Going camping: Top recruits visit Florida in June

Over the last two weeks, plenty has been going on with the Florida Gators as far as recruiting for the 2011 season is concerned. Since June 10, the Gators have received in four commitments, including four-star wide receiver Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL) [article], three-star fullback Hunter Joyer (Tampa, FL) [article], three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) [article], four-star linebacker Ryan Shazier (Plantaiton, FL) [article].

Additionally, the team got a commitment without an official offer from three-star LB Rahim Cassell (Lakewood, CA) [article], and 2012 WR Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) [article] is all but ready to pick Florida before his junior year of high school even begins.

However, the Gators still have plenty of work to do in order to enhance the current eight-person 2011 class, and the team made a lot of headway as recruits participated in football camps and took visits to the University of Florida in recent weeks.

Update yourself on some of the top 2011 recruits and targets…after the break!
Continue Reading » Going camping: Top recruits visit Florida in June

Florida-BYU most-watched game in Web history?

ESPN claims the United States soccer team’s exhilarating 1-0 extra-time victory over Algeria on Wednesday drew the “largest U.S. audience ever for a sports event on the Web.” CBS refutes that assertion, stating that the viewing crowd put together for the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament – featuring the Florida Gators and Brigham Young Cougars – surpassed that by a few thousand.

OGGOA attempted to reach out to CBS Friday for more information than provided by the initial story from Mediaweek, but we were unsuccessful as they did not have any specific release on the matter to send us. However, CBS did cite the Florida-BYU game because it got the highest ratings out of any of their online broadcasts for March Madness this past year. Nevertheless, ESPN senior director of digital media research backs up the organization’s claim, citing that “CBS isn’t comparing their apples to our apples.”

REPORT: Harvin unnamed recruit in USC report

As part of the NCAA’s report on infractions surrounding the USC Trojans that led to a two-year postseason ban, a reduction in scholarships and a forfeiture of wins for the program, former USC now New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush was barred from communicating with the program or assisting it financially.

One of the main reasons the Trojans received such heavy sanctions, Bush has been accused of taking $300,000 in improper benefits from sports marketing agent Lloyd Lake, something that the team’s assistant football coach at the time, Todd McNair, allegedly knew but did nothing about.

In the NCAA’s report, one of the most notable contacts between the two parties occurred when Bush was set to host the nation’s top high school recruit following the Oct. 29, 2005, game between USC and Washington State.

McNair, who attempted to contact Bush throughout the night after he abandoned said recruit in his hotel room rather than taking him out, also called Lake’s phone to find out where Bush was and why he skipped out on the meeting.

Though he was not named in NCAA documents, former Florida Gators now Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has been identified as that very recruit, according to two independent sources who confirmed this to SPORTSbyBROOKS.

In the past 24 hours, a L.A. media source and NCAA source have independently confirmed to me that Percy Harvin was that recruit.

Harvin that year was the top high school football prospect in the country and McNair had been assigned by coach Pete Carroll as his primary recruiter for the Trojans.

Because McNair was charged with recruiting Harvin – and found out through Harvin that Bush was not with him but rather with a sports marketing agent – his knowledge of Bush’s association with Lake is proven, and his lie to the NCAA about not having such information was exposed.

It should be noted that Harvin did nothing wrong in this scenario as presented; he was simply a recruit on a visit waiting to be taken out by the team’s top player. However, it is a very interesting wrinkle considering: (a) how his being neglected ended up aiding the NCAA investigation and (b) he did not join the Trojans and ended up committing to the Gators less than two months later.

FOUR BITS: Smith, Bowerman, women’s basketball

1 » Florida Gators senior sprinter Calvin Smith advanced to the semifinals of the men’s 400-meter dash at the USA Track & Field Championship at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, IA on Thursday. Smith placed second in his heat and moves on to the next race, which will also include former Florida sprinter, Olympic gold medalist and, four-time World Champion and indoor 400-meter world record holder Kerron Clement.

2 » Three Gators track & field athletes – sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps, senior thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili and sophomore jumper Christian Taylor – have been named as top 10 finalists for The Bowerman, the sport’s highest honor. The men’s and women’s categories, respectively, will be knocked down to three finalists in the next few weeks, and voting from the 100-member panel will commence from there.

3 » Like its male counterpart, the Florida women’s basketball team has agreed to face the Central Florida Knights in 2010; however, instead of a regular season game, the two teams will square-off in the first round of the 2010 Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Nov. 13. The game time will be scheduled at a later date.

4 » Probably more than any other sport, college basketball coaches are hired based on relationships, working experience and recommendations. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino played an instrumental role in Billy Donovan’s elevation to the top job with Florida, and the Tuscaloosa News reports that he also helped Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant get his new job because of his relationship with Donovan. “When Alabama was getting ready to make a change, a good friend of mine, (UA trustee) John McMahon, called me to see about my interest in the job and I said, ‘John I’m not going to move any more in my life,’” Pitino said. “We talked about certain people and I said, ‘You just mentioned someone that I think is one of the premiere young coaches in basketball. He has all the intangible things that will make a great coach some day.”

Pitino also raved about Grant’s potential. “Look at what Billy Donovan has been able to do,” he said. “Anthony can do the same thing. [...] I think he’s going to take Alabama to great heights. It’s going to take a little time here. He’s got guys leaving that shouldn’t leave, and he’s going to get the players in that he’s comfortable coaching and he’s going to take them to the top of the SEC.” Pitino even helped facilitate the move, which you can read more about here.

Photo Credit: CBS via University of Florida

Is LB Cassell the Gators’ ninth 2011 commit?

Three-star linebacker Rahim Cassell (Lakewood, CA) committed to the Florida Gators on Thursday, but a conflicting report states that Florida is hesitant to officially accept his commitment.

“I’m stoked,” Cassell told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel about his decision. “They were my first choice all along, them and Oregon, but I was more leaning toward Florida all along.”

Cassell said that he committed to tight ends coach Brian White over the phone and expected to speak with the remainder of the coaching staff – including head coach Urban Meyer – Thursday evening. He has yet to visit Gainesville, FL, and will not until Friday Night Lights camp at the end of July.

Though he has not seen the University of Florida for himself, Cassell admitted that he was influenced to jump on board by USC’s 2010 five-star quarterback commitment Jesse Scroggins, who raved about the time he had at UF.

“[Scroggins] just told me so many good things about when they went down there to visit that it just sounded perfect for me,” Cassell said. “I’m glad I got this done and committed to Florida. Coaches are starting to hit me up and trying to have me take all these unofficial visits and I can’t visit everywhere. I’m really happy that I committed.”

While Cassell may have made his mind up, Mark Wheeler of Rivals is reporting that the Gators will not be accepting his “commitment” right now. The program may be making this decision simply because the coaches have yet to see him workout at one of their camps, or Florida may believe that there are better players they are in the running for to take a scholarship at the same position.

Cassell told the Sentinel that he is ready to move on from recruiting and is so sure of his decision that he is starting to decline offers.

“I’m just beginning to tell [the other schools] now through e-mail. I haven’t spoken with any of them yet,” Cassell added.

UPDATE: The Sentinel caught up with Cassell late on Friday after reports of his commitment not being accepted surfaced across various websites including OGGOA. He somewhat confirmed these findings, noting that while the Gators did not come out and say his commitment was not accepted, Florida is taking a wait-and-see approach until he visits campus and meets with Meyer.

“[White] didn’t say I wasn’t committed, but they do want to form more of a relationship with me,” Cassell told the paper. “When I spoke with him [on Thursday], he did not let me know of this. But I’m guessing they are not accepting my commitment just yet because I did not get to visit the school. I just tried to get in contact with [linebackers] coach [D.J.] Durkin, unfortunately he did not answer so I left a message.”

Though Cassell “did not get the chance to talk to Urban Meyer because of the time difference between here and Florida,” he calls his decision “a for-sure commitment.”

Photo Credit: Rivals

2012 recruit Latroy Pittman ready to commit?

His junior year of high school has yet to begin, but one of the top wide receivers in the state of Florida for the 2012 recruiting session may already be willing and able to pull the trigger for the Florida Gators.

According to the Ocala Star-Banner, Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) visited the University of Florida last week for a football camp, received a scholarship offer from head coach Urban Meyer and is ready to speak to his family about committing to the Gators.

“[Getting an offer] was exciting. Something I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Pittman told the paper. “We set up a date after July 4th to sit down and talk about it again. […] I believe [I will commit] over the summer when my mom and dad go back with me. Growing up around the Gators – I always knew I wanted to play in the orange and blue.”

Pittman, who has also received verbal offers from Alabama, Florida State and Georgia (among others), told Rivals he is “about 80 percent” sure and hopes to play at Florida because “it’s been my dream to play there since I was three.”

“I’m really leaning toward [committing],” he added.

Florida Gators take second in 2010 Directors’ Cup

The University of Florida and its athletic program will finish second in the 2009-10 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup when the standings are made official after baseball season, according to a release from the school. The second-place overall ranking – which ties a program-high (1997-98) – is fueled by 2010 NCAA National Championships in Men’s Indoor Track & Field and Women’s Swimming & Diving.

The annual national all-sports competition, as awarded by athletic directors across the country, recognizes schools with the best overall sports performances in an academic year. The honor has been owned by the University of Stanford in recent years.

With 1,237.25 total points, the Florida Gators placed a distant second, 271.25 points behind the winning Stanford Cardinal (1508.50). The title is Stanford’s 16th consecutive Director’s Cup, an absolutely dominating stretch.

Florida, however, “is the only program in the nation to finish among the nation’s top 10 in each of the last 27 national all-sports standings,” according to UF. The Gators’ 2009-10 finish is the first time the program has finished in the top three in back-to-back seasons (third, 2008-09). Additionally…

Florida’s 14 top-10 national team finishes in 2009-10, including nine in the top five, is a school record. The previous high of 12 top-10 finishes was equaled five times in the program’s history, including each of the last two seasons. This is the ninth consecutive year that 10 or more Gator athletic teams finished among the nation’s top 10.

Points are awarded based on which sports a school’s athletics program participates in and how said team finishes at the end of that sport’s season.

No other Southeastern Conference school finished in the top 10; however, Florida State University will be ranked No. 7 with 1,009.50 total points.

TWO BITS: Young, Gardner, eye black, Henderson

1 » Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) is drawing rave reviews from coaches and fellow players as he works with the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in preparation for the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men from June 26-30. “He’s playing really, really well,” team assistant and Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt told ESPN‘s Andy Katz earlier this week. “He’s making plays, rebounding and running the floor well. Offensively, he’s looking good. He gives tremendous effort every time – great effort –and he’ll help Florida even if he doesn’t score a ton of buckets. He’s going to help them. He’ll defend, set screens and do all those things without scoring points.”

2 » After a career including 13 NCAA Tournament berths coming as a player, graduate assistant and coach, Gators women’s basketball assistant Susie Gardner is expected to be named the head coach of the Mercer Bears at a 3 p.m. press conference Thursday. Gardner, who has spent the last three seasons with Florida, has been in the Southeastern Conference for 13 years of her 24-year coaching career including stints as head coach at Arkansas and as an assistant and player at Georgia.

3 » With the statues of former Gators quarterback and Heisman Trophy winners Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier going up outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium next year, fans have been asking one relatively interesting question: Will Tebow’s statue feature a signature eye black message? The Gainesville Sun attempted to get this question definitively answered but found a non-committal response instead. The statue’s artist, W. Stanley “Sandy” Proctor, has already completed Tebow’s statue – which includes blank eye black. However, his business manager said that he would be happy to add a message if the University of Florida requested it. Associate athletics director Chip Howard was a bit more clear, saying he was “not sure if [a message] will show up well so you can read [it], but we continue to work on the statue […] to make [it] as real as possible.”

4 » Five-star offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson (Minneapolis, MN), the top recruit in the country in 2010 who committed to the USC Trojans on National Signing Day, is apparently mulling his future with the team, according to reports. Henderson, who chose USC over Miami, Ohio State, Florida and Minnesota, was allegedly promised by Kiffin that the Trojans would not suffer any major sanctions from the NCAA. USC coaches (including Kiffin) flew out in a private jet to visit Henderson last week with hopes to keep his commitment, but he recently told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he didn’t “want to talk about that,” when asked whether or not he was remaining with the program.

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