Florida is the choice for safety Marcus Maye

Long favoring the Florida Gators, four-star safety Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL) made his decision final on Monday, announcing that he is the newest member of the team’s 2012 recruiting class.

Considered the No. 7 safety in the country by Rivals, Maye pushed aside overtures from Florida State to accept Florida’s scholarship offer. The No. 13-ranked safety according to ESPNU, he is the second player at his position to commit to the Gators in the last four days. Three-star Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC) gave his pledge to Florida on Friday.

A big fan of head coach Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, Maye believes that being a member of the new regime’s first full recruiting class with the Gators will give him the best chance to succeed in the long run.

“Coach Muschamp is a defensive guy and Coach Robinson is an energetic coach which I like,” he said. “He’ll make me the best player I can be so I’m excited about Gainesville.”

He visited the University of Florida on Monday and was accompanied by his mother, other members of his family and his high school coach.

Florida now boasts a 15-player 2012 class and have commitments from a total of four defensive backs. The Gators hope to add to their bounty at the conclusion of the Friday Night Lights showcase at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on July 22.

Photo Credits: Nike, Holy Trinity Episcopal

Tebow time sooner than later in Denver?

Since the day John Fox was hired to replace Josh McDaniels as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, the future of 2010 first-round pick and former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been up in the air.

While most believe – for better or for worse – Tebow should be the hands-down starter whenever the 2011 season begins, there have been plenty of questions about what Fox and new team president John Elway will do with Denver’s quarterback situation.

Both Fox and Elway have made comments that would lead one to believe Tebow will start second on the depth chart behind veteran Kyle Orton; each has also indicated that they completely support Tebow and think he could wind up being the starter this season.

Speaking on his podcast over the weekend, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche believes the decision has already been made up in Mile High.

“I’ve talked to enough people plugged into the situation there to comfortably say that unless Tim Tebow gets hurt in training camp or is absolutely awful, the starting job is his to lose,” Wyche announced.

NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, a guest on Wyche’s show who also served as a scout for four years under Fox with Carolina, repeated on the show information he shared in a column early last week.

“If history serves as an indicator of what Fox will do at quarterback, then the high value of Tebow’s intangible qualities puts him at the front of the line,” Brooks wrote. “As an old-school, defensive-minded coach, Fox views quarterback play through a different prism. He has a preference for smart and tough player, rather than a flame-thrower with outstanding physical tools.

“Fox is intent on restoring the winning tradition in Denver but has been reluctant to name the quarterback that will blaze the path. If he stays to his traditional approach, there is no doubt his choice will be Tebow.”

With the NFL’s lockout appearing to be winding down and training camp likely getting underway soon, Tebow’s opportunity to take control of the huddle and lead the Broncos from behind center is approaching.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Wambach nearly the hero again, but Japan fights back to win 2011 Women’s World Cup in PKs

It nearly happened again.

For the third time in as many matches, former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach appeared to be the savior for the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team, heading in a goal 14 minutes into extra time to give her squad a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, for the second time in the match, the United States squandered its lead, allowed their opponent to score an equalizer and eventually fell 3-1 in a highly-contested penalty kick finish, losing the 2011 Women’s World Cup to Japan on Sunday in Germany.

After a first half in which the USA squandered a number of scoring chances, a beautiful floating pass downfield from Megan Rapinoe to 22-year-old striker Alex Morgan at 69’ put the Americans on the board. The U.S. began playing defensively from that point forward but, just minutes later, the Japanese took advantage of poor defensive play in front of the net and scored an equalizer at 81’.

Heading into extra time, the United States got aggressive once again. Wambach took advantage of a brilliant cross and headed it into the net at 104’, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead with just over 15 minutes of regulation to play.

The second half of extra time began with the USA once again just looking to hold on, but the Japanese would have none of it, scoring just three minutes before the end of extra time to force a penalty kick finish.

The United States missed its first three penalty kicks; the first and third were blocked while the third sailed over the crossbar. Japan’s 2-0 lead was reduced briefly as Wambach struck one into the net, but a Japanese goal on the next try ended the Americans’ dream.

Should the United States have won, they would have captured a world-leading third Women’s World Cup title. The USA, which previously won in 1991 and 1999, lost in the World Cup finals for the first time in team history.

American goalkeeper Hope Solo went home with the Golden Glove Award, while Wambach was named both the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball Award winner.

FOUR BITS: Tebow fulfills a wish, signed book special offer, Vogelbach gone?, Tucker back

1 » Former Florida Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is one of a handful of athletes who recently participated in ESPN’s collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation titled My Wish. These segments, which will air on SportsCenter, feature athletes fulfilling the wishes of ill children by meeting them, hanging out and sometimes participating in an activity. Tebow’s segment, in which he meets up with 16-year-old Adam Hubbs (“who suffers from a rare immunodeficiency disorder known as MonoMac”) will air on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Below is a preview of Tebow’s segment:

2 » Speaking of Tebow, HarperCollins, the publishers of his memoir Through My Eyes, got in touch with OGGOA to make you all aware that there is currently a contest being run in which 10 lucky fans can enter to win a limited edition signed copy of Tebow’s book. All you have to do is click here and enter your e-mail address! Head over and let us know if you are one of the lucky winners. Contest concludes July 20.

3 » According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs are making a push to pluck first baseman Daniel Vogelbach from the Gators. A second-round pick by Chicago in the 2011 MLB Draft, Vogelbach has already signed with Florida to play college baseball next year should he not work out a professional contract. However, the Tribune reports that the team’s scouting director “normally likes ultra-athletic players, but he fell in love with the 5-foot-11, 240-pounder’s big-time power and was impressed that he dropped about 40 pounds from his junior to senior year.” The Cubs may end up paying Vogelbach nearly $1 million more than recommended for a player drafted at his position in the second round.

4 » Former Gators six-time All-American and four-time Southeastern Conference track champion Erin Tucker (1994-99) has been hired by the University of Florida as an assistant under head coach Mike Holloway. “It’s kind of surreal,” Tucker said in a school release. “When I was at Florida in 1994 it was definitely not the team that it is now. During my time working with athletes at other schools I have seen the program grow and I’d like to think that I had a little something to do with that as an athlete in terms of the ideas that we left when we were done running and helped set the foundation. It is like a dream come true, but I’m hesitant to say that because I know that ‘once a Gator, always a Gator’ and I’ve never not been a Gator. It feels really good to come home again and do what I love.”

Extra BIT » Four members of Florida’s impressive 2011 softball recruiting class will be participating in the Under Armour All-American Game this weekend in Orlando, FL. Pitchers Alyssa Bache and Lauren Haeger will be joined by third baseman Bailey Castro and infielder Jessica Damico as four of 30 players invited to the game.

Jeff Demps to stick with football, HS coach says

Though fans have wondered whether or not Florida Gators senior running back Jeff Demps would eventually give up football to concentrate solely on track & field for a while, there was never any indication that such a decision was actually being made. Then on Friday night, a tweet from a Jacksonville, FL sports director coupled with some internet rumors got the speculation going full steam.

However, according to Walker Banks, the head football coach at South lake High School where Demps played, arguably the fastest player in college football already has his mind made up, just like it has been for the last few years.

“I spoke with Jeff [Friday] night and he has every intention to be a member of the football team this fall,” Banks said. “Jeff also said the thought of leaving the University of Florida has not crossed his mind.”

Demps has not been with the team full-time for spring practice or summer workouts because he has been competing with the Gators and United States track & field teams. He is currently overseas in Italy with Team USA but will be returning soon and plans to get right back into football shape.

“I would be extremely shocked if Jeff was not a member of the football team next fall,” Banks added. “Jeff has made it extremely clear his first priority is playing football.”

Demps, who was one of eight Southeastern Conference rushers named to the 2011 Doak Walker Award watch list on Friday, is set to begin the season as Florida’s starting running back. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is excited about his potential.

“6.53 [seconds in the] 60-meters?,” Weis joked on March 16. “I might be able to figure out something to do with him.”

Thanks to InsideTheGators.com‘s Andrew Spivey for contributing to this post.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (59-50)

With just 50 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the fifth part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 59-50.

58 – Nick Alajajian (New Port Richey, FL)
Redshirt sophomore center
6’4” 295 lbs.

Quick Bio: Majoring in sociology, Alajajian saw some time as a back-up offensive lineman in 2009, playing in seven games including the season opener. He was a four-star guard coming out of high school but has since changed positions.

2010 Season: Played in all 13 games mostly on the field goal unit, seeing just a few snaps on the offensive line as a reserve right tackle.

2011 Outlook: Originally listed as the back-up center on the spring depth chart, Alajajian may be back down to third string after tearing his meniscus in practice and seeing redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison take the first-string job. His surgery, which occurred in April, was supposed to keep him out three months but allow him to participate in summer workouts.

55 – Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT)
Freshman linebacker
6’1” 216 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Stewart was ranked as the best prospect coming out of Connecticut by Rivals.

2011 Outlook: Stewart may earn the opportunity to see some time on special teams but could be in line to take a redshirt for his freshman season. Head coach Will Muschamp is excited about what he can bring to the team. “He has all the critical factors. We had him in camp; he has all the good measurable on him,” Muschamp said in February. “He’s a very physical player, plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

54 – Christopher Guido (Altamonte Springs, FL)
Redshirt sophomore long snapper
6’2” 225 lbs.

Quick Bio: A former high school team captain who majors in health science, Guido took a redshirt after dressing but not participating in game action during his freshman season.

2010 Season: Played in all 13 games for the Gators during his third year with the team, starting as the long snapper for the punt unit.

2011 Outlook: With John Fairbanks having graduated, Guido will also take over starting long snapper duties with the field goal team.

52 – Jon Bostic (Wellington, FL)
Junior linebacker
6’1” 240 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit and health education & behavior major, Bostic returns as a veteran defender and team leader. He has appeared in 25 games throughout his Florida career and goes into his third year looking to break out.

2010 Season: After leading all freshmen with 18 tackles in 2009, Bostic started six games in 2010 but was out on defense for the majority of snaps during the season. He appeared in all 13 games and registered 57 tackles (third on the team), 1.5 sacks and three interceptions.

2011 Outlook: Named to the Preseason All-SEC Third Team by the league’s coaches and placed on the watch list for the 2011 Butkus Award, Bostic earned high praise from Muschamp during spring practice for his work ethic and leadership. He is set to begin the season as the starting middle linebacker.

51 – Michael Taylor (Atlanta, GA)
Redshirt freshman linebacker
5’11” 220 lbs.

Quick Bio: The No. 3 linebacker in the country coming out of high school, Taylor was a four-star recruit who currently majors in social and behavioral sciences. Though he dressed for four games in 2010, he did not see the field and took a redshirt.

2011 Outlook: Taylor was listed as Bostic’s back-up on the preliminary spring depth chart but could have that role adjusted as the Gators try to figure out how the final depth chart will look for the middle men on defense. Either way, he should see the field in 2011 and could earn additional playing time if he makes an impact early.

50 – Sam Robey (Louisville, KY)
Redshirt junior center
6’4” 295 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Robey sat out his freshman year with an injured left knee but played in 13 games in 2009 including the SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl.

2010 Season: Played in 10 games, seeing time at center in four contests. Served as an extra lineman in Florida’s goal line package and on the field goal unit.

2011 Outlook: A player who some fans wanted to see get time as a starter at center instead of then-senior Mike Pouncey, Robey looked to finally have the job to himself in the spring. However, after starting as the No. 1 guy on the first depth chart released, he was supplanted by Harrison, who worked at the position for the first time since high school. Robey can still win the job during fall practice, but early word about Harrison is that he is comfortable and succeeding in his new role.

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

Safety Rhaheim Ledbetter picks the Gators

A week before what is expected to be a recruiting surge for the Florida Gators as they host Friday Night Lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on July 22, the team received good news in the form of a verbal commitment from underrated three-star safety Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC), who announced his decision on Friday.

Ledbetter, who said earlier this month that the Gators were recruiting him the hardest, chose Florida over Alabama, Clemson, Miami and South Carolina.

“I just felt better about Florida’s staff and Florida in general as that’s where I have to live for three years,” he told InsidetheGators.com‘s Andrew Spivey.

Rivals has Ledbetter ranked as the No. 25 player at his position, while ESPNU has him listed as a four-star recruit and the No. 9 safety in the country.

He is teammates with five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC), and the duo at one time gave indications that they would like to play college football together.

Ledbetter, whose cousin is former Gators now New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, said he will not be taking any more visits.

Six Gators named to Preseason All-SEC Teams

Six members of the Florida Gators football team were named to the 2011 Preseason All-SEC Teams on Thursday, as previously voted on by the conference’s coaches.

Florida, which had a league-high 10 players elected to the 2010 teams, only had one (redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey) remaining on its 2011 roster due to seven players graduating, one leaving early for the NFL and another being dismissed.

Rainey was left off the 2011 teams, which featured just one senior and five underclassmen from the Gators.

Senior running back Jeff Demps and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis were honored with All-SEC Second Team nominations, while linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins along with specialists redshirt sophomore Andre Debose and sophomore Trey Burton were named to the All-SEC Third Team.

Florida was one of three teams (Auburn, Mississippi State) not to have a single player on the All-SEC First Team and sported the seventh most nominations overall coming in well behind leaders Arkansas (14) and Alabama (13).

This year’s All-SEC Teams were announced one week prior to the 2011 SEC Football Media Days, which take place next week in Hoover, AL. The Gators will be represented by head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt seniors quarterback John Brantley and wide receiver Denote Thompson, and senior defensive end William Green

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