FOUR BITS: Position battles, Harvin, T2, Green

1 » When OGGOA published our Florida Gators 2010 Fall Practice Preview, two of the position battles we discussed were for middle linebacker and starting cornerback. The Gainesville Sun has published some choice quotes from defensive coordinator Teryl Austin about these competitions which support our thoughts that MLB is between sophomore Jon Bostic and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins while the race to start opposite junior Janoris Jenkins is being led by redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown.

On middle linebacker: “Who starts is still to be determined. […] Jelani, you look at his speed, his absolutely flat out speed. He sees the ball and he goes and gets it. Jon brings some speed, but he’s also a thumper. He gives you that big body who can sit down on some guards and fullbacks and get that [inside] stuff. […] Each type can get the job done the way we want it. It’s just a matter of how it shakes out at the end.”

On cornerback: “Right now, it’s full speed ahead for Jeremy. We’re real pleased with where he is. […] Jeremy Brown and Moses Jenkins are involved in that position, in addition to any of our freshmen.”

Three more BITS on Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow and William Green…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Position battles, Harvin, T2, Green

FOUR BITS: Noah, Obama, rankings, Greiner

1 » Former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah had a coming out party of sorts for the Chicago Bulls in his third NBA season, averaging career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0) and assists (2.1). After a busy offseason and free agency period, Chicago is now looking to sign Noah to a long-term deal, according to ESPNChicago.com. Apparently Noah’s agent Donald Dell is already in talks with the Bulls, and the two sides are relatively close to an agreement. “I’m not really worried about it. I think everything’s going to happen with time and at the end of the day, I’m really excited about the upcoming season,” Noah said.

2 » In the meantime, Noah had the opportunity to play basketball with none other than President Barack Obama (and a few other NBA All-Stars) in an effort to entertain wounded troops in Washington, D.C. over the weekend (see picture above).

3 » Back in May, OGGOA looked at what some college basketball experts had to say about Florida entering the 2010-11 season ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls. The result? All three agreed that the Gators would hold such a distinction when the season began. And while that may be the case, two Florida players realize that is all talk. “Obviously, we like that people are showing us attention, ranking us high, but we also know that none of that stuff matters, senior forward Chandler Parsons said last week. “Really it feels the same way,” sophomore guard Kenny Boynton said about the upcoming season.. “We haven’t accomplished anything this year. It’s basically just people talking right now. My expectations definitely are a way better record than what we had last year. We want to definitely get deep in the tournament. Overall, I think we should be a much better team.”

4 » Augie Greiner, a former player and friend of Florida basketball, passed away this past weekend. OGGOA did our best to pay tribute to his contributions to the Gators, but in a special to FOXSports Florida, Bill Koss does perhaps an even better job. Do yourself a favor and learn a little bit more about Greiner, a man who has had a greater impact on the University of Florida basketball program than you know.

Photo Credit: White House

F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
Continue Reading » F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Haden, Moody, Graham

1 » Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins realizes it is his time to shine in the Florida Gators secondary, and the Pahokee, FL, native took steps over the summer (including dropping 10 pounds and increasing his speed) to ensure that he is capable of playing the way coaches want him to. “I have to go out now and put everything on the table,” Jenkins said. “I’m trying to be the best corner.” Even his game play has changed. “Being physical at the line of scrimmage is a big part of my game now,” he added. “That, and coming up and tackling better.” Jenkins is also helping mold whomever it is that starts across from him this year in place of Cleveland Browns rookie CB Joe Haden. “It’s going to be some good competition. All of those guys are working hard and going at it. I try to help them as much as possible,” he said.

2 » Speaking of Haden, his mind may have been on money while briefly holding out for a better contract, but money is on his mind any longer. In fact, Haden is taking his five-year $50 million maximum contract in stride; he sees it more as a confirmation that he is financially stable for the rest of his life rather than rich enough to throw money around. “It definitely means a lot. I just know that I’m set,” he said, according to The Canton Repository. “I don’t have to worry about money any more. I just go out here and do what I love. After football, I can do what I do, have a good time, take a vacation. I want to set up a couple foundations. I want to own gyms, barber shops, stuff like that … just set our family up for the rest of our lives.” He continued, “One thing a lot of people have been telling me … is that 80 percent of the league, after 20 years out of the league, is broke or bankrupt. So one thing I’m doing with my money is, I set it up so me and my family and my brothers and my kids — if I have children — are set financially.”

3 » Injuries and experience have helped Gators redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody mature as he gets healthy and returns to the field for his final collegiate season. Now, he is less concerned with individual success and more about making the most of his year. “It’s my fifth year and my mindset has changed a lot,” Moody said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I’m to the point where I’m just going to handle what I can handle and not think about if I’m going to be a 1,000-yard rusher or focus on some goals that are far ahead. I’m just focused on taking each day at a time and having an even-keel attitude every day and, no matter what happens, just have a smile on [my] face. […] It’s about time I learned and change my character and change the way I approach things. Now, it’s to the point where no matter what happens in life, know how to bounce back with it, have a good attitude with it and not get down on myself … and know that football is what we do. It’s not who we are.”

4 » As OGGOA cited on June 1, former Florida RB Earnest Graham will be continuing his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – but this time he will do so as a fullback. The Lakeland Ledger caught up with him over the weekend, and he shared some thoughts on the change. “I’m prepared to play both,” he said. “Starting the season I’ll probably be at fullback, but you never know how things will play out. In 2008, I started out as a halfback and we had an injury at fullback, so I ended up playing fullback. […] I tried to put a little bulk on this year, be up around 230 as opposed to 220 or 225.”

Emmitt Smith apologies for omitting Gators

From the moment his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech concluded Saturday night, speculation surrounded running back Emmitt Smith’s omission of the Florida Gators when discussing his career and progression to the NFL.

Did he purposely snub the University of Florida, or did he accidentally forget to mention them due to the emotion and importance of the evening?

Smith took the first step in making amends Sunday, answering the questions head-on via four posts on his Twitter account. The following quote is an edited summary of his tweets:

Thanks for all of the good wishes about the Hall of Fame…need to say a special hello to my Gator Nation. I sincerely, sincerely apologize for not mentioning you last night in my Hall of Fame speech, Gator Nation. I just got caught up in everything. Pleaase charge it to my mind, not my heart! Once a Gator always a Gator. I loved everything the University of Florida gave me.

The Gators’ Ring of Honor member was also interviewed during Sunday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. He once again recognized Florida when prompted by Al Michaels:

“Technically my speech was supposed to be less than 20 minutes, so I stretched it out to 24…and I forgot one most important ingredients: my Gator Nation. And I sincerely apologize for not recognizing the University of Florida and Urban Meyer and Jeremy Foley and all of the Gator Nation. Because the Gator Nation truly helped me get on the platform on the collegiate level which led to where I’m at right now here in Canton.”

Smith concluded his interview segment with a Gator Chomp.

FOUR BITS: Thompson, buzz, Green, Lawrence

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson is looking to quiet the doubters from last season – especially those who said he had bad hands. “I don’t know where that came from, but it came,” Thompson said according to the Florida Times-Union. “I guess because I dropped the ball against Charleston Southern the first game. People started saying I couldn’t catch.” WR coach Zach Azzanni agrees. “Deonte doesn’t have bad hands,” he said. “Maybe he didn’t make a couple plays he should have last year, but he’s got fantastic hands. […] Catching the ball is a learned skill. He can certainly catch the ball. There are some details he was lacking last year that we’re going to try to improve and hopefully it helps him and improves him.”

Three more BITS on basketball’s buzz, Green-Beckham and Lawrence’s future…
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Thompson, buzz, Green, Lawrence

Was Smith’s omission purposeful or an accident?

When running back Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Florida Gators fans across the country tuned in to cheer on only the second player in school history to receive such an honor. Many were disappointed after the speech concluded and Smith failed to utter a single word of appreciation for the University of Florida, his college coaches, teammates or even the fans.

Plenty has already been written about the situation here from an editorial standpoint, but SPORTSbyBROOKS dived further into the issue Sunday and has concluded that “Smith purposely snubbed Florida and the [2007] Ring of Honor ceremony for one reason. His relationship with Steve Spurrier.”

Spurrier was hired as head coach of the Gators following Smith’s junior year in Gainesville in December, 1989. It was widely reported at the time that Spurrier made only a token attempt to ask Smith to complete his final season of eligibility with the team.

Smith has never forgiven Spurrier for that lack of interest.

From what I’ve been told, that’s also what led to Smith not show for the 2007 UF Ring of Honor ceremony, as Spurrier was also an inductee.

This has long been known as a cause of Smith’s rocky relationship with Florida; however, SPORTSbyBROOKS cites “multiple sources [...] including Florida athletic dept. officials” claiming that this is the exact reasoning for Smith’s purposeful omission.

Countering that argument, however, is former Gator Brady Ackerman, who has been told that Smith not mentioning UF was just an accident. “I just talked to one of my ex-teammates who is with Emmitt. He got off his script and just plain out forgot to mention Florida,” Ackerman wrote via Twitter. “I can guarantee you Emmitt feels bad about it. He will address it tonight in his TV interview.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida

Greiner dies, Florida basketball loses a friend

Former Florida Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner has passed away. He was 76.

A student-athlete from 1953-56, Greiner was nicknamed “the Gun” due to the fact that he was a shooter who loved to have the ball in his hands. He won the MVP award as a freshman and was the backbone to the basketball team for four seasons.

“I never have seen a shot I didn’t like,” he once said, according to the University of Florida.

After college, he continued playing in men’s leagues in Ocala while opening up what eventually would become a successful business – Greiner’s Clothing – in 1962. Greiner was also enshrined in the F Club Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Letterwinner, one who has “made major contributions to the University’s athletic program through personal time, effort, interest and many years of continued service.”

More than three decades ago, Greiner established the Ocala Tip-Off Club in order to raise money and provide scholarship endowments for the Florida basketball program; he did this while also serving as a member of the Gator Boosters Board of Directors. The club has allotted funds for more than a half-dozen scholarships to-date and is the largest of its kind in the state.

When UF decided to hire Billy Donovan as the Gators’ head coach in 1996, Greiner was there from the get-go to support the team and its new leader. He would meet with Donovan privately, attend practices and even take players aside to provide some individual advice when necessary.

And when Donovan temporarily left Florida for the NBA only to return to the school days later, Greiner was believed to have been a close confidant and perhaps even one of the motivating factors in the decision. Over the years, the Donovans and Greiners have kept in close contact and developed a unique and lasting friendship.

It should be no surprise that an office in the basketball complex is named after Greiner due to his contributions to the program over the years and love for Gators basketball.

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Greiner family and will update this story.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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