FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Tebow, Nike, Eckstein

1 » Facing his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey continued his next-level play as a youngster stuck right in the middle of a veteran team. He was excited to play so close to home and showed it with how he played all game. “It felt amazing,” Pouncey told The Lakeland Ledger of playing Tampa Bay. “I’m 20 minutes from Tampa, and pretty much all of Lakeland came up here to support me.” Also having Pouncey’s back is veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, who thinks the former Florida Gators star will truly be something special. “He’s had a lot of help from all of the veterans. Right now, he’s learning on the run,” Ward said. “When Maurkice gets three or four years into the league and finally figures this whole thing out, look for a lot of Pro Bowls. […] When the game slows down and he starts seeing the defense and making the calls, he’s going to have Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl.” As far as how the two get along? “I love everything about the kid – the tenacity, he doesn’t quit. Unfortunately, I hate him because he’s a Gator,” said Ward, a Georgia Bulldog, “but I love everything about him.”

Also… Asked by the paper about his brother, senior center Mike Pouncey‘s, snap problems earlier in the season, Maurkice had the following to say: “When I first moved over, I had the same thing. I had the horrible snaps, snaps everywhere. He is such a high profile player, everyone’s going to notice it. Even the commentator said it last night that he’s still one of the best linemen in college football. The snaps will get better. They’ve been getting better all along.” Has he given him any advice? “Nah, I’ve always thought my brother was a better player than me. Don’t tell him that, though.”

2 » For the first time in his short career, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow was the team’s No. 3 quarterback and technically listed as inactive for its game Sunday. he reason? Head coach Josh McDaniels‘ game plan did not call for Tebow. “[We] didn’t have anything [in the game plan] relative to Tim being in the game and playing a role in it, and we’ll try to do that the best we can each week,” McDaniels said.

3 » Tebow may not have seen the field Sunday, but he has been hitting television screens as one of two players prominently featured in Nike‘s newest commercial. Check out this trailer where he and Detroit defensive tackle Nndamukong Suh watch a Manny Pacquiao fight while getting fitted for suits.

4 » Check out this feature story on former Gators now San Diego Padres second baseman David Eckstein put together by the Los Angeles Times on Monday. Eckstein has become an instrumental part of the resurgent Padres in his two years with the club.

Grading the Florida Gators vs. Kentucky game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Kentucky Wildcats in the fourth game of the 2010-11 season, which took place at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
Standing on his own, redshirt junior John Brantley had an “A-” performance on Saturday, completing over 68 percent of his passes (24-of-35) for a career-high 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Though his 131.81 passer rating was his third-best of the season (due to the turnover), Brantley posted the best performance of his career and was instrumental in the Gators converting 7-of-11 third downs. Of course Brantley’s positive output was overshadowed by freshman Trey Burton, who accounted for six touchdowns on the day. Playing as single wing QB, running back, wide receiver and tight end, Burton rushed for 40 yards and five touchdowns, caught five balls for 37 yards and a touchdown and completed a pass on his only attempt for 42 yards. When you combine Brantley’s significant improvement with Burton’s stellar evening, there is truly no other grade to give his unit.

RUNNING BACKS: B+
After a monster 267-yard performance against South Florida, Florida’s running game came back down to earth against Tennessee. It returned to prominence once again against Kentucky, with all three of the team’s rushers posting good statistics. Junior Jeff Demps (who left the game in the second half with an injured foot) rushed eight times for 57 yards (7.1 average), redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody gained 46 yards on 10 carries (4.6 average) and sophomore Mike Gillislee ran the ball six times for 32 yards (5.3 average). Burton, a QB, scored all of the Gators’ rushing touchdowns, but these backs were instrumental in all six of UF’s scoring drives.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Kentucky game after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida Gators vs. Kentucky game

Wuerffel’s Words: “Gators’ puzzle is developing”

Through the first week of October, former Florida Gators national championship- and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts about how the team performed the previous Saturday exclusively here on OGGOA at the beginning of each week.

The 1996 winner of eight football and academic awards, Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his college career. Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, he is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

Any endeavor, from the simple things to the complex, whether it be folding a paper airplane with your kid or building a new Boeing jet, can be likened to a puzzle. There are multiple parts or steps that have to come together at the right time and in the right manner. Every piece of a puzzle has its place, and every piece is important.

In my opinion, a football team is much like a large and complicated puzzle. Coaches throughout the country work around the clock strategizing how they can fit the pieces that make up their puzzle into the right places. Some teams have bigger pieces, others smaller. Some seem to be faster, others slower. Coaches have tough jobs, and if the pieces don’t look right, they have thousands of fans eager to let them know.

I really like how the Gators’ puzzle is developing this year. While we didn’t start out setting any records and struggled against some subpar teams, I see the pieces of this puzzle coming together nicely.

The defense continues to develop and make big plays, and Johnny Brantley is delivering the ball on-time and accurately (especially on third down, which is instrumental to the team’s success). Additionally, Florida has several talented running backs, and the receivers are developing well, too.

But no matter what they did on the field during those first few weeks, there was a sense that a part of the puzzle was missing, especially when it came to the spread offense.

Well, I think we found it.

Trey Burton adds a dimension to the offense that will help all the other pieces come together. His athleticism and versatility will keep defenses on their heels. I doubt he’ll have many more games with six touchdowns (although that would be great, especially this week against Alabama), but he will be a fun young Gator to watch develop and contribute to the program.

Unfortunately, no football program’s puzzle is ever complete. We will continue to see the Gators grow, which will no doubt include both wonderful and discouraging moments.

I continue to be excited about the direction of this team and am thankful we have a great puzzle master putting it all together: Urban Meyer…the puzzlemeister!

Go Gators,

By joining together people from all walks of life who are interested in redeeming the inner-city, Desire Street Ministries believes that they are bringing together leaders who actually move into the neighborhood, indigenous leaders who already live there, and neighbors who “move in” spiritually through prayer, encouragement and financial support. Please take a moment to visit Desire Street Ministries online or in person and find out how you can help support and/or donate.

9/27: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday after the Florida Gators participate in a game the previous Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

AILING DEMPS SHOULD PLAY SATURDAY

Junior running back Jeff Demps aggravated a foot injury on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, something that forced him to get X-rays after the game (they were negative). Doctors have diagnosed Demps with a sprained foot and have placed him in a temporary boot so it can heal for a few days before he returns to practice. “[We are] hearing positive things about [Demps returning] later in the week,” Meyer said Monday. “We’ll update you as we go. It’s not broken. It’s not a stress fracture. [The X-ray] came back negative. Now [we] just gotta get him healthy. […] I think we are going to have Demps, so I’d rather not even think that way.”

WEEK FOUR CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced that 24 Florida players graded out as Champions after the Kentucky game, more than double any other game so far this season. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt junior QB John Brantley and redshirt junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard were singled out as Players of the Week.

Offensively, senior center Mike Pouncey; wide receivers redshirt junior Denote Thompson, redshirt senior Carl Moore and redshirt sophomore Frankie Hammond, Jr.; running backs Demps, redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee; redshirt senior left guard Carl Johnson; redshirt senior left tackle Marcus Gilbert; redshirt senior right guard Maurice Hurt; sophomore right tackle Xavier Nixon; and redshirt freshman G Jon Halapio were honored. Nine players on defense – senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; safeties senior Ahmad Black and junior Will Hill; cornerbacks junior Janoris Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown; linebackers redshirt senior A.J. Jones and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins; and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter – shined Saturday.

It appears that there were even more Champions this week, but Meyer said there were too many to name. “There’s too many names on there to get into each one of them,” he said.

Burton was also named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday for his school-record six touchdown performance. He is the fifth Florida player this year to win a weekly SEC honor and the second to win Freshman of the Week.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 9/27: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

WR Rainey agrees to deferral for misdemeanor

Florida Gators redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey has agreed to deferred prosecution for a misdemeanor stalking charge after originally being charged with a third-degree felony for aggravated stalking, according to Florida Today.

Rainey must adhere to the following terms: six moths probation, no hostile contact with the woman, counseling, performing 10 hours of community service, paying a $50 fine and donating $100 to a domestic abuse center. As long as he fulfills the requirements and obligations presented to him by the court, he will be granted amnesty and the charges will be dismissed in six months’ time as he is a first-time offender.

Indefinitely suspended by the Gators, Rainey may have a renewed hope of returning to the team. A misdemeanor charge and admission by the state of Florida that he may have been overcharged in the first place could help him get back on the field. Nevertheless, head coach Urban Meyer has already ruled him out for Saturday’s game against the No. 1/1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

State attorney Bill Cervone explained the decision and plea agreement:

“Although I believe that probable cause existed for a felony charge because the facts involve an at least arguable threat, which is within the legal definition of felony stalking, the Defendant was never in a position to have acted on that threat and there is little if anything in his actions that night or in his background to suggest that he would have done so.

“Misdemeanor stalking is legally the more appropriate charge when no imminent danger was perceived or can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the harassing contact, not done in person, occurred in a short, compressed time period. The Victim has in fact essentially stated that she was more annoyed than threatened, and that she did not want an arrest or prosecution, only the resolution of an immediate problem.” […]

“As a result, the case is being re-cast as a misdemeanor stalking offense, which as a matter of law more closely reflects the facts involved. Since the Defendant has no prior criminal history other than an unrelated drivers license charge that was resolved with no conviction, he will be treated as any first offender would in similar circumstances and offered a deferral agreement. The terms of that agreement have been crafted to address the concerns of my office and, if complied with, will allow the Defendant and everyone else involved to move on.”

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 3 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season now underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 3 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 third week of the season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
LB BRANDON SILER, San Diego Chargers: Five solo tackles, sack, three tackles for loss, two QB hits, safety
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Denver Broncos: 12 rec. for 140 yards (targets: 14, long: 26)
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Team-high five receptions for 119 yards (targets: 6, long: 70)

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Three solo tackles
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Six tackles (three solo)
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Two targets, tackle
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals One reception for eight yards (targets: 2)
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Two tackles (one solo), pass defended
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Tackle, QB hit
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Solo tackle
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings: Team-high six rec. for 62 yards (targets: 8, long: 24), touchdown; two carries for 13 yards; two kick returns for 41 yards; tackle
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Two tackles (solo/TFL), QB hit
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Team-high six receptions for 65 yards (targets: 7, long: 25), one rush for 13 yards
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Two tackles (one solo)
RB FRED TAYLOR, New England Patriots Six rushes for 16 yards (avg.: 2.7, long: 5)
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots Two tackles (one solo)
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Five solo tackles, TFL, pass defended
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Target
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers Solo tackle
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two carries for 13 yards (avg.: 6.5, long: 9), four receptions for 57 yards [team-high] (targets: 4, long: 46)

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
C Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh Steelers), LT Max Starks (Steelers), G Cooper Carlisle (Raiders) — S Reggie Nelson (Bengals), DE Carlos Dunlap (Bengals) DE Jarvis Moss (Broncos), DT Joe Cohen (Detroit Lions), DT Jeremy Mincey (Jaguars), CB Lito Sheppard (Vikings), RB DeShawn Wynn (Saints), QB Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins)

INACTIVES
S Major Wright (Chicago Bears), QB Tim Tebow (Broncos), LB Channing Crowder (Miami Dolphins)

NOTES
- Cunningham started his first NFL game.
- Dunlap was active for his first NFL game.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | Week 2

TWO BITS: soccer, volleyball victorious; Lacroix

1 » No. 7 Florida Gators soccer (8-1-1, 2-0 SEC) continued its hot start over the weekend with a pair of 2-0 road victories against the Kentucky Wildcats (6-3, 0-1 SEC) on Friday and the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-5-1, 0-1-1 SEC) on Sunday. Friday’s contest saw sophomore midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak (47’) and junior MF/F Tahnai Annis (81’) with goals, while freshman F Taylor Travis (14’) and redshirt sophomore MF McKenzie Barney (79’) contributed scores on Sunday. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Franie broke Jordan Kellgren’s (1999-2002) Florida career solo shutouts record with her 22nd on Sunday. The Gators return home for a pair of matches this weekend, facing Mississippi State on Friday and Ole Miss on Sunday.

2 » Also performing well over the weekend was No. 3 Florida volleyball (10-1, 3-0 SEC), which defeated the Ole Miss Rebels (9-4, 3-1 SEC) 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-19) on Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Junior middle-back Cassandra Anderson and sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs notched a combined 16 kills and five blocks to lead the Gators. Junior RS/setter Kelly Murphy continued her streak of significantly contributing to her team’s victory with six kills, five digs, two blocks and a team-high 18 assists. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers added 10 digs and seven kills.

Extra BIT » Florida senior tennis player, No. 9 Alexandre Lacroix, won the 2010 Napa Valley Classic title on Sunday, defeating No. 8 Eric Quigley of Kentucky 10-6 in the final. Lacroix combined to win his three matches 30-15 at earned a USTA wild card for a future event with his victory.

Florida rises in latest USA Today, AP Top 25 polls

For the first time this season, the Florida Gators (4-0, 2-0 SEC) advanced in both the USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls. Just one day after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats (3-1, 0-1 SEC) 48-14 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, the Gators rose one spot in the respective polls.

Ranked No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches’ poll going into the season, Florida was moved down to No. 6 three weeks ago, losing 115 points in the process; voters also dropped them two weeks ago to No. 7 (taking away 22 more points) and last week to No. 8 (losing 16 more points). With Texas losing, Florida was promoted back to No. 7 this week, gaining 47 points.

The AP voters had the Gators ranked No. 4 in their preseason poll, but knocked them down four spots after the first week, taking away 172 points from their total. Florida lost 201 more points two weeks ago, falling to No. 10. However, UF rose last week – one spot to No. 9 – gaining eight points in the process. Because Texas lost, the Gators are now listed at No. 7 with an 88-point increase.

USA TODAY
Last Week 1-10: Alabama (55), Ohio State (3), Boise State, Texas, TCU, Oregon, Nebraska (1), Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin

Last Week 1-10: Alabama (57), Ohio State (2), Boise State, Oregon, TCU, Nebraska, Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, LSU

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-10: Alabama (53), Ohio State (5), Boise State (1), TCU, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida, Arkansas

This Week 1-10: Alabama (57), Ohio State (2), Boise State (1), Oregon, TCU, Nebraska, Florida, Oklahoma, Stanford, Auburn

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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