TWO BITS: Tebow in camp, Hernandez’s progress

1 » The Denver Broncos will open training camp on July 26, when the team will require all rookies – including former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow – to report. Veterans will join the youngsters on July 31, and the Broncos have announced that they will open practice to the public beginning on Aug. 1. So, if you are a Florida or Denver fan who just happens to be in the area, feel free to stop by and grab a glimpse.

2 » For the first time since the Boston Globe broke a story about him failing at least one drug test while at the University of Florida, former Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez spoke to the media after New England Patriots practice. Though Hernandez would not answer any questions about the drug test – repeatedly saying that the issue was “in the past” – he did drool over the chance to catch passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. “You don’t even dream, coming from Connecticut, playing with a quarterback like that,” Hernandez said. “He’s like a movie star out there. You don’t think about it when you’re out there, but at the same time I go home and think, ‘It’s crazy.’” As to how workouts are unfolding, Hernandez said he is “going out every practice and working as hard as I can, trying to make some plays. [..] I’ve been in quite a few spots. I just come out every day, they put me in places, and I try to go as hard as I can.”

Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet reports that Hernandez struggled on Wednesday by dropping a touchdown pass, accidentally kicking a teammate in the belly on a long pass in the air and lining up incorrectly, the latter of which he received an “expletive-filled earful” for doing wrong. However, Curran notes that Hernandez does look good during practices and is impressing coaches with his catching and playmaking abilities.

Photo Credit: John Biever/Sports Illustrated

UCLA’s Rahmatulla out for College World Series

The No. 6 UCLA Bruins (48-14) are preparing to face the No. 3 Florida Gators (47-15) in the first round of the 2010 NCAA College World Series on Saturday, but the “away team” will have to do so without their starting second baseman.

Sophomore Tyler Rahmatulla – who is hitting .328 with seven home runs, 19 doubles and 45 RBI this season – broke his wrist…while celebrating the team’s game three win against Cal State Fullerton in the 2010 Los Angeles Super Regional.

Rahmatulla started all 61 games for UCLA this season and is a big loss for the Bruins going into the CWS. While dogpiles are a part of the game and certainly a great way to celebrate, perhaps players should be more careful after seeing what happened to the Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angles just a few weeks ago.

FOUR BITS: Young, Johnson, soccer, education

1 » Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young has been selected to be a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team. Picked as one of 12 of the nation’s top players age 18 or younger, Young will be under the leadership of Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel while competing for the 2010 FIBA U18 Championship for Men from June 26-30 in San Antonio, TX.

2 » Also earning national recognition is Florida freshman pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson, who was invited to tryout for the 2010 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team from July 5-11 at the National Training Complex in Cary, NC. Johnson hopes to be one of 22 players selected for the final roster, which will compete until Aug. 7.

3 » Gators soccer released its 2010 schedule Wednesday, and the match-ups ahead for the women do not appear to be any easier than they have been in previous seasons. Florida is set to face nine teams who competed for the 2009 NCAA Championship – the ninth time in program history that their schedule is so top-heavy. The Gators will begin on Aug. 20 against Miami in Gainesville, FL, and will face notable teams of Florida State, Duke and North Carolina on the road before beginning their Southeastern Conference slate. In the middle of the season, Florida will play five consecutive road games; the team does not have a home stand longer than two games after Sept. 3.

4 » Seeing as most of OGGOA’s readers either attended the University of Florida, hoped to attend UF or have children at the school, it is important to note that the university was ranked No. 15 on Wednesday when U.S. News & World Report released their list of the top public institutions in the United States. No SEC schools finished ahead of Florida and, of course, they were tied with the University of Texas for the 15th slot. Other notable rankings include Georgia (21), Auburn (T39), Alabama (T43), Florida State (T48), Tennessee (T52), and LSU, Arkansas and Kentucky (all T64).

Statues of Heisman Trophy winners coming soon

Portions of the following article first appeared on OGGOA on Feb. 2, 2010.

If the enshrinement of “The Promise” speech outside Heavener Football Complex was not enough for you, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will now be immortalized in front of The Swamp as a bronze statue, too.

The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley learned back in February that Tebow – along with former QB Danny Wuerffel and former head coach and QB Steve Spurrier – will be enshrined in bronze statues on the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The goal of the project is to not only honor the Gators’ three Heisman Trophy winners but also, arguably, the three most important players in program history. Dooley reported that the University Athletic Association hired sculptor W. Stanley “Sandy” Proctor out of Tallahassee, FL, to work on the three statues.

The Sun has since confirmed that the University Athletic Association board unanimously approved the project Wednesday.

Each statue will be 15 percent larger than life-sized and will feature the players in different stances. Tebow will have the ball tucked and in a running motion while Wuerffel and Spurrier will be dropping back to pass.

In all, the statues will cost $550,000 – all funded by private donations – and will be installed in front of the stadium at the beginning of 2011. Tebow, Wuerffel and Spurrier are all expected to attend the ceremony.

FOUR BITS: Easley, Crowder, den Dekker, UCF

1 » When the New York Post asked Florida Gators five-star freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley what his goals are when he heads to Gainesville, FL, next week, his response was straight-forward: “start right away and get to that BCS championship game.” Easley – who was honored with a student-athlete award on Monday after finishing high school with an 85 grade average while compiling 73 tackles and 16 sacks as a senior – says that he is excited for his future. “It’s getting crazy,” he said. “I’m going to be doing what I’ve been watching all my life.” Earning praise from his teachers, administrators, coaches and peers, Easley is on the fast track to success and may realize that as soon as Sept. 4 against Miami (OH).

2 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, entering his sixth season in the NFL, is facing a bit of adversity this offseason after the team signed high-priced free agent LB Karlos Dansby and traded for back-up LB Tim Dobbins to compete with him for one of the inside positions. Though Crowder has not been a source of game-changing plays yet in the NFL, his consistent play and locker room presence is one of the driving forces of the team’s defense. Crowder sat down with the Sun-Sentinel for a wide-ranging interview which can be viewed below. As OGGOA has contended for years, Crowder is easily the best interview in the NFL. Enjoy.

3 » In college baseball, deciding to remain in school after being selected in the MLB Draft is an increasingly difficult decision – especially when the lure of money is being thrown around. But according to Gators senior outfielder Matt den Dekker, returning to school could not have gone any better. “This is definitely the best moment in my career,” den Dekker said after defeating Miami last week to advance to the 2010 NCAA College World Series. “Coming back was the best decision I could have made.” The choice also improved his draft stock, seeing as he moved up from a 16th-round pick in 2009 to the No. 152 overall pick just over a week ago as selected by the New York Mets.

4 » As OGGOA first reported via Twitter early Wednesday, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan and Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones will be holding a joint press conference in Orlando, FL, on Thursday at 3 p.m. to officially announce the neutral-site game to be played at the brand new Amway Center on Dec. 1. The game will be the first college basketball contest played at the $480 million facility and will hold added significance on two levels for Donovan. Most notably, he will be going up against his former long-time assistant in Jones for the first time since he left the program for the top job at Marshall after the 2007 NCAA National Championship season. Donovan also will be coaching in the new home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the team he once agreed to coach before backing out just days later and signing a new contract with Florida in 2007.

TWO BITS: McFarland is eligible, Demps is fast

1 » After National Signing Day, the Florida Gators‘ top-ranked 2010 recruiting class was faced with a handful of academic eligibility concerns. While most of the players have been able to qualify without issue, four-star athlete Travon Van had to be let out of his scholarship (he has since signed on with the Marshall Thundering Herd), and three-star tight end Michael McFarland was faced with not making the team due to grade concerns. A source close to the university informed OGGOA of McFarland’s issues last week as Van was being dismissed, but they have since told us that McFarland “got what he needed grade-wise” and his eligibility is now simply a formality.

2 » ESPN’s Bruce Feldman found out over the weekend what Gator Nation has known for quite some time – junior running back (and sophomore sprinter) Jeff Demps is a fast, fast man. Feldman interviewed Demps for ESPN Insider (subscription required) and touched on his football and track careers. “Four. No, wait. Five. I got one in football. I got one for the indoor 60 meters and for the team indoor title, and now I have ones for the 100 and the outdoor [relay],” Demps said when asked how many national title rings he possesses.

Photo Credit: Caitlin Healy

Gators adopt “if one falls, all fall” mentality

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer is looking to put a stop to the seemingly never-ending black eyes being placed on his program with each subsequent arrest of a University of Florida football player. With 28 legal issues under his tenure to-date, Meyer and his coaches held an emergency meeting with the players on Monday, a source close to the team told OGGOA.

The coaching staff took turns verbally lambasting the team and letting it be known how, more than ever, accountability and responsibility were important to the program this offseason. Then, as former Florida football player Brady Ackerman first disclosed via Twitter on Monday, they stressed that – from this point going forward – the team would be held accountable as a group for any individual missteps.

As OGGOA‘s source put it, the Gators are adopting an “if one falls, all fall” mentality that was taught in practical application immediately after the impassioned meeting.

Director of strength and conditioning Mickey Mariotti, who leads the players during the summer when coaches cannot run practices, worked the team hard with a number of extensive drills (including “stadiums” and “snakes”) Monday evening. The tough workout was just the beginning of an indefinite period of disciplinary action, according to the source. The players were already enraged and none-to-happy with their teammate’s actions after the meeting, and the point appeared to be hammered in with gusto.

Meyer, who makes all punishment-related decisions alongside athletic director Jeremy Foley and school president Bernie Machen, may use redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.‘s DUI arrest to set an example for the rest of the team.

Ackerman said late Monday that he was “hearing Hammond will be dismissed from the Florida football team,” but Meyer could be putting him on a probationary period similar to what Oregon did with running back LeGarrette Blount last season.

Then again, if Meyer decides to stay consistent with his punishment and treat this like similar situations in the past, the school will likely wait until the legal process has run its course before making a final decision on Hammond’s future.

For what it’s worth, OGGOA‘s source called Hammond a “good kid who has done everything right up until this point.” His grades are high, his behavior was consummate with what the team expected and he also completed plenty of community service work.

Hammond has already been placed on an indefinite suspension from team activities.

FOUR BITS: Hall of fame, accountability, NFL

1 » On Oct. 29, 2010, one day before the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs square-off in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, FL, four former student-athletes will be inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame. Representing the Gators are linebackers Wilber Marshall and Scot Brantley, while LB Knox Culpepper and quarterback Zeke Bratkowski will be honored as former Bulldogs.

2 » A quick blurb from friend of OGGOA, former Florida football player and host of “The Morning Drive” on ESPN Radio in Ocala/Gainesville, FL, Brady Ackerman via his Twitter account Monday evening: “I am hearing that [head coach] Urban [Meyer] has made [the] team accountable for everyone this offseason. In an effort to develop leadership – a mistake hurts everyone. Meyer is trying to develop leaders and accountability with his team this summer. That will be put to test with the arrest of Hammond. The rule is if one guys messes up – everyone pays. Hammond, who is now suspended, is causing the team a little ‘extra’ running this week. I think the message will get home with the team this week and expect the rest of the summer to be quiet from ‘nonsense.’”

Two more BITS on Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Hall of fame, accountability, NFL

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