of the season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos: 16/29 for 308 yards, touchdown, interception (QB rating: 89.4); 10 carries for 27 yards, touchdown (long: 11) [Video highlights]
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Five solo tackles, sack, INT, forced fumble

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Four receptions for 87 yards (long: 44)
DL JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Three tackles (two solo), pass defended
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings: Seven receptions for 100 yards [team-highs] (targets: 8, long: 46); two rushes for six yards
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Three solo tackles, pass defended

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Four tackles (three solo)
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Target
S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Four solo tackles
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Two tackles (one solo), sack, two QB hits
S REGGIE NELSON, Cin. Bengals: Eight tackles [team-high] (three solo), pass def.
CB KEIWAN RATLIFF, Cincinnati Bengals: Eight tackles [team-high] (three solo)
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Denver Broncos: Four rec. for 90 yards (targets: 7, long: 50)
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Solo tackle (for loss)
LB CHANNING CROWDER, Miami Dolphins: Four tackles (three solo), pass defended
CB LITO SHEPPARD, Minnesota Vikings: Solo tackle
RB FRED TAYLOR, New England Patriots: Rush for -3 yards, target
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Two tackles (one solo)
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Two receptions for 36 yards (long: 26)
LB BRANDON SILER, San Diego Chargers: Six tackles (one solo, one for loss)
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Three tackles (two solo, one for loss)
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rush for four yards
QB REX GROSSMAN, Washington Redskins: 19/39 for 182 yards, touchdown, interception (QB rating: 60.0); rush for five yards

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
C Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh Steelers), G Cooper Carlisle (Raiders) –DT Marcus Thomas (Broncos), WR Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles), DE Jarvis Moss (Raiders)

INACTIVES
LB Andra Davis (Bills); LB Jermaine Cunningham, TE Aaron Hernandez, LB Brandon Spikes (Patriots); LT Max Starks (Steelers); RB DeShawn Wynn (49ers)

NOTES
– Both of Tebow’s touchdowns came in the forth quarter, including his game-winning rushing score with 3:02 left in the game. Denver was down 17-0 at halftime.
– Haden nabbed his fifth interception in the last seven weeks and his sixth of the season to go along with the first forced fumble of his career.
– After being held without a reception in eight of Cincinnati’s first 13 games (due to his spot on the depth chart), Caldwell has caught four balls in each of the last two contests for total gains of 89 and 87 yards, respectively.
– Dunlap has registered at least a partial sack in six of his last seven games. He has now earned eight over the course of his rookie season.
– Though Harvin has played in 13 games (compared to 15 in 2009), he has surpassed his rookie season’s receiving yard total and eclipsed 100 yards for the third time this year. He had one 100-yard receiving game in 2009.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15

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