NOT Top 13 for 2013: Moments for Gators to forget

At the conclusion of each year, on Dec. 31 to be exact, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. This year, which will go down as a difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 13 for 2013 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 13 for 2013 to end your year on a positive note!

13 » OFFSEASON GARBAGE
The time between the conclusion of spring practice in April and the start of summer practice in July can be long and seemingly endless for some, especially the media, which drummed up controversy where none should have exited in May. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis, taking part in a Gator Gathering with boosters, jokingly referred to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as “the devil himself.” The slight was made public and Saban took great offense, despite the fact that Davis was kidding. Davis got called “a classless backstabbing coward” for his joke and received other undue ridicule.

Two months later, one of the top college football headlines was a report that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer actually turned in Florida (and running backs coach Brian White) for a petty secondary recruiting violation that the NCAA deemed to be meaningless. Meyer denied his actions and got taken to task for reporting his former school, especially considering he has previously been accused of violating NCAA secondary recruiting rules in a similar fashion.

12 » LACROSSE AND VOLLEYBALL COME UP SHORT
With revenge on their minds and the program’s first national title within reach, Florida lacrosse failed to take down Syracuse on the latter’s home turf in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Orange got the best of the Gators for the second-straight season, winning 13-9 on May 18 after picking up a controversial victory in the 2012 NCAA Final Four. UF had the opportunity to make SU pay while trying to win a championship but instead sent its fourth-year players – the first senior class in program history – home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Florida volleyball saw its 2013 season come to a crashing halt when it fell 3-2 at home to Florida State in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. One of the top seeds in the tournament and a potential national title team, the Gators allowed their in-state rival to knock them out of postseason play as UF failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Like the lacrosse team, which sent its upperclassmen out in a disappointing fashion, the same happened to senior middle back Chloe Mann.

11 » SAME TEAM!
The moment that checked in No. 1 on ESPN’s own Not Top Plays of 2013 was simply a microcosm of Florida being unable to get out of its own way this year. Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison and redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar blocked each other on a rushing play that actually gained some positive yardage against Georgia Southern in the second-to-last game of the season. In the same game, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye was accused of gouging an opponent’s eyes.


Continue Reading » NOT Top 13 for 2013: Moments for Gators to forget

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Mike Pouncey served grand jury subpoena “related to” Aaron Hernandez investigation

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, a teammate and close friend of tight end Aaron Hernandez when both men played for the Florida Gators, was served a grand jury subpoena by the Massachusetts State Police shortly after his team’s 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough, MA.

According to SI.com’s Pete Thamel and Greg A. Bedard, who broke the story Sunday evening after speaking with a “source with knowledge of the matter,” the subpoena served to Pouncey is “related to” the Hernandez investigation.

The source indicated that police are focusing in on Hernandez’s potential involvement in interstate gun trafficking, which is being investigated by several agencies in multiple states — at least Massachusetts, New York and Florida.

The extent of Pouncey’s potential involvement is undetermined, but police are focusing on multiple transactions that involve him and Hernandez.

Pouncey has not been charged with a crime as of press time. Whether he is in the future remains to be seen. More likely than not, investigators see him as a material witness in their case against Hernandez, one who may be able to assist the state in gathering the necessary evidence to achieve a conviction once the case goes to trial.

Hernandez has been charged with first-degree murder – and five other gun-related offenses – in the September death of Odin Lloyd. He is also considered to be a prime suspect in a July 2012 double murder committed in Massachusetts and a February 2013 shooting of an associate in South Florida.

RELATED: Documents paint damning picture for Aaron Hernandez

It is unknown whether Pouncey’s brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, has also been subpoenaed.

RELATED: Pouncey brothers wear “Free Hernandez” hats to club

This story is currently developing and OnlyGators.com will have more information as it is made available.

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4 BITS: Bostic, Evans, Hernandez, Calathes, Noah

1 » A pair of season-ending injuries have resulted in big-time opportunities for a couple of former Florida Gators defenders as Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans appear to be in line to start the remainder of the season for their respective teams. Bostic, who was expected to push veteran D.J. Williams for playing time and the starting role this season, will replace him on the first string after Williams suffered what head coach Marc Trestman said Friday is likely a torn pectoral muscle. Evans will be stepping into the starting safety job in place of Dwight Lowery, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a severe concussion. He has already started two games for Jacksonville and should fill the role for the remainder of the season if not indefinitely.

2 » Aaron Hernandez remains in custody and charged with first-degree murder for the death of Odin Lloyd, but investigators have continued to seek separate charges for Hernandez stemming from a July 2012 double murder that has been connected to him and his associates. According to FOX 25 out of Boston, MA, an eyewitness to the 2012 drive-by shooting has fingered Hernandez as one of multiple men that pulled the trigger that night. The man claims to have been sitting in the middle of the back seat of the car that was shot upon. “Things happened so fast. I was just trying to defend myself,” the witness told the station. “They were shooting everywhere inside the car, front to back. They just came to kill. That’s it.” He said he realized one of the shooters was Hernandez after recognizing his face from it being plastered all over television recently. “When I see his face, I just recognize his face,” he said. “Compare his face that night to his face now. It’s that face I remember.”

Check out two more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Bostic, Evans, Hernandez, Calathes, Noah

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TWO BITS: Hernandez & Meyer allegations, Tebow

1 » A post on RollingStone.com detailing six revelations from an upcoming Rolling Stone magazine investigation into former Florida Gators and New England Patriots tight end Aaron Herndez alleges that then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer “may have helped cover up failed drug tests, along with two violent incidents – an assault and a drive-by shootout outside a local bar.” Though both of these incidents – the assault outside The Swamp Restaurant in April 2007 and shooting in Sept. 2007 – have been public knowledge for quite some time, the magazine appears to be taking the story a step further by noting that Meyer may have been heavily involved in ensuring Hernandez did not get in trouble for his actions (admitted in the case of the assault and alleged in the case of the shooting). Other tidbits from the story include Hernandez being a “heavy user of angel dust” who was on the verge of being cut by the Patriots.

UPDATED Aug. 28 at 10:45 a.m.: In the story, which can be read in full by clicking here, writer Paul Solotaroff simply recounts Hernandez’s time at Florida sourced by a “local reporter who was covering the team.” Regarding Meyer and any potential cover-up to Hernandez’s misdeeds, nothing new is reported but the contention is made that Meyer covered up multiple failed drug tests in order for Hernandez to retain his eligibility to play in games, an allegation that Meyer and Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley have both previously denied.

RELATED from June 25: Foley defends Florida’s handling of Hernandez
RELATED from July 6: Urban Meyer: Florida did not enable Hernandez

2 » Speaking of New England, team owner Robert Kraft said Tuesday that he is “rooting … big-time” for back-up quarterback Tim Tebow to make the team out of training camp. “He’s a very special young man. He’s been a real joy to have around here,” Kraft said, according to the Boston Globe. Though the decision will be up to head coach Bill Belichick and the player has been anything but impressive thus far during practice and preseason action, Tebow should have an opportunity in the team’s final preseason game when he is expected to play the entire second half.

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FOUR BITS: bball, Cooper, Hernandez, Murphy

1 » Florida Gators rising senior center Patric Young has received plenty of attention over the last two offseasons by posting videos of strongman workouts with the team’s strength & conditioning staff. This year, Florida taped all of the players participating in the impressively difficult workouts and compiled their efforts in the video below.

2 » Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and running back Mike Gillislee are the first former Florida teammates to speak out in defense of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who blurted out a racial slur at a concert that was caught on video and has since begun a – what appears to be quite sincere – apology tour. “I think Riley is a great guy,” Pouncey told FOX Sports Florida. “I think obviously he made a mistake. I just feel bad for him because he’s a good friend.” Pouncey also said he never had an inkling that Cooper would have those thoughts in his head and plans to lend his former teammate his support soon. “When the time’s right, I will,” he said. “But right now I know he’s going through a tough time and I just hope for nothing but the best for him.” Gillislee called Cooper a “great person” and someone that “doesn’t have a bad character.” He said he doesn’t think much of him making the comment and hopes people can move on from the unfortunate incident.

UPDATE: On Friday, Cooper was suspended from all team activities while he undergoes counseling. He released the following statement through the team:

“The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me. My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.

“Right now, I think it’s important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I’ve done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time.

“During this time I’m going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to help me better understand how I could have done something that was so offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it takes, and whatever I have to do, I’m going to try to make this right.”

Speaking of Cooper, here are some other links to stories, columns and videos relating to the situation. NFL.com: Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks | ESPN.com‘s Ashley Fox: Riley Cooper won’t be an Eagle for long | Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel: Most deserving of apology from Riley Cooper: the security guard doing his job

3 » Jailed former Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez professed his innocence for the first time…in a handwritten letter sent to a fan that wrote him a letter of support. TMZ obtained the letter, which includes a line at the end with Hernandez requesting it not be leaked to social media. “The world just makes things out of false accusations … and it will all die down, especially when they say NOT GUILTY,” Hernandez wrote in part. “All the people who turned on me will feel like crap. … [I] can’t wait to sign [autographs] again when I’m playing again [and] prove all the haters WRONG.”

4 » Chicago Bulls rookie Erik Murphy turned around his life and career in his final two seasons playing under head coach Billy Donovan at Florida, so much so that his much younger brother – 2017 forward Tomas Murphy – is seriously considering playing for the Gators…in four years. The younger Murphy was officially offered a scholarship by Florida this week, though he is likely quite a while away from making his decision. His brother Erik told OnlyGators.com last month that Tomas has UF and Duke (where his other brother, redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy, is playing) ahead of the pack early in the process. Tomas also has offers from Boston College, Maryland and Rhode Island, among others. “He’s a monster,” a college coach told CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello. “At this stage, he’s better than both [his brothers].”

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Florida Gators football’s tumultuous offseason

The 2013 offseason started out relatively calm and normal for the Florida Gators football program with some players deciding to leave school early to play professionally and others choosing to try their luck at another university. Suddenly, starting on Jan. 10, a string of arrests, poor decisions, injuries and negative headlines began taking over the spring and summer for the Gators. Below is a timeline* of one of the most bizarre and controversial offseasons in Florida football history.

* While all of the news below was sour for Florida or its players in one way or another, obviously some of the occurrences (arrests, suspensions) are significantly more egregious than others (players transferring, coaches leaving). The standout, headline-making stories that either painted the program in a negative light or were exceptionally newsworthy during the summer are highlighted in red.

Luckily for Gators fans, with fall practice officially opening on Friday and the 2013 college season exactly one month away, the offseason is now over.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators football’s tumultuous offseason

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Florida removes Hernandez All-American brick

The Florida Gators on Thursday decided to publicly erase former tight end Aaron Hernandez from their past when they removed his All-American brick from the front of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and later announced other reminders of Hernandez have already been taken down throughout the team’s facilities.

Hernandez, currently jailed in Massachusetts and awaiting trial on six charges including first-degree murder for the shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press in 2009 after leading the Gators with 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns that season.

He also won the John Mackey Award, handed out to the nation’s best tight end, for his efforts during that campaign.

Florida’s University Athletic Association released the following statement on Thursday:

We didn’t feel it was appropriate to celebrate Aaron Hernandez. We put together an immediate plan after the initial news broke to remove his likeness and name in various private and public areas in the facility, such as the South Endzone team area, locker room, football offices, Heavener Complex Kornblau Lobby and the brick display entrance to the football facility.

We were able to implement some of the changes immediately and this (brick removal) was a more complex process to complete with our vendors.

The plan was to have everything completed before the end of July.

What do you think? Did the school act too soon or was the brick removal appropriate?

Below are pictures of the Hernandez brick being removed and replaced courtesy of University of Florida professor Ted Spiker (first), Gainesville Television Network‘s Julie Quittner (second, third):

Continue Reading » Florida removes Hernandez All-American brick

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SIX BITS: Andrews, Brown, Parsons, Beal, Zunino; Aaron Hernandez updates

1 » Former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews and softball player Jenn Brown, just over one year ago, were both working as sideline reports for ESPN with the former taking on a bunch of other duties as well. Neither remains with the network today, but Andrews and Brown each have a great opportunity to shine with their new company. Andrews, who was hired by FOX Sports last July, spent 2012 sitting at a studio desk as host of a primetime college football pre-game show while also serving as a sideline reporter for major sports events including the MLB postseason. According to SB Nation, her duties will increase this season with the launch of the FOX Sports 1 network. Andrews will move from the primetime half-hour show to hosting a new college football pregame show that will air on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, going head-to-head with ESPN’s College GameDay. Before leaving ESPN, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of College GameDay, which aired from 9-10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Brown, after spending a short stint working with NBC, has signed a deal with the NFL Network, according to The Big Lead. She will start appearing on-air Thursday when she hosts the network’s Total Access show though the breath of her duties is currently unknown. “I’m thrilled to get back to the NFL,” she told the website. “The first sports job I had was on Inside the NFL. Covering college football for ESPN was a great time and I learned a lot, but it’s good to get back to the NFL.”

2 » Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears sat down with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons to discuss what OnlyGators.com reported almost three weeks ago – Parsons’s role in luring free agent center Dwight Howard to Houston. “I spent a lot of time during the summer in L.A.,” Parsons explained. “We kind of just hit it off. We literally would text every day. [Howard would] call me at 8 p.m. with a question and then he’d call me at midnight with the same question. … I was just that guy trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible. We have very similar personalities. We are both outgoing. We’re always smiling. We like to have fun. I made him really comfortable that he was not only coming to a really good team, but a team with his friends.” Parsons also talks about his pitch, being involved in the official meeting and where he was when he learned Howard chose the Rockets.

Read and watch four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Andrews, Brown, Parsons, Beal, Zunino; Aaron Hernandez updates

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