FOUR BITS: Baseball wins another, five more qualify, doubles advances, softball begins

1 » In their second-straight elimination game, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (42-14), the top seed in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament, topped the fifth-seed Vanderbilt Commodores (41-17) 5-2 on Friday night at Regions Park in Hoover, AL. Freshman starter Hudson Randall (7-3) earned the win after giving up one earned run over 5.1 innings; freshman reliever Steven Rodriguez tossed two shutout innings for his first save of the season. Junior sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-5) led the way for the Gators offensively with a home run and two RBI; freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-2) added a RBI of his own. Florida moves on to face Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. in their third consecutive elimination game. The contest will air live on Sun Sports and ESPN3.com.

2 » Five more members of Gators track and field advanced to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships on Friday while competing at the 2010 NCAA East Preliminary Round at Irwin Belk Track. Junior thrower Kemal Mesic (first – men’s shot put) and sprinters sophomore Jeff Demps (fourth – men’s 100m dash), junior Terrell Wilks (ninth – men’s 100m dash), senior Calvin Smith (second – men’s 400m dash) and freshman Tony McQuay (10th – men’s 400m dash) are all earning trips to Eugene, OR, to compete for titles. They join the seven other Florida track & field stars who qualified on Thursday.

3 » The No. 5-ranked Florida doubles pair of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 NCAA National Championship after squeaking out a three-set victory over Stetson’s pair of Carolina de los Santos and Valentina Galbrini – 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 – at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. As a singles competitor, No. 8 will fell 6-1, 6-5 to Georgia’s No. 12-ranked Chelsey Gullickson earlier in the day.

4 » No. 4 Gators softball (46-8) is set to begin 2010 NCAA Super Regional action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils (44-15) in up to a three-game series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The first game will air live on both ESPN and ESPN3.com, while the second game will take place on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., airing live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. Game three, if necessary, will be played Sunday evening.

Wright first of Florida’s 2010 draftees to sign deal

Chicago Bears safety Major Wright became the first Florida Gators player selected in the 2010 NFL Draft to be signed by his team after agreeing to a four-year contract on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“With this being my dream, signing a contract is a blessing for me,” Wright told the team’s website. “It shows that hard work pays off. I’m very excited and my family is very excited.”

Though terms of the deal were not available at press time, Wright’s signing is significant for the Bears because the team is now the first in league history to have all of its draft picks under contract before the end of May – an achievement the front office takes prides in. It is the fifth-straight year the team has been the first in the NFL to sign all of its draftees.

UPDATE: Wright’s contract is believed to have a maximum value of $3.368 million, $845,000 in guaranteed payments and a fourth-year escalator clause, according to information obtained by Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.

Chicago and Wright’s agent, Mitch Frankel, had to overcome a “one-timer” contract clause that was a necessity because of the team’s underfunded rookie salary pool.

Essentially, Wright will earn less of a signing bonus and instead be provided an additional non-guaranteed incentive in the final year of his rookie contract (2013) as long as he actually steps on the field as a safety (rather than just a special teams player) at some point during his first three seasons. One-timers are generally used for the contracts of second-round picks, but the Bears found a need to use it for Wright – the team’s top selection (No. 75 overall) in April.

He is expected to immediately compete for Chicago’s starting free safety job, and the coaching staff is hopefully he will win the job during training camp.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Urban Meyer to attend 2010 SEC Spring Meetings

Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer will indeed be representing the team at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings set to begin on June 1 in Sandestin, FL, a source close to the team told OGGOA Thursday evening.

Meyer, who has been taking a sabbatical from traveling and participating in public appearances for the Gators, will be taking part in the event himself rather than sending offensive coordinator Steve Addazio (who had been filling in for Meyer at other events).

Returning for spring practice after taking time off following the end of the 2010 recruiting cycle and the hiring of numerous new assistant coaches in the offseason, Meyer has yet to participate in a SEC conference call or any other official speaking engagement.

He spoke to the media only twice after practices, a third time at a brief press conference following the 2010 Orange & Blue Debut and had all of his assistants and players provide canned responses when asked about his level of participation with the team.

Photo Credit: Butch Dill/Associated Press

SIX BITS: Baseball wins, Baker OK, seven Gators qualify, tennis updates, lacrosse rookie of year

1 » Faced with elimination, top-seeded No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (41-4) rode past the No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks (40-18) 5-4 in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday at Regions Park in Hoover, AL. Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis (9-2) picked up the win, tossing 6.2 innings, striking out five and giving up three earned runs. Junior closer Kevin Chapman earned his 11th save of the season, though he did give up a run in the ninth and final inning of the game. Freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (2-4) led the way with two RBI, and freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-3) scored two runs. Florida will face Vanderbilt (41-16) in the second elimination game of the tournament Friday evening, airing live at ESPN3.com.

2 » Still making touchdowns – but now for the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL – former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker was faced with an injury scare Saturday night in a 46-44 win over the Cleveland Gladiators. “I thought I tore something,” Baker told The Florida Times-Union. Instead Baker, who scored twice during the game before falling to the turf, suffered a sprain according to an MRI exam after the game. He is second on the team this season with 416 yards and nine touchdowns in five games played.

Four more BITS on track & field qualifiers, tennis’ NCAA wins and losses and a Gator winning Rookie of the Year…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Baseball wins, Baker OK, seven Gators qualify, tennis updates, lacrosse rookie of year

TWO BITS: Ingram’s return, Rivers’ planned visits

1 » Last week, former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram opened up to the Philadelphia Enquirer about his recovery from a second ACL surgery and ambition about returning to the practice field for the Philadelphia Eagles. Thursday, he spoke with the Associated Press about the same subject. “Any time you get hurt, suffer a major injury, it’s going to be tough,” Ingram said. “When it’s the same injury, the same part of your body, it’s tougher. [It was] terrible, just terrible. But what could I do, except rehab, and work hard to get back.” Ingram now says he is 100 percent healthy and is practicing at full speed. “It feels great,” he said. “Mentally, you have to get that confidence back; you have to learn to trust your knee. It’s scary, because it’s always in the back of your mind, especially when it’s happened twice. But right now I have the confidence. I’m ready to go. I couldn’t wait to get back on the field here. Now, I can’t wait to get to training camp.”

2 » In his latest Dime Magazine hoop diary, five-star 2011 guard recruit and former Gators commitment Austin Rivers once again discusses his recruitment. “I still keep in touch with Coach K at Duke and Coach [Billy] Donovan at Florida,” Rivers said in the middle of the piece. “I only get five official visits so I want to definitely go back to Duke. I’ve got to go to UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida, too.” Previously, Rivers had not mentioned taking an official visit to Florida, seemingly because he knew the program so well. Apparently that has changed.

Extra Bit » Former Gators and NFL star Ike Hilliard has been named the wide receivers coach of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers according to a press release from the league. He was a volunteer assistant coach on the team last season and was recently hired to a full-time position by new Tuskers head coach Jay Gruden.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wilcox/The Gainesville Sun

Pouncey avoids major injury in Steelers camp

Though NFL mini camps are non-contact, former Florida Gators center Maurkice Pouncey escaped serious injury Thursday after Pittsburgh Steelers guard Trai Essex accidentally stepped with his full weight on his big left toe.

“Oh, man, 330 pounds on a toe!” Pouncey exclaimed well after being examined, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I felt it a little bit at first, but I got back in there and couldn’t let the guys down.”

Reports on site had Pouncey letting out a big yell when his toe was initially stomped on, but trainers rushed to the aid of the No. 18 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, wiggling his toe and making sure it was not extensively damaged.

Though, as OGGOA has reported on numerous occasions, Pouncey is expected to play guard this season for the Steelers, he was actually practicing at center when the injury occurred. Essex, ironically, is one of his chief competitors for the starting right guard job.

“We’ve been working him at center and guard,” Pittsburgh offensive line coach Sean Kugler said. “He’s been taking reps at two different groups. Today, he worked mainly at center. That will be the plan with Maurkice, continue to work him at guard and center. He’s a player we feel can play both.”

Photo Credit: Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

TWO BITS: Tebow up to No. 3, Hall on Williams

1 » During mini camp at the Dove Valley facility, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow was elevated to the No. 3 position on the team’s depth chart – ahead of Tom Brandstater – but still behind starter Kyle Orton and back-up Brady Quinn. The former Florida Gators star took a few reps, though “Tebow’s throwing motion, by the way, is still a tad long. But he does fire with decent zip and accuracy,” said beat writer Mike Klis of The Denver Post.
- VIDEO: Tebow speaks with Fox Sports about NFL career.

2 » A few former Gators chimed in on the passing of safety Jarvis Williams on Wednesday. The Orlando Sentinel‘s Jeremy Fowler was able to catch up with ex-Florida head coach Galen Hall (1984-89), who spoke just as highly about Williams as his former teammates. “He was just a joy to coach,” Hall said. “He was a very quiet person who went about his business, but he was one of the toughest people I’ve been around in his nice, quiet way. He loved contact, was a good athlete and never tried to be an outstanding hero, just a player doing his job.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

TWO BITS: Pouncey, Cunningham rookie starters?

1 » Though Maurkice Pouncey earned major recognition as a center with the Florida Gators, his short-term future looks to be as a starting right guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team that drafted him No. 18 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. If you talk to Steelers’ starting left tackle Max Starks (also a Florida alum), Pouncey is already turning some heads. “Being that I’m such an established alum from the University of Florida, I’m going to be biased. So I’ll say he’s going to be great,” Starks told the Beaver County Times. “Seriously, Maurkice is a guy who’s come in with the right attitude. He’s a good kid. He’s picking up things and learning the system, although I’m sure his head is still spinning because he’s a rookie. But the most important thing is that he’s here getting a foundation. You can only imagine that once we get into camp and he puts the pads on and he’s had more time in this system, how well he’ll do.” Pittsburgh wants him to be the starting center – eventually – but would like him to get on the field as quickly as possible; right guard is where they need immediate help.

2 » Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com recently posted a New England Patriots mailbag covering a number of topics concerning the team including the future of former Gators linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes. Reiss projects that Cunningham will ultimately start at outside linebacker in 2010 opposite Tully Banta-Cain but thinks Spikes will have a rough go of it (at least in the beginning) beating out the two guys ahead of him for the opportunity to start alongside Jerod Mayo.

Photo Credit: David Silverman/New England Patriots

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