TWO BITS: Pouncey listed, counterfeit jerseys

1 » Senior center Mike Pouncey will be filling in for his brother next season in the middle of the Florida Gators offensive line – a position he has yet to play on the college level. Nevertheless, he has already been named to the 2010 Rimington Trophy spring watch list. The trophy, which is awarded to the best center in college football, was won by now Pittsburgh Steelers center/guard Maurkice Pouncey last season, providing a rare opportunity for brothers to win it in back-to-back years.

2 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s No. 15 jersey is so popular that it has already set numerous NFL sales records. It is in such high demand, in fact, that Chinese counterfeiters rolled out some fake ones almost immediately. According to the Tampa Tribune, “U.S. Customs & Border Protection in Tampa seized $8,175 in counterfeit sports jerseys” last week. Though there were others included in the package, “several” were “good quality” counterfeits of Tebow’s jersey.

TWO BITS: Driskel’s adjustments, Foley on Meyer

1 » As he finishes his junior baseball season and gets ready for his senior year of football at Hagerty High School, four-star 2011 Florida Gators quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) knows the comparisons to Denver Broncos signal caller Tim Tebow will be coming sooner than later. “I’d love to continue the standards he set on the field and off the field,” Driskel told ESPN. “But at the same time, I have to make my own impact and be my own person.” Driskel is also aware that extra attention will be paid to him throughout the upcoming season due to his commitment to Florida. “Whenever you are linked to the football program at the University of Florida, all eyes are going to be on you,” he said. “I know there will be people that have never seen me play [who will] develop a new interest in us and how well we play this season.” Driskel is receiving plenty of praise and support from his coaches who realize that he will be a good fit with the Gators. “I had visited a few schools but every time I went to Florida it felt right,” Driskel admitted. “I wanted to be in the SEC because that’s where the best football in the country is played. Florida is competing for national titles every year and they run an offense suited around the quarterback. I love everything about that program.”

2 » Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was in Jacksonville, FL, on Wednesday night, speaking to a bunch of fans at the Jax Beach Gator Club’s annual Gator Gathering. WJXX ABC 25 was on hand to cover the event, where Foley spoke about head coach Urban Meyer, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley and a number of other topics.

On Meyer: “He’s doing well. He’s really doing well. He’s worked very hard – worked on some things that will help him be a better coach in terms of obligation. Very excited about the upcoming year. I can see the energy back. I can see the color in his face back.”

On Brantley: “I think his a heck of a talent. I know what our coaches think about him. I know how hard he’s worked. I know how hard he’s worked this spring. Johnny Brantley is a quality kid, a quality quarterback. Does he have the same reps as Tim Tebow? No. Will there be a learning curve for him? Certainly, but I think he’s got a chance to be a big time player. We’re very excited about Johnny Brantley.”

On Florida-Georgia: “It’s a tradition that’s second-to-none, in my opinion, in college football. Probably similar to Texas-Oklahoma. It’s as good as football stadium in the country, and we do have a contract. There’s a few Is to be dotted a few Ts to be crossed. I think that thing will be signed before next fall, and keep it here for another seven years and that certainly excites us all in Gainesville.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

Gators take SEC lead, edge Gamecocks 3-2

Opening a three-game series that will ultimately decide the 2010 Southeastern Conference regular season champion, the No. 4/5 Florida Gators (39-12, 21-7 SEC) delivered the first blow by squeaking out a 3-2 win over the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-12, 20-8 SEC) Thursday night on the road at Carolina Stadium.

Junior closer Kevin Chapman helped the Gators maintain a 3-2 lead, tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts without giving up a single hit for his ninth save of the season. Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis was pulled after giving up a run in 3.1 innings, only to have Jeff Barfield go on to give up another in his 2.2 innings of relief. Barfield (4-0) would end up the winning pitcher with the Gamecocks’ Blake Cooper (10-1) earning his first loss of the season after allowing three runs in 6.2 innings.

At a scoreless tie heading into the top of the third inning, the Gators opened up the game when sophomore outfielder Tyler Thompson (1-3) hit a lead-off home run to right field. With two outs in the inning, a rally was put together that would eventually score sophomore OF Daniel Pigott (3-5), who got on base with a double.

Florida added to their lead in the fourth. Senior OF Matt den Dekker (1-4) singled to start off the inning and would eventually score on a ground out RBI by junior second baseman Josh Adams (0-4). UF would hold on from there, though they did allow South Carolina to add a run in both the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings.

The action continues Friday evening at 7 p.m. as Gators freshman Hudson Randall (6-3, 2.96 ERA) goes up against Gamecocks junior Sam Dyson (5-4, 3.79 ERA). Should Florida win, they would clinch their first SEC title since 2005.

FOUR BITS: Wright’s one-timer, tennis, Fontana

1 » Former Florida Gators safety Major Wright remains unsigned with the Chicago Bears, but that is not too uncommon considering training camp is still a ways away. However, what is interesting is that, according to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears will be including a “one-timer” (something generally used for second-round picks) in Wright’s contract. Essentially, Wright will earn an additional 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.

2 » Competing in the 2010 NCAA Championship Round of 16 on Thursday against the Ole Miss Rebels (17-6), No. 3 Gators women’s tennis (27-2) captured a 4-1 victory and advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. The No. 5 doubles pairing of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will took an 8-6 victory while No. 8 Will and No. 9 Lauren Embree (also a freshman) each won their singles contests. Florida will square-off against No. 11-seed Miami (FL) in the next round on Saturday at 1 p.m.

3 » No. 4/5 Gators baseball is competing for the Southeastern Conference regular season crown this weekend, but for freshman shortstop Nick Fontana, it is also a great opportunity to pay tribute to his grandfather, Lew Burdette. Inscribing “FROG” and “No. 33” on the infield dirt before the game begins, Fontana is sure to keep Burdette’s memory alive. “He was my inspiration,” Fontana told Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel. “I feel like he’s with me every day on that field.”

4 » It is a busy week for Florida’s athletic department as the No. 4/6 men’s golf team is also currently competing nationally, playing in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Central Regional on Thursday. In second place after posting a team score of 279 (-1), the Gators are only behind the leader, Stanford, by two strokes. The event continues Friday.

Pelphrey hires Nelson as assistant at Arkansas

Two former Florida Gators will come together next season on the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball staff as head coach John Pelphrey has hired former All-American guard Brett Nelson (1999-2003) as an assistant coach.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Nelson first worked as director of basketball operations at Colorado State and then Virginia Commonwealth (under Alabama head coach Anthony Grant). He got his first assistant job with Donnie Jones at Marshall in 2007, coaching under him for three seasons before leaving the program with him during a transition to Central Florida just two months ago.

“I am very excited to have Brett join our staff,” Pelphrey said in a release. “Brett has a tremendous basketball IQ and will bring our student-athletes a first-hand perspective of the commitment and dedication that is required to win Southeastern Conference championships and compete nationally. In his tenures at Colorado State, Virginia Commonwealth and Marshall, Brett has been instrumental in both the recruiting and on-court successes of those programs. I have known Brett throughout his basketball career as a player and a coach. He is an exceptional person and will be an excellent addition to our coaching staff and our program.”

During his time with the Gators, Nelson led the team to four NCAA Tournaments, a National Championship game and two Southeastern Conference Championships while averaging 11 points per game.

Grant, Jones and Pelphrey are all former assistants under head coach Billy Donovan.

TWO BITS: Ingram’s knee, Rainey and Howard

1 » Wide receiver Riley Cooper may be the latest former Florida Gators player to join the Philadelphia Eagles, but the one who was once thought to make the greatest impact was tight end Cornelius Ingram. Though he came into training camp his rookie year off of season-ending ACL surgery that forced him to sit out the Gators’ 2008 BCS National Championship run, there were hopes that Ingram could take the starting job right away. Instead, he re-injured his ACL during camp and Brent Celek stepped into the role. Now, one year later, Ingram’s knee is holding up well and he hopes to start his NFL career as Celek’s back-up.

“I think I came into this camp with way more confidence than where I was this time last year,” Ingram told the Philadelphia Inquirer after completing a long workout. “That helps out a lot — just knowing you can relax and just play football. It’s going good. I know I can play this game. I know if my knee’s healthy, I can play this game at a high level.” Ingram has been able to do whatever has been asked of him so far including cutting in both directions and running at full speed.

2 » Florida strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti told the Orlando Sentinel Thursday that he has been most impressed with redshirt juniors wide receiver Chris Rainey and defensive end Jaye Howard thus far during early summer workouts. “A lot of it is maturing,” Marotti said when discussing Rainey. “After a while, [players say] ‘I better gain some weight’ or ‘I better get stronger.’” He is equally impressed with Howard’s drive. “I see a little bit more, I don’t know if it’s hunger or what,” he said. “He lets me know at the end – ‘I’m better, huh?’ — because he moved up two spots. It’s all based on attitude. That’s one guy I can say, ‘Wow.’”

Photo Credit: Tracy Wilcox/The Gainesville Sun

Tebow’s mechanics “overplayed,” Trestman says

Montreal Alouettes head coach and recently Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s personal coach, Marc Trestman, once again defended the former Florida Gators star’s throwing motion and mechanics during a wide-ranging conference call with Canadian reporters Thursday.

“Basically all he’s doing is shortening his throwing motion and getting [the ball] out quicker,” Trestman said per the National Post. “I thought it was much, much overplayed and I think the perception of what it was and the reality of what it is was a lot different.”

Trestman went on to compare Tebow’s formerly elongated but since refined delivery to that of Anthony Calvillo, his team’s current starting quarterback.

“We have a quarterback who has a long delivery and he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks and will finish as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time north or south of the border so he does it with a motion very similar to what Tim Tebow used in college,” explained Trestman. “When you’re an accurate passer and you have the intangibles that go along with that you can figure it out and make it work and whether Tim changed his motion or not I believed he would figure it out and I don’t have any doubt that he’ll be very, very successful.”

Considering how closely Trestman worked with Tebow, his experience as a quarterbacks coach in the NFL and what he has done in the CFL, his opinion holds a lot of water.

However, some will certainly point out that comparing Tebow’s NFL future to the production of a career-long CFL quarterback is not necessarily something that Broncos fans want to hear. Perhaps that parallel should be examined a bit more before one jumps to any rash conclusions.

Calvillo is fourth in all-time professional passing yards (63,322) only behind Damon Allen (CFL – 72,381), Warren Moon (CFL/NFL – 70,553) and Brett Favre (NFL – 69,329) and directly ahead of names like Dan Marino, Doug Flutie, Danny McManus and Denver’s own John Elway. Additionally, Calvillo’s completion percentage (62.4) is higher than 22 of the other 24 signal callers on that list (Peyton Manning, Joe Montana).

Photo Credit: Associated Press

FOUR BITS: Rivers, Pouncey, baseball, Dixon

1 » Five-star 2011 guard recruit Austin Rivers decommitted from the Florida Gators on April 8 and named the Duke Blue Devils his new leader a month later on May 5. He went in-depth on why he made this decision just a week ago, but now his AAU coach – Therion Joseph of Each 1 Teach 1 – is adding some fuel to the movement away from Florida and to Duke. “Florida is obviously a very good program but basketball is just one of their sports,” Joseph told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. “Duke sells out every game and Florida is fighting to get half their students there. He likes to play with a bulls-eye on his back. He plays better with a bulls-eye. He wants to play at a school that is on ESPN every day, kind of like Notre Dame in football.” Once Rivers decommmitted, OGGOA believed he was all but gone from the Gators for good – now it is looking like they may even be falling out of his top five. To Joseph’s credit, attendance last year was embarassing.

2 » New Pittsburgh Steelers center/guard Maurkice Pouncey sat down with WTAE ABC 4 in Pittsburgh, PA, to discuss his transition to the NFL “This team here is just like college – family here, there aren’t any individuals,” Pouncey said. “Everybody pulls together, so it kind of feels like Florida.” Obviously he is looking forward to getting on the field and competing, but Pouncey is also anxiously awaiting one more perk of playing in the NFL. “Oh man, I can’t wait for that first paycheck, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’m kind of living the college life still with no money, but whenever that first paycheck comes in, it will be amazing.” You can watch the entire interview by clicking here.

3 » No. 4/5 Florida baseball (38-12, 20-7 SEC) and the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-11, 20-7 SEC) begin a three-game series on Thursday that will ultimately decide the Southeastern Conference’s 2010 regular season champion. Tied atop the standings, the weekend road series’ pitching match-ups are as follows: Thursday – sophomore Alex Panteliodis (8-2, 3.34 ERA) vs. senior Blake Cooper (10-0, 3.01 ERA); Friday – freshman Hudson Randall (6-3, 2.96 ERA) vs. junior Sam Dyson (5-4, 3.79 ERA); Saturday – freshman Brian Johnson (5-2, 3.53 ERA) vs. TBA. The Gators have won eight of their last nine conference series and are 10-time conference champions (last in 2005). Saturday’s game – perhaps the decider – will air live on Sun Sports at 4:00 p.m.

4 » Former Florida assistant basketball coach Nate Dixon, who was a member of head coach Billy Donovan’s Gators staff from 2003-05, has been hired by the Wyoming Cowboys to a similar assistant position.

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