Horford, Hawks agree on 5-year, $60M extension

Less than one month after former Florida Gators teammate center Joakim Noah agreed in principal to a five-year, $60 million contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, forward/center Al Horford has decided to accept a similar deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had been feverishly working over the last two months to sign the back-to-back national champion and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to an extension.

“From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Al has been a large part of our success,” executive vice president Rick Sund said in an official release from the team. “The winning tradition he brought to the franchise as a rookie out of Florida has extended to three consecutive playoff seasons in a Hawks uniform. In addition, he was deservedly recognized as an All-Star last year, and we certainly look forward to his continued development as we move forward.”

Last season, Horford was selected to his first NBA All-Star team after averaging career-highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1%), free throw percentage (75.3%) and minutes (35.1) while starting all of the Hawks’ games.

“It happened like I’ve been predicting – down to the wire,” Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “When we finally kind of agreed on everything, I was super excited. It’s great to be able to get it done and have peace of mind. It makes me able to come out and just focus on basketball, which is my priority to begin with. So I’m happy about that part.”

He was named a team captain this offseason and has incentives in his new contact, according to ESPN, that could add an additional $8 million to the deal. ESPN also reports that Horford will earn a flat $12 million annually, higher than Noah’s $10 million.

Photo Credit: Atlanta Hawks

OGGOA Related: Bulls, Noah agree to five-year, $60M extension

11/1: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Think Saturday’s win meant something to Meyer?

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday before the Florida Gators compete in a game the following Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

CHAMPIONS AND AWARDS

After three consecutive losses and an overall lack of things to celebrate post-game, a tough win allowed Meyer to announce that 17 Gators had earned the designation of Champions after Saturday’s win over the Georgia Bulldogs.

Offensively, Meyer named redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, freshman quarterback Trey Burton and redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. as his most valuable players along with senior center Mike Pouncey, redshirt junior QB John Brantley, redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson, redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed, redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt freshman guard Jon Halapio and redshirt junior fullback Steven Wilks as his champions. On the defensive side of the ball, junior safety Will Hill won the MVP award, while senior safety Ahmad Black, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins, and senior defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens were champions.

The Southeastern Conference honored senior punter/kicker Chas Henry with its Co-Special Teams Player of the Week award and Burton with its Tri-Freshman of the Week award on Monday. Henry was 2-of-3 on his field goal attempts including a 37-yard game winner, and Burton rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown.

IMPROVEMENT IN FOUR DEFICIENT AREAS

One week ago, Meyer mentioned four particular areas in which Florida was struggling on offense and needed to drastically improve on in order to turn around the season. Here is how the Gators fared in those four areas against the Bulldogs:

1. Turnovers – 4-to-1 ratio with Brantley’s interception coming when sophomore WR Omarius Hines quit running a route.
2. Big plays – Florida had five against Georgia after none in the previous five games combined – a big turnaround.
3. Pass efficiency – UF’s quarterbacks were 30 points more efficient (120) than average.
4. Red zone efficiency – The Gators converted 5-of-6 red zone opportunities with a miscue coming on a missed field goal by Henry on the first offensive drive of the game.

OFFENSE REBOUNDS, DEFENSE CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE

While the offense spent two weeks of practice being retooled and streamlined, the defense’s goal during the bye week was figuring out how to get off the field on third down. Mississippi State ran the ball down Florida’s throats in its upset victory two weeks ago, and Georgia accomplished a similar feat through the air. Meyer was blunt when speaking about what had to be improved on that side of the ball.

“We’re not playing great defense. It’s just the way it is. We’re not and we have to improve,” he said. “Does that mean we didn’t have some great efforts? We certainly created turnovers and short fields, which our defense has done a decent job of all year. Back to compartmentalize – it’s third downs and red zone. We were 3-of-3 [in red zone scores] we gave up and third downs are not good.”

Asked if he will reevaluate the defense the same as he did the offense, Meyer responded: “I just don’t have time. I’ve never done that. These are the issues, get them cleaned up immediately. We have very good coaches. We just got to clean up a few things because at times we play outstanding defense. It’s getting off the field that has been a situation for us.”

GAME BALL TO MR. ANDREU

To begin his press conference, Meyer handed a game ball to long-time Gainesville Sun writer Robbie Andreu, whose father passed away in October. Today, Nov. 1, also happens to have been his father’s birthday. Best wishes from OGGOA.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/1: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Safety Dowling kicked off Florida football team

During his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer announced that freshman safety Jonathan Dowling is no longer a member of the football program due to a violation of team rules.

Rated as a five-star athlete coming out of high school by ESPNU, Dowling was also listed as the best at his position and the No. 10 recruit in the country last year. Rivals and Scout each considered him a four-star prospect and one of the top safeties in the nation.

Dowling is the third player from Florida’s highly touted freshman class to leave the program. Safety Jordan Haden and wide receiver Adrian Coxson transferred in Aug.

Unlike other dismissals, Meyer noted that Dowling is “done” with the team and will not be returning to the program. He refused to comment further.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Davide De Pas

FOUR BITS: volleyball, Harvin, Grossman, Richt

1 » No. 1/1 Florida Gators volleyball (20-1, 13-0 SEC) looks unstoppable these days, especially if you ask their opponents. Take the Ole Miss Rebels (16-6, 10-3 SEC) for example, who were trounced 3-0 (25-12, 25-21, 25-17) by the Gators at home on Friday in Oxford, MS. Florida junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy achieved her nation-high sixth triple-double on the season with 10 kills on .562 hitting, a team high 16 assists and a match-high 10 digs. The Gators have seven matches left in the regular season, which ends for them on Fri., Nov. 26.

2 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has suffered his fair share of injuries both at the University of Florida and already in the NFL, but one that hit him pretty hard on Sunday may be bothering him for quite some time. In the first quarter of the Vikings’ game on the road against the New England Patriots, Harvin significantly hurt his left ankle and was unable to get off the field without help from two medical staffers. After sitting out a number of plays, Harvin’s ankle was taped and he reentered the game where he ended up registering team-highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (104) along with a spectacular two-point conversion catch later in the game. Even so, he had a severe limp in the locker room after the contest and claimed that “adrenaline got me through” the game.

3 » Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman saw his first action of the season on Sunday, and it came at the tail end of his team’s game against the Detroit Lions when he was substituted for a healthy Donovan McNabb because he apparently knows the two-minute offense better than the Pro Bowler. While that may be the case, head coach (and former Florida offensive coordinator) Mike Shanahan’s decision-making was certainly questionable considering, on Grossman’s first play from scrimmage, he was sacked and fumbled the ball which was returned by Detroit for a touchdown.

4 » Since we here at OGGOA also have a strong following on Twitter, we figured it was a good idea to share with you a link that has come our way almost a dozen times this morning. While ESPN picked up a five-year-old website calling for head football coach Urban Meyer‘s firing two weeks ago, we present to you a more creative site – one that supports retaining Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt: KeepMarkRicht.com.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Florida soccer wins fifth straight SEC title

The 2010 Southeastern Conference regular season soccer title came down to a final match between the No. 8 Florida Gators and No. 17 South Carolina Gamecocks. Friday evening, the Gators (15-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) defeated the Gamecocks (14-4-2, 8-2-1 SEC) 1-0 on the road at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium in Columbia, SC, to win their fifth straight conference title and 11th in SEC history.

Florida head coach Becky Burleigh, who has led the team throughout its entire 16-year existence, watched as the team’s three seniors won their fifth title. “I feel great. I am really, really happy for the seniors,” Burleigh said. “Nicky [Kit] scored the winning goal. Ashlee [Elliott] and Katie [Fraine] won their fifth SEC title, which is unprecedented. So it is just really exciting for our entire team.”

For Kit, a defender, her moment of the match came at 44:58 when she took a 20-yard free kick off the near post and into a goal for the match’s only score.

The Gators move on to the 2010 SEC Tournament where they have been awarded a No. 1 seed and are set to face No. 8 Vanderbilt on Wed. Nov., 3 at 3 p.m. Florida could meet up with No. 2 seed South Carolina in the SEC Tournament final should both programs win both of their opening round contests.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

Florida remains unranked but receives votes

Snapping a three-game losing streak with a 34-31 overtime victory against the Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 3-4 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, on Saturday, the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) remained unranked on Sunday when the latest USA Today and Associated Press Top 25 polls. Out of the top 25 for the first time under head coach Urban Meyer, Florida did receive votes in both polls and may be in line to be ranked once again should they defeat Vanderbilt next weekend.

WeekResultBCSUSA TodayAssociated Press
Preseason--No. 10 (930)No. 10 (894)
2W 24-6 vs. Toledo-No. 9 (974)No. 12 (875)
3L 16-21 at Miami-No. 20 (410)No. 18 (405)
4Open-No. 18 (398)No. 19 (412)
5W 31-17 vs. Tennessee-No. 19 (449)No. 20 (414)
6W 24-7 at Kentucky-No. 19 (515)No. 18 (481)
7W 30-10 vs. Arkansas-No. 17 (574)No. 17 (536)
8L 6-17 at LSU-No. 22 (240)No. 22 (249)
9L 17-36 at Missouri-NR (4)NR (17)

USA TODAY
This Week 1-25: Oregon (51), Auburn (4), Boise State (3), TCU (1), Alabama, Utah, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, LSU, Stanford, Arizona, Missouri, Michigan State, Iowa, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Baylor, Nevada, Florida State, North Carolina State
*Florida received four votes.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
This Week 1-25: Oregon (49), Boise State (7), Auburn (2), TCU (2), Alabama, Utah, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Nebraska, Stanford, Oklahoma, LSU, Arizona, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan State, Arkansas, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Baylor, North Carolina State, Florida State, Nevada
*Florida received two votes.

BCS
This Week 1-25: Oregon, Auburn, TCU, Boise State, Utah, Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, LSU, Ohio State, Missouri, Stanford, Michigan State, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Baylor, Virginia Tech, Nevada, Florida State, North Carolina State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Week 9: Gators post-game news and notes

Snapping a three-game losing streak, the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) snuck a 34-31 overtime win by the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4 SEC) at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, FL, at EverBank Field. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

OH HENRY!

By now everybody knows what happened Saturday – after missing his initial field goal attempt wide left in the first quarter, Florida senior punter Chas Henry nailed two in a row including a 37-yarder in overtime to ice the game. However, what is not known is how much that one kick meant to Henry. “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “The main thing that went through my mind was how I let my team down two weeks ago against Mississippi State. That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. I got so much support through the coaches, my family and friends, and my brothers in the locker room. The internal family we have is as strong as you can get. I let them down one time. I was never going to let it happen again. It felt great. Unbelievable.”

Henry’s field goal was so emotional that it caused head coach Urban Meyer to immediately drop to his knees according to those on the scene. Why exactly did he do that? “After he hit that field goal? It was Chas Henry hitting a damn field goal. Think about that for a minute. That’s not easy,” Meyer said. I didn’t realize I did that. It was a good moment.”

Meyer gave Henry three opportunities to kick field goals Saturday because he had confidence in the young man after seeing how he played in practice on Thursday. “He’s got a strong leg; he just has not majored in that,” he said. “We thought we were going to have Caleb [Sturgis]. Caleb came out Wednesday and kicked beautifully. Then his back, he could’ve pushed it but we’re not going to do that – it could hurt him for a long time if he hurts it more. On Thursday, Chas came out and hit every field goal. We always go right-left, right-left, right-left, right-left, and he went right up to 42 yards, I think he was seven-for-seven.”

THRICE IS NICE FOR WILL THE THRILL

Though only two of his three interceptions will count when looking at the box score 10 years from now, senior safety Will Hill’s performance will be remembered for some time. Following in the footsteps of some of the Gators’ other terrifying free safeties, Hill came through when it counted by saving a two-point conversion and starting Florida’s celebration early with an 89-yard interception return (that did not go for a score) in overtime. He had been struggling all season and even failed in protection on an early Georgia touchdown, but Hill got some of his mojo back by the time the whistle sounded.

“[Ahmad] Black had good coverage on A.J. [Green],’’ Hill said of the overtime interception. “He tipped the ball and it just fell in my lap. I just saw an opportunity and made the best of it. I was struggling earlier in the season and coaches never gave up on me, teammates never gave up on me. And for me to come out and playing like this, it’s just like paying the team back.’’

“Big play of the day,” Meyer said of Hill’s overtime pick. “And from what [defensive coordinator] Teryl Austin mentioned in [the locker room], he said it was Will Hill’s best game. We’ve been waiting for that all year. Will Hill played very well tonight.” Austin had his thoughts as well. “You saw it today. He played. He played like a Florida safety plays,” he asid. “He made some wonderful plays out there today. He was physical, he hit guys, he intercepted the ball, he did a great job for us today. Really proud of him.”

FLORIDA FINDS A LONG-LOST “EDGE”

Aside from injuries and execution, one of the main reasons the Gators’ offense has been so vanilla this year is because the team found it difficult to find an edge. Meyer believes Florida found exactly that over the last two weeks and wishes he would have identified it and installed it earlier this year. “I could kick myself for not doing that more this summer,” Meyer said of using a steady two quarterback rotation. “I did not anticipate…Trey Burton’s one of those guys, I didn’t know he was that good as a runner. I thought he was pretty good and then he was dynamic. Jordan Reed did a nice job, came in and gave us some two-plus yardage plays. We’re going to do more of that. We have to find that edge. Florida’s always had the edge.

“In ’05 we really didn’t really have one, and then ’06 we had some edge when we recruited Percy [Harvin] and then Dallas [Baker] came on. Then obviously Tim [Tebow] went crazy in ’07, ’08 you had a bundle of them – there’s edges all over the place. […] We’re just still trying to find what that edge is. You can’t play offensive football without it. You can sit and run between the tackles, you can run perimeter plays or you can throw, and if you don’t have that edge than it’s just a mess. And that’s kind of where we’ve been. We’re looking at tempo as an edge, multiple quarterbacks as an edge and development of players. You want to get that speed back with [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps, that helps us a lot as well.”

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION

Ask any of his teammates or the player himself, and it is obvious Rainey has had a tough few weeks after being suspended indefinitely following his arrest. In addition to being scolded by the coaching staff, administration and the media, Rainey has been hard on himself and made a concerted effort to turn his life around. Saturday’s game was the first he had played in more than a month, and Rainey made the most of it going off for 241 all-purpose yards including 84 rushing yards.

“Rainey stood up after the game and thanked God for giving him a second chance. He’s taking full advantage of it,” said senior center Mike Pouncey, one of Rainey’s best friends. “He thanked the whole administration – [athletic director] Jeremy Foley and the president [Bernie Machen] – and he thanked God as well. He thanked everyone for giving him a second chance because without Jeremy Foley and President Machen, it wouldn’t be possible for him to play right now. I love Chris like a brother. [...] He’s been living with me since high school, and we have a special relationship. I felt his pain those weeks he was out. He loves football. He’s a great person, and I know that was one of the happiest moments of his life just to be out there with us playing.”

Meyer attributes Rainey’s presence to many of the other big plays made during the game. “The threat of a perimeter issue opens up – the Trey Burton touchdown, that was a lot of the Tim stuff we used to do when you had Percy,” he said. “If you have a threat of this [holds arms out], it sometimes opens that [em>points arms to middle] up. That’s the mix of perimeter and interior rushing. That’s a direct result of having a perimeter.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Week 9: Gators post-game news and notes

Henry holds off Dogs as Gators win OT thriller

On the eve before Halloween, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, was filled with tricks and treats including a game-winning 37-yard field goal in overtime from senior punter Chas Henry to push the Florida Gators (5-3, 3-3 SEC) over the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5, 3-4 SEC) 34-31.

Tied at 31 in overtime, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was picked off by Florida junior safety Will Hill on third down after redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins tipped Murray’s pass. Hill nearly returned the ball for a touchdown to ice the game but stepped out at the four; the Gators got the ball back at the 25 for their attempt. Failing to gain a first down on their first three plays, Florida turned to Henry who made his second field goal of the night to help the Gators snap a three-game losing streak and win their 18th in the last 21 games against the Bulldogs.

With junior running back Jeff Demps and redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey active for Florida, the Gators running game came alive. Demps rushed nine times for 38 yards, and Rainey carried 16 balls for 84 yards – both had a touchdown. Rainey also led UF with 241 all-purpose yards as he was the team’s primary kick returner. However, it was freshman QB Trey Burton who really helped move Florida’s offense, keeping 17 balls for 110 yards and two scores including a 51-yard touchdown run.

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, who was 16-of-25 for 193 yards with an interception, spread the ball around evenly. Sophomore WR Omarius Hines caught four balls for a team-high 50 yards, redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. hauled in three for 46 yards, Demps took two for 43 yards, redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson caught two for 36 yards and Burton gained 35 yards on a team-high five receptions.

Georgia took it to Florida on the ground and through the air, rushing 34 times for 126 yards and a touchdown as a team and gaining 313 yards passing on Murray’s 18-of-37 performance with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins picked off Murray on the first play of the game, but the Gators offense stalled and failed to gain points after Henry missed a field goal. Hill intercepted Murray twice during the game and once more on a failed two-point conversion in the second half.

With the win, Florida moves into second place in the SEC East standings and within striking distance of earning a berth to the 2010 SEC Championship game should they defeat Vanderbilt (next Saturday at 12:21 p.m. on SEC Network) and South Carolina. Saturday’s game was the first time the Gators had gone to overtime in a contest since Nov. 5, 2005; Florida now holds a 3-2 record when playing in extra time.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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