TWO BITS: Starks out for season, Harvin better

1 » Two Pittsburgh Steelers offensive linemen were injured Monday night – former Florida Gators left tackle Max Starks and center Maurkice Pouncey. Though Pouncey was able to return from his right lower leg injury, Starks was not as lucky. The seven-year NFL veteran was placed on injured reserve by Pittsburgh on Wednesday with a neck injury. Starks damaged a disc in his upper vertebrae and will undergo surgery on it shortly. He is expected to be ready to begin the 2011 season (if there is one) and will continue playing on the four-year, $26.3 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) he signed with the Steelers in the summer of 2009.

2 » Playing hobbled on an ankle injury that forced him to miss most of his team’s practices last week, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was still able to turn in an electric performance on Sunday including a career-high 126 receiving yards. On Monday, head coach Brad Childress – with whom Harvin got into a heated argument with Friday over whether or not the player would get an MRI done on his ankle – said Harvin’s ankle was “still sore” but that he should progress better over the week and be healthier before the team’s game Sunday.

Report: Newton, father wanted “pay-for-play plan”

One week after ESPN reported that Cecil Newton, father of Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton, allegedly requested money for his son’s college commitment through a third party and one day after FOX Sports reported that the son was caught cheating three times while attending the University of Florida, sources told ESPN’s Joe Schad that the Newtons each “admitted in separate phone conversations to a pay-for-play plan while Newton was being recruited late last year.”

According to Schad’s sources, a Mississippi State Bulldogs recruiter was told by Cecil Newton that his son would only join the program if he received “more than a scholarship” for his services. The recruiter was then pointed to a third party who the father said could provide further details. The school failed to comply and Cameron Newton ended up at Auburn because, as the player supposedly explained another recruiter with great emotion, “the money was too much” for his dad to allow him to go to Mississippi State.

The alleged compliance offenses were related to the Southeastern Conference by Mississippi State in January, Schad reports.

The Newtons have previously denied all allegations of requesting or accepting money but refused to entertain the questions surrounding any cheating at Florida. “I’m not going to sit up here and say anything about it, whether I did or did not do it, because I don’t want to beat a dead horse talking about it,” Cameron Newton said in a press conference Tuesday. “It’s not going to affect me in any way, shape or fashion.”

The player has previously admitted that attending Auburn was his father’s choice as he had originally desired to play for former Florida Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, now the Bulldogs’ head coach.

OGGOA RELATED: Meyer denies allegations of leaking Newton info | Report: Newton’s cheating at UF led to transfer

Photo Credit: Getty Images

11/9: Addazio, players speak to the media

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, and defensive tackles redshirt senior Terron Sanders and redshirt sophomore Omar Hunter spoke to the media Tuesday as the team took a final look back on its win against the Vanderbilt Commodores and ahead to its game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

THREE-HEADED MONSTER BEHIND CENTER

With redshirt junior starter John Brantley, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed and freshman Trey Burton all sharing quarterbacking duties these days, Addazio was asked Tuesday if he has ever seen a team employ a similar strategy and why it happens to work for Florida. “No. Three quarterbacks? No, I have not,” he said. “For us it’s working right now, and it’s working because we have some really unselfishness guys who really want all for the team and winning. That’s very evident. It’s created a level of excitement and energy; it’s been a real positive thing for us.”

Though each player has his own specialized plays and duties, managing three signal callers with such unique skills is proving to be a work in progress for the entire coaching staff. “You’re moving a lot of checkers around and that takes a lot of time,” Addazio said. “You got to be exact in your practice time; you have to be exact in things. Systematically it’s a little different routine than what you’ve been accustomed to. Our whole deal has always been trying to get the right pieces in the right places.”

SATURDAY’s BIG GAME WEIGHING ON SENIORS IN GOOD WAY

In addition to playing for the Southeastern Conference Eastern division title on Saturday, the Gators’ senior class will be participating in their last home game of real significance seeing as Florida State is a road game this year. Sanders realizes how important the outcome of the game is not only to the team but also his classmates. “This is a make it or break it game for us,” he said. “As seniors, we don’t want to not make it to the SEC Championship game. It will hurt knowing that we had it right in the grasp of our fingertips and we let it go if we don’t come out and do what we need to do.”

Hunter, who has been wearing the orange and blue for some pretty big games already in his young career, doesn’t think Florida holds any advantage due to the game’s importance. “I think it’s irrelevant. It’s the SEC. Every week is a big game,” he said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/9: Addazio, players speak to the media

Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

Meyer denies allegations of leaking Newton info

When ESPN reported last week that a man claiming to represent Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton asked the Mississippi State Bulldogs for $180,000 for his signature on a letter of intent during his recruitment from Blinn College, some media members and college football fans found a way to finger Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer as the main reason for the information being leaked to the media.

A full week has passed and FOX Sports, in an unrelated report, claims Newton left Florida at least partially due to being caught cheating in class on three occasions. Similar to last week’s reaction, some members of the media and plenty of fans have once again pounced on Meyer, claiming he provided the information sourced in the story.

Early Tuesday, Meyer emphatically denied through a University of Florida statement having any involvement. “Our entire focus right now is on preparing for our biggest game of the year against South Carolina,” he said. “For anyone to think that I or anyone on our staff may have leaked information about private student records to the media doesn’t know us very well. It’s a ridiculous claim and simply not true.”

Meyer also spoke with Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun about the both allegations. “Obviously it’s a joke,” Meyer said. “I don’t know anything about anything. I heard they’ve got me meeting with the agent and all that. I never met with anybody. It’s ridiculous.”

Unconfirmed Internet reports stated Meyer was a part of a conference call with Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and former MSU QB John Bond and advised both men to speak with the the media about the alleged illegal recruitment of Newton.

The contention from some media members is that Meyer is angered at the success Newton has achieved since leaving Florida and is looking to bring him down. The coach denies that philosophy as well.

“We had a great relationship right until the time he left,” Meyer told the Sun. “Cam and I and his family always had a great relationship. I don’t know where this is all coming from, but it didn’t come from me. I know nothing about nothing.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 9 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season now underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 9 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 ninth week of the season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Team-high five receptions for 48 yards, two touchdowns (targets: 9, long: 22)
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings: Team-high nine receptions for 126 yards (targets: 12, long: 28), fumble, five kick returns for 88 yards (long 22)

LB MIKE PETERSON Five tackles (three solo, two for loss), sack, two passes defended
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Two receptions for 19 yards (targets: 5)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Solo tackle
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Four solo tackles
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Solo tackle
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Three tackles (two solo), pass defended
LB CHANNING CROWDER, Miami Dolphins: Four solo tackles (one for loss)
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Three tackles (two solo)
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Eight tackles (four solo)
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Two solo tackles (one for loss)
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Four tackles (two solo), QB hit, fumble rec.
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Tackle

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
C Maurkice Pouncey, LT Max Starks (Pittsburgh Steelers); G Cooper Carlisle (Oakland Raiders) – FB Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

BYE WEEK
WR Jabar Gaffney, DE Jarvis Moss, QB Tim Tebow, DT Marcus Thomas (Denver Broncos); DE Derrick Harvey, DT Jeremy Mincey (Jacksonville Jaguars); DE Ray McDonald (San Francisco 49ers), QB Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins)

INACTIVES
LB Andra Davis (Bills), S Major Wright (Chicago Bears), CB Lito Sheppard (Vikings), RB Fred Taylor (Patriots), WR Louis Murphy (Raiders), LB Brandon Siler (San Diego Chargers)

NOTES
– The initial touchdown scored by Hernandez was the first of his career.
– Crowder accused Baltimore’s FB LeRon McClain of spitting in his face during Sunday’s game; it is being reviewed by the league.
– Pouncey left Monday night’s game with an injured lower right leg but would return to action and finish the game at center.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Report: Newton’s cheating at UF led to transfer

The departure of now-Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton from the University of Florida in the spring of 2009 has always been somewhat of a mystery with different sides relaying their own version of the events. Did Newton decide to transfer because Heisman Trophy winning QB Tim Tebow returned for his senior season (as his family contends), because Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer chose QB John Brantley as Tebow’s heir apparent, or was he dismissed due to complications surrounding the theft of a laptop in Nov. 2008?

A report Tuesday from Thayer Evans of FOX Sports sheds light on the decision, revealing that Newton “had three different instances of academic cheating” at UF and even “faced potential expulsion from the university.”

A source told Evans that Newton cheated during a class his freshman year, turned in another student’s work after writing his name on it in the fall of 2008, and then purchased a paper off the Internet which he submitted as a replacement to the same professor who caught him for the previous indiscretion. The latter two occurrences of cheating allegedly came after Newton had been arrested for theft of the laptop.

“Newton was to appear for a hearing in front of Florida’s Student Conduct Committee during the spring semester of 2009, but instead transferred to Blinn College,” reports Evans. “The committee could have levied sanctions against Newton that included suspension and expulsion from the university.”

Less than a week ago, ESPN reported that Kenny Rogers, a man claiming to represent the Newton family, sought $180,000 from Mississippi State in exchange for Newton’s college commitment as he reentered Division I athletics after playing his transfer season at Blinn College. The NCAA has been looking into the allegations, brought to light by former MSU QB John Bond, since July.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
 

11/8: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior center Mike Pouncey and senior safety Ahmad Black answered questions for the media on Monday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators and their win on Saturday over the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road in Nashville, TN. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

RAINEY MAKING MOST OF SECOND CHANCE

Ask an outsider about redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, and they will likely tell you head coach Urban Meyer’s concern about fielding a winning team was the reason he allowed the troubled athlete back on the field two weeks ago. Talk to his close friends, teammates and brothers and you will get a completely different story.

“It’s his attitude about the game,” said Pouncey on Monday when asked how Rainey has changed the second time around. “He appreciates it more just because it was almost taken from him. I’m glad to see that he’s doing well. We need him to play good every week. I’m just glad he’s back out there. All Chris has is football. He’s had a rough life. I think Florida has given him a second opportunity to do well at this sport.

“I was [worried about him]. Chris really doesn’t have any family outside of me and my family. It was tough on him because he obviously had a lot of time on his hands without being a part of the football team. He’s just glad to be back. He doesn’t say anything at practice. He just goes hard, and that’s how it should be.”

Meyer has been criticized for being “easy” on players who make mistakes with his detractors saying he has no control of behavior. However, to Meyer, giving a kid a second chance at a meaningful life has always been of primary importance. “Coach Meyer knew [about Rainey’s issues],” Pouncey added. “Him and coach Meyer have a special relationship. He knew Rainey’s past and his whole life story, so he understood the fact that this [is] all he has.”

BRANTLEY NOT BOTHERED BY REDUCED ROLE

With a lacking run game and struggling offense, Florida’s coaching staff has been utilizing freshman Trey Burton and redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed along with Brantley behind center. According to the player, he’s perfectly fine with taking fewer snaps as long as it helps the team win. “We had to get our running game going and, no matter what it takes, we’ll do it. I’ll do it,” he said. It doesn’t matter to me as long as we win games and as long as we fight for that spot like we’re doing for the SEC Championship.”

Meyer and Pouncey both gave Brantley their vote of confidence on Monday, calling him “the” quarterback of the Gators. “I guess that means I’m the leader of the ship – that’s the role I’ve taken on this offseason and all summer, coming into camp and everything,” Brantley said. “That’s the way I look at it – that I still need to lead this team. Even though I’m not taking all the snaps, that’s fine with me, I just got to be able to lead the troops and keep this thing rolling.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/8: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

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