TWO BITS: Antwine’s health, Tebow’s jerseys

1 » Like with redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones, the St. Petersburg Times caught up with Florida Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Brandon Antwine to discuss how he is feeling going into next season. “I’m fully recovered,” he said. “My back is feeling real good, I’m just doing preventative measures right now. I’m just rehabbing everyday – my back, my knee, my shoulder, I’m just getting right. My shoulder is feeling a lot better, my knee is feeling a lot better and I’m just ready to get out there in two-a-days and see what I can do.’ […] This is the best I’ve felt since I tried to give it a go in ’09 before I hurt my shoulder. I feel real good.” Antwine also spoke about his motivation. “I love the game,” he said. “No matter what I went through, I always had a lot of support behind me. So I just try to give it back. Me being a leader, a senior, I just look at the younger guys that are going to be here after I’m gone and I try to give them as much information as I’ve learned since I’ve been here to try to help them out any way I can. Just staying around them, them looking up to me and me seeing that they look up to me, that’s a lot of motivation to get better and get back on the field as well.”

2 » CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell reported on Wednesday that Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow continues to lead the NFL in jersey sales, having the best-selling threads at over the last 90 days. “ currently sells Tebow jerseys in white, orange and blue, in all sizes, including youth,” Rovell writes. “The league also is offering a wide array of Tebow women’s jerseys including ‘Zebra Field Flirt’ and ‘Pink Sweetheart’ varieties.”

USC to Florida: Hope we didn’t embarass you…

On June 11, USC Trojans and director of compliance Matt Billings contacted Pac-10 associate commissioner for governance and enforcement Ron Barker and accused five programs – including the Florida Gators – of illegally contacting sophomore running back Dillon Baxter about transferring from Southern California after the school was hit with a variety of program-wide penalties by the NCAA.

Less than a month later, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel reports that Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett sent a letter to the Gators apologizing for the previous accusations. Specifically, Garrett tried to make amends for “any inconvenience or embarrassment” the allegations caused Florida, admitting that Baxter told him he did not speak to UF.

USC had also previously slandered Alabama, Oregon, Washington and Fresno State.

The Mobile Press-Register is also reporting that the Crimson Tide received a the same apology letter from Garrett, dated July 1. ESPN has learned that the Huskies and Ducks have also been sent letters. The generic message sent to each respective athletic director read as follows:

This comes after the school sent an e-mail to the Pac-10 last month.

“I just met with (Baxter) and he told me that he received phone calls from five institutions (June 10th),” Billings originally wrote to Barker. “All of the institutions asked if he was interested in transferring [from] USC due to the NCAA decision. Would you please speak with these schools to remind them they cannot speak to this student athlete?”

When asked for proof the communications took place, Baxter told Billings he had lost his cell phone and was unable to provide further specifics or documentation.

Florida associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain immediately denied the accusation in early June, as did representatives from Alabama and Oregon.

UPDATE: The Orlando Sentinel spoke with the Gators’ own senior associate athletic director of compliance – Jamie McCloskey, who told the paper that coaches “knew the rules,” insinuating that “normally the process would not be through the media.”

“Our coaches understood the process and who to contact,” he added. “They were upset that someone would make that allegation and feel that they have to respond to it.”

Image of the letter courtesy of ESPN affiliate Gator Country.

TWO BITS: Lee underrated, Noah in Bulls’ plans

1 » As OGGOA pointed out over the weekend, former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee may not be the “jewel” of the 2010 NBA free agent class, but he is certainly better than a consolation prize for whichever team ends up signing him. When it comes down to it, Lee may be competing with Carlos Boozer to determine who is the first forward signed aside from Amar’e Stoudamire (New York Knicks) and Chris Bosh (to be determined). “He is the ultimate role player, an energy guy who rebounds and has become one of the more skilled big men in the league,” writes the NBA’s John Schuhmann. He also notes that “Lee ranked third in the NBA in efficiency last season, behind only (LeBron) James and Kevin Durant.”

2 » The Chicago Bulls are still looking to add a top-flight free agent (or two) to their roster for next season, but the team is perfectly happy with two pieces already on the team – point guard Derrick Rose and former Gators forward/center Joakim Noah. The Bulls wish to lock-up Noah long-term, reports the Chicago Tribune; he is set to earn $3.1 million for 2010-11, and Chicago has a team option $4.2 million) that they can pick up or roll into a new contract in 2011-12.

SIX BITS: Tebow, Brantley, Horschel, volleyball

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has already had a few eventful days in Florida in the month of July. On Saturday – teaming up with Florida’s Blood Centers, the Van Duzer Foundation and Palm Beach Autographs – the former Florida Gators star headlined a 12-hour blood drive in Fort Pierce, FL. Between meeting with fans, signing a ton of autographs (some of which can be purchased here) and speaking about his charities, Tebow entertained the crowd and kept fans wanting more. His First and 15 Foundation was also a featured part of a brand new playroom addition to Shands Children’s Hospital‘s pediatric cancer facility; the organization donated $156,000 used to buy high definition televisions, video game consoles and the like.

Five more BITS on John Brantley, golfer Billy Horschel and more…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Brantley, Horschel, volleyball

LB A.J. Jones ready to return from injured knee

Forced to sit out his freshman year after breaking his ankle during preseason activities, Florida Gators redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones bounced back to appear in 36 games over the following three seasons. Faced with adversity once again after tearing his ACL and MCL against Florida International on Nov. 21, Jones missed the team’s final three games but has since been fully cleared by doctors to return to action and be a full participant in summer practices.

“I’m good. I’m full go. I just saw the doctor for the last time today and he cleared me,” Jones told the St. Petersburg Times. “I had a lot of support, and it gave me motivation to want to come back harder. I know I’m working for something now, I’m a part of this team, and that’s my real motivation. You want to be accountable. You don’t want to let your teammates down.”

OGGOA exclusively reported in late May that Jones had also been wearing a protective boot after having “simple surgery” to remove a screw from his foot. At the time, he was expected to heal nicely and make a full recovery.

Jones was certainly effective in the 11 starts he posted in 2009, recording 37 tackles (4.5 for a loss), three sacks and three interceptions. He is once again slated to start in 2010, this time with senior Brandon Hicks and sophomore Jon Bostic by his side.

Photo Credit: Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ryan Stamper set for workout with Detriot Lions

Two bulging discs causing excruciating pain in his back prevented former Florida Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper from showing teams what he was made of prior to the 2010 NFL Draft in April. Regardless, there remained plenty of interest from a variety of teams throughout the league, one of which acted on instinct just after the seventh round was completed.

Fortunately, the Gators’ leading tackler in 2009 was one of the very first players contacted by the Detroit Lions after the draft; he was immediately signed to an undrafted free agent contract.

“It was frustrating to sit back while everybody else was working out,” Stamper told the Orlando Sentinel back in April. “All teams had on me was game film and they kept saying they wanted to see me live. It was impossible to work out because every time I tried, it felt like I couldn’t walk the next day.”

Unfortunately for Stamper, his injury had not fully healed when he met with trainers, causing him to fail a team physical and forcing the Lions to cut him right away.

Even so, the team has decided to give him another chance by inviting him back to Detroit in two weeks – as early as July 18 – for a workout. Stamper has been staying in shape and completing full workouts in Gainesville, FL, recently; he is expected to be ready to earn a roster spot with the Lions before training camp beings on July 30.

Photo Credit: Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMI

Georgia may poach Florida for Evans’ replacement

Sooner or later, within the next few hours, days or weeks, the Georgia Bulldogs will fire athletic director Damon Evans. From his decision to drive under the influence to his actions upon being stopped by police officers, Evans has made it nearly impossible for the University of Georgia to keep him employed much longer.

Because of this, the Bulldogs will need to hire a new athletic director, and The Florida Times-Union’s Gene Frenette believes Evans’ replacement will come from the school’s biggest rival – the University of Florida.

Greg McGarity, a Georgia graduate and the executive senior associate director under athletic director Jeremy Foley, has been with the Florida Gators since 1992. The university describes his current responsibilities as the following:

Oversees the swimming & diving and women’s tennis programs, event operations, facilities, video services, risk management, information technology and communications, purchasing, auxiliary services, aviation operations and strength and conditioning programs. Assists Athletics Director in supervision of football and men’s basketball programs.

Essentially Foley’s right-hand man, McGarity was up for the UGA job in 2003 and could very well be the university’s top candidate when the position opens up.

Teams in pursuit of NBA free agents Lee, Miller

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudamire may be the names being most talked about right now as far as NBA free agency is concerned, but two former Florida Gators products are also highly coveted and being wooed by teams with varying needs throughout the league.

Former New York Knicks forward/center David Lee, who averaged career-highs of 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10, is one of the most prominent second-tier free agents on the market. The Knicks have interest in re-signing Lee, but it appears more likely that he will catch on elsewhere seeing as he does not want to wait and find out whether or not New York hits a home run or strikes out with James.

According to reports, the Boston Celtics were the first team to contact Lee – just after 12:01 a.m. on July 1 – and are pursuing him the strongest. He will also visit with the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets and Miami Heat.

Also available is former Washington Wizards guard/forward Mike Miller, who posted averages of 10.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game last season. The Los Angeles Lakers are hot after Miller and have already offered him a five-year, $30 million contract. They have given him a deadline of July 6 to accept or decline the offer as the team looks to add one more piece for head coach Phil Jackson‘s final season.

Miller previously spoke with the Knicks – who contacted him just after free agency began – and the Heat; he is said to be very intrigued by the possibility of joining New York if the team acquires one or two marquee stars.

UPDATE: After signing point guard Steve Blake to a four-year, $16 million contract, the Lakers have withdrawn their offer for Miller; however, he is expected to be a person of interest as a complimentary peace for teams that sign the major players in free agency.

Photo Credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

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