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.

TWO BITS: Mickey Marotti; Erin Andrews’ future

1 » As director of strength and conditioning for the Florida Gators, Mickey Marotti runs the program almost by default during the offseason. When speaking at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Meetings recently, head coach Urban Meyer praised Marotti’s efforts for making the Gators the best conditioned team – especially when it comes down to those fourth quarter road game efforts. ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low sat down with Marotti and covered a few topics, excerpts of which can be found below:

How about some of the players on this team who maybe haven’t been in the spotlight that are going to need to be this coming season? Who are some of those guys who’ve had big offseasons?
MM: One young player who’s really done a nice job is Jordan Reed, who’s going to play a couple of different positions and can hopefully step into Aaron Hernandez’s role as that pass-catching tight end. He’s really matured from when he first got here. Another guy is Jaye Howard on the defensive line. He’ll be a redshirt junior and has really changed the way he does things. We’ll find out about him. The other guy is Deonte Thompson at wide receiver. He has a ton of ability, but his work ethic and his demeanor and his leadership have really changed. Sometimes it takes guys longer to mature. I can’t wait to see him. I hope he has a great year, because he has really worked his butt off.

From your perspective, how much better and how much stronger has John Brantley gotten since the day he walked onto campus?
MM: It’s night and day. He’s what we call a grown-ass man right now physically and mentally. A lot of it is maturing, and I think a lot of it has to do with being around Tim [Tebow]. But Johnny has worked really hard and grown up.

What goes through your mind when you hear Meyer laud you, your staff and the whole strength program for the Gators’ success in the fourth quarter?
MM: I don’t think it’s just what we do in the weight room. I think it’s more about the whole coaching staff, from the athletic trainers, to the defensive coordinator and his staff, to the offensive coordinator and all his coaches. We are all so much on the same page, and I think that’s why we’ve been successful here. Everybody buys in, and everybody sells the same thing to our players.

Two more BITS on Erin Andrews and women’s basketball…after the break!
Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Mickey Marotti; Erin Andrews’ future

Demps picks football over USA T&F Championship

Florida Gators junior running back and multiple 2010 NCAA Championship-winning sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps will not compete at the 2010 USA Track & Field Championship in Des Moines, IA from June 23-27.

Instead, Demps will remain in Gainesville, FL, and concentrate on re-conditioning his body with director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti for the football season, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Andrea Adelson.

“Running a 9.96 in the 100 meters (at the NCAA Championship) and doing what he does on the football field and doing what he did in the indoor track season, [Demps] couldn’t have done that if he didn’t keep his body in shape and mind in shape,” Marotti told ESPN this week. “This isn’t a normal track athlete. I don’t want to categorize anybody, but this guy is different now. You tell him to go 100 percent, and that’s the way he’s going to go. He’s definitely been a workout warrior. There’s no way he would have been able to run that 9.96 without being one.”

Even so, Demps (and no doubt the football staff) believes it is now time he focuses on the upcoming football season. His four track titles this year (Outdoors – 100 meters, 4×100 relay; Indoors – 60-meters, team championship) will stand as reminders of what he can accomplish after the season commences.

Though Demps will be sitting out, six Gators will be competing at the USA Track & Field Championship over the weekend. Sophomore Christian Taylor will be vying for the men’s triple jump title, senior sprinters R.J. Anderson and Calvin Smith will compete in the men’s 400-meter dash, freshman Omar Craddock goes for the men’s junior triple jump, freshman Lanie Whittaker will try to win the women’s junior 400-meter dash and freshman Ugonna Ndu will press her luck at the women’s junior 400-meter hurdles.

Photo Credit: Caitlin Healy

FOUR BITS: Watch lists, honors, Saunders, WWE

1 » Preseason watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation’s top defensive player) and the Outland Trophy (nation’s top interior lineman) were released by the Football Writers Association of America on Monday, and four Florida Gators football players made the respective lists. Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins (Nagurski), senior center Mike Pouncey (Outland), redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson (Outland) and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter (Outland) are just a few players initially being considered for the awards.

2 » Former Florida All-American linebacker Scot Brantley, the uncle of redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, was honored by the Tampa Gator Club at their 16th annual scholarship dinner on Tuesday. Head basketball coach Billy Donovan was the guest speaker at the event.

3 » Gators four-star athlete De’Ante “Pop” Saunders did not waver much when initially deciding to commit to the team. Now, months later, he remains just as solid and is happy that the recruiting process is not annoying him like it is some of his friends. “My phone doesn’t ring at all,” Saunders told the Orlando Sentinel’s Andrew Carter. “It’s perfect. Because I see other guys that don’t know where they’re going when it’s about time to sign. Like last year, I had a few friends that didn’t know where they were going but it’s good for me since I already knew.”

4 » Former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (ring name Titus O’Neil) continued his mission to become World Wrestling Entertainment’s next breakout star on Tuesday by making his third appearance on WWE NXT on SyFy. O’Neil, whose background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida is played up heavily by the producers/announcers, does a Gator Chomp when at the top of the entrance rap and is quite powerful in the ring. Even his assigned professional mentor, Zack Ryder, sported the orange and blue on Tuesday, though it did not help O’Neil who lost his second-straight match. OGGOA will follow along with Bullard’s journey over the next few months as he attempts to “win” a full-time contract and pay-per-view title match.

TWO BITS: Starks, Pouncey help; Cooper waits

1 » Former Florida Gators offensive linemen Max Starks and Maurkice Pouncey – both now with the Pittsburgh Steelers –hosted a football camp at Lake Highland Preparatory School last weekend. However, the interesting story leading up to the event was an invitation extended to a 14-year-old boy named Edwin. You see, Edwin attempted to do a good deed when he found a lost three-year-old girl and tried to return her to her mother. Unfortunately, the woman he chased after was not the toddler’s parent. Instead of being rewarded, Edwin was arrested in front of television cameras and charged a felony count of false imprisonment by the Orange County Sherriff’s Department.

Under home confinement until June 24, the only way Edwin could attend the camp was if the county decided to drop the charges. Unfortunately, they kept him at his house; Edwin missed the camp (taking place at Starks’ alma mater and a school the youngster hopes to play for in the future) and the state attorney’s office has yet to drop the charges.

2 » The Philadelphia Eagles are doing their best to get all of their 2010 draftees under contract but are struggling in their efforts to have all 13 of them signed. Making some headway last week, the Eagles only have three players left to sign including wide receiver Riley Cooper. The Philadelphia Daily News believes that Cooper’s deal “ought to get done pretty quickly” because it will be the least financially difficult one to complete.

Seminoles chop Gators 8-5 in elimination game

Faced with elimination from the 2010 NCAA College World Series and the end of a stellar season, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (47-17) lost their second-straight game for only the third time all year, falling 8-5 to the unranked Florida State Seminoles (48-19) on Monday evening at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, NE.

The Gators entered the series hoping to earn their 48th win of the season – one which would tie the program high (2005) – but could not come away with a victory after first falling to UCLA 11-3 on Saturday.

Freshman starter Hudson Randall (8-4) was blasted by the Seminoles for four earned runs in 2.2 innings including a solo shot by outfielder Tyler Holt (3-4, two RBI, three runs) to lead-off the first inning and a three-run homer by outfielder/pitcher Mike McGee (2-4, four RBI, two runs) in the bottom of the third. Freshman Brian Johnson, in relief, fared a little better but still allowed two earned runs in 3.1 innings. Sophomore Anthony DeSclafani and junior Kevin Chapman each gave up an earned run of their own before senior Greg Larson threw the final out.

For the Seminoles, Brian Busch (6-2) only allowed two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Geoff Parker tossed 2.1 innings of shutout relief before Daniel Bennett entered for an attempt to close out the game. However, Bennett would give up a three-RBI double to sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5) in the top of the ninth before being pulled for McGee (S13) who forced freshman catcher Mike Zunino to line into an infield double play to end the game.

Freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-4, two runs), freshman designated hitter Austin Maddox (2-5, RBI) and senior outfielder Jonathan Pigott (2-4, RBI, run) led the way for Florida offensively, but the team was unable to put a rally together until it was too late.

FSU defeated UF for the fourth time in five meetings this season; the Seminoles are also responsible for ending the Gators’ season twice in the past three years after knocking the 2008 team out of the NCAA Tournament in the Tallahassee Regional.

Photo Credit: Daniel J. Muprhy/ Omaha World-Herald

Gators grab commitment from four-star LB Shazier

Just hours after three-star offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT) accepted his scholarship offer from head coach Urban Meyer, four-star linebacker Ryan Shazier (Plantation, FL) decided to join the Florida Gators as the newest member of the team’s 2011 recruiting class.

One of the country’s top-ranked linebackers, Shazier received offers from more than three dozen schools including almost every major program in the country (Alabama, Ohio State, etc.) but decided to give his commitment to Florida in the end.

“Me, my mom and dad and my little brother went up to Florida to visit and we loved it,” Shazier told The Gainesville Sun. “We had a great time there. We felt that it was the best place for me for what I want to do academically and athletically. For me and my family (Florida) is where my heart is at and that’s the best place for me.”

At approximately 6’3” and 200 lbs. with a 4.5 40-yard dash, Shazier recorded 90 tackles and 19 sacks for Plantation High School as a junior in 2009. He is listed as the No. 71 overall recruit by ESPNU (No. 8 LB) and No. 165 overall by Rivals (No. 9 LB).

“I just committed today,” Shazier told Scout.com (subscription required). “Coach Meyer was real happy and said they are going to love to coach me. Today’s visit was great and my family loved it they are all on board and 100% Gators. I talked to Coach Durkin for a long time and he told me it made his day and he loved it. Coach Durkin was telling me he can’t wait to see me in a Gator uniform. My whole entire family is just happy we are Gators and I am done with recruiting.”

Photo Credit: Davide De Pas/ESPN

OGGOA RELATED: Three-star OL Tommy Jordan chooses the Gators

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