SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

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Keep an eye out for Tim Tebow on your TV

Unless something unexpectedly changes over the next few weeks, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will not play a down of football in the 2013 NFL regular season after failing to earn a roster spot with the New England Patriots in August.

Though there have been a rash of quarterback injuries this season and a number of less successful and talented signal callers were signed by franchises across the league, Tebow’s phone did not ring with another opportunity. Teams are either not interested in Tebow’s talent, still balking at the so-called “circus” that follows him…or both. And he has shown no willingness to attempt and extend his career by taking a shot at playing across the border in the CFL or even at home in the AFL.

Instead, he has spent the entire year out west working on his game with personal instructors while exploring another career path – broadcaster. Tebow has even gone so far as to hire Creative Arts Agency broadcast agent Nick Khan to represent him in what are believed to be serious negotiations with a number of networks.

It should come as no surprise then that ESPN, which is launching the SEC Network in August 2014 and looking for a headline-grabbing talent, and CBS, which owns the rights to the Southeastern Conference game of the week, are two of three major networks already vying for Tebow’s on-air services.

According to Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com, FOX Sports is also in the running though certainly a distant third both in terms of current plans and potential opportunities.

McIntyre reports that ESPN plans for Tebow to have a featured role on the SEC Network in what could be considered the “Kirk Herbstreit chair” on the new channel’s version of College GameDay. The program would be hosted by Rece Davis (taking Chris Fowler’s spot) and also feature Paul Finebaum (for Lee Corso) and another former SEC player (who would take on a hybrid Desmond Howard-David Pollack position).

Update: The SEC Network announced Friday that Joe Tessitore will host the show, which has been titled SEC Nation.

Continue Reading » Keep an eye out for Tim Tebow on your TV

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wambach, Beal, Johnson

1 » A rash of quarterback injuries has shaken the NFL over the first half of the season, and there are also a number of floundering teams in serious need of a boost, but former Florida Gators signal caller Tim Tebow nevertheless remains a free agent. Sunday night, NFL.com‘s Mike Silver reported that the St. Louis Rams had “at least internally discussed the possibility of signing” Tebow though nothing was imminent and it was unlikely to happen. This report came after starting QB Sam Bradford was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury (he will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL). CBSSports.com‘s Jason LaCanfora later tweeted that the Rams have “no desire” to bring in Tebow and that head coach Jeff Fisher “would not consider it.” Instead, St. Louis will go with Kellen Clemens, a career 51.8 percent passer with seven passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions over eight seasons (including 12 starts). The biggest news story involving Tebow over the last few weeks included some shirtless pictures taken while he was on vacation with his family in Hawaii.

As Tebow hopes to have a future in football, it may be another sport entirely where he can make the greatest impact. According to TheMMQB.com, USA Rugby is extremely interested in having Tebow join the program and compete on behalf of the United States in the Olympics (assuming he picks up the sport well). Writer Jenny Vrentas crunches some numbers, with some help from a company named Atlantic Standard, and notes that Tebow’s athleticism is simply off the charts, which makes him a player the rugby community would covet.

Check out three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wambach, Beal, Johnson

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wuerffel, Winslow, Culpepper

1 » Offers are coming in fast and furious for quarterback Tim Tebow – just not from NFL teams. Last week an AFL team, the L.A. KISS, offered Tebow a three-year contract that could be “worth millions” Yes, the KISS are owned by the band of the same name. No, Tebow will not be playing there. Also an unlikely destination for Tebow is Russia, though he did receive an offer of $1 million to play two games with the Moscow Black Storm. “We have offered him $1 million for two games,” team owner Mikhail Zaitsman told Russia Beyond the Headlines. “I talked with him personally and he wanted to go.” Well, yes and no. “[Tebow’s agents are] thinking of using him as a motivational speaker. They don’t want him to play football,” Zaitsman admitted.

What Tebow has actually been doing as of late is working out in Southern California. He first spotted outside a USC gym on Sept. 10 and was then captured on film throwing on a baseball field just days later. Videos at the bottom of this post. A friend of OnlyGators.com spotted Tebow at a Los Angeles, CA, restaurant Wednesday evening. Tebow has not spoken with the media since being released.

2 » The Florida Gators officially announced Thursday that former quarterback Danny Wuerffel will serve as the honorary Mr. Two Bits ahead of Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers. Wuerffel, who OnlyGators.com first reported will be honored at the game for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, is the second former player to serve in this role after running back Errict Rhett did fantastic job prior to the season opener against Toledo. Check out OnlyGators.com’s interview with Wuerffel from Aug. 29 and conversation with Rhett following his performance.

UF writer Scott Carter spoke with the real and original Mr. Two Bits, George Edmonson, who said he approves of the new tradition. “That’s great,” he said. “I was pleased to hear about it. They wanted to check with me before they did it and I told them I think that’s a great idea. I feel honored that some of these celebrities would portray me out there on the field before the game.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wuerffel, Winslow, Culpepper

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15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps missed the entire offseason while running track but officially joined the team on Monday in hopes of earning a roster spot and playing football in 2013. The Buccaneers have a roster exemption or Demps, who will have one full week to prove his worth and take one of the 53 available spots or else be released by Tampa Bay. Though the Bucs will certainly see what Demps can do for them, head coach Greg Schiano was perturbed a few weeks ago when asked where Demps was in the world and why he had not reported at the time.

» Former Florida Gators forward Cody Larson, who lost his scholarship and then quit the basketball team before the 2012-13 season but remained at Florida for academics, transferred to play for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in May and had a waiver to play immediately accepted by the NCAA this month. “We want to thank the committee and the NCAA for taking the time to look at Cody’s waiver,” head coach Scott Nagy said in a school release. “We appreciate the fact that this ruling allows him the opportunity to be eligible to compete immediately.” Larson will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but has not played college basketball in two full seasons.

» One of the greatest tennis players in school history, Jill Craybas has decided to retire at age 39 after spending the last 18 years playing professional tennis. One of two Florida women to win the NCAA Singles Championship, Craybas captured the title in 1996 while leading the Gators women’s program to the team NCAA Championship that same season. Inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2008, Craybas never won a Grand Slam title but advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2005 after shocking Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the Round of 16 that year. She also represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long. But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life,” she told Tennis Panorama about her retirement decision. “I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”

Check out 12 more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

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FOUR BITS: Harris, Brown, Tebow, Bostic, Noah

1 » Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp told the media on Monday that four-star safety Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL) and JUCO transfer offensive tackle Trenton Brown (Milledgeville, GA) have both enrolled in Summer A classes and therefore officially joined the football program. Both players were originally planning to enroll early in January but were not able to amass the necessary credits in time. Harris, the No. 67 overall 2013 prospect according to Rivals and the son of former Florida S Mike Harris (1994-97), will compete for playing time right away as the Gators look to replace two starters in the defensive backfield. Brown will have some work to do to prove he is deserving of immediate playing time but is expected to play as a reserve this season.

2 » If he wants to, quarterback Tim Tebow will be able to play football in 2013. Whether that is in the NFL is another topic altogether. Tebow, who has already received offers from the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes (to compete for a back-up job) and the AFL’s Orlando Predators (to compete for a starting job), has also been reached out to by the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul. Team co-owner Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback who now works primarily as an NFL analyst for ESPN, told the Philadelphia Daily News that he has offered Tebow a roster spot. “I still haven’t heard back from him and I’m not going to push it,” he said. “If he decides he wants to play Arena Football, we’ll make a spot for him.” Jaworski added that the role would not be as a starting quarterback; rather, he and the Soul’s coach sent Tebow a list of plays he would run for the team should he accept the contract offer.

Check out two more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Harris, Brown, Tebow, Bostic, Noah

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Chris Leak returns to Gators in quality control role

It was announced on Monday that former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak will be returning to his alma mater as a quality control assistant with the football program.

Leak, the Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship and the school’s career leader in pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and passing yardage (11,213), has spent the last five seasons playing in the CFL and AFL. He won two Grey Cup rings as a back-up quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes.

Leak has also been a member of the media for the last two years, serving as a co-host on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation and a college football analyst for CBS Sports.

As a quality control assistant, an entry-level coaching job, Leak will be tasked with scouting and breaking down film for game-planning purposes. He will likely work with the defense, solely assisting the coaching staff by helping evaluating offenses and not working directly with the players.

NCAA rules outline that a college football coaching staff may only have nine full-time assistant coaches and two graduate assistants. Quality control assistants and interns cannot participate in coaching activities.

Leak told OGGOA eight months ago that he made some return trips to Gainesville, FL to meet with head coach Will Muschamp, the coaching staff and the new players.

“I love being at Florida,” he said. “I loved being a Gator.”

Leak’s addition to the program was first confirmed by the Palm Beach Post but subsequently noted by multiple media outlets.

OGGOA INTERVIEWS CHRIS LEAK: Part I | Part II

Photo Credits: Associated Press, Bing Images

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Smith, Donovan, Kinney

1 » Should quarterback Tim Tebow not find a new home in the NFL if or when the New York Jets finally decide to set him free, one AFL owner has made it abundantly clear that he will always have an opportunity to compete in the arena league. “Tim would certainly want to first exhaust his opportunities in the NFL, but we’d love to have him,” Orlando Predators owner Brett Bouchy told the Orlando Sentinel over the weekend. “I think he would definitely improve as a quarterback in our league. Kurt Warner told me once that when he got back to the NFL after playing in the [AFL], the NFL game was like slow motion. Everything in the [AFL] is just so much faster and quicker and predicated on accuracy. Whenever Tim is willing, we have a contract waiting for him to sign.” It would certainly be an interesting move considering QB Chris Leak is already on the Predators’ roster and “accuracy” is actually Tebow’s biggest red flag.

Yet the question remains…when are the Jets actually going to cut Tebow? The team’s owner and general manager – both of whom are in Phoenix, AZ for the NFL Owners Meeting – said on Sunday that he remains on the team and will be part of the competition at quarterback if he is still on the roster when training camp begins. Considering it is their decision whether or not he remains on the roster, the situation should be clearer than New York has made it. What is likely happening is that the duo is going to make a last-ditch effort to rid themselves of Tebow and get some form of compensation for him by making a trade at the owners meeting for a late-round pick.

2 » To say that former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith is slightly perturbed by the NFL’s newly proposed rule that would penalize rushers for lowering their heads when initiating contact would be an understatement. “If I’m a running back and I’m running into a linebacker, you’re telling me I have to keep my head up so he can take my chin off?” Smith rhetorically asked on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, TX late last week. The rule, which was proposed by the NFL’s Competition Committee but has not yet been passed, will be voted on this week at the owners meeting. Smith thinks the game would change drastically if it is adopted. “As a running back, it’s almost impossible [not to lower your head],” he continued. “The first thing you do is get behind your shoulder pads. That means you’re leaning forward and the first part of contact that’s going to take place is your head, regardless. I disagree with the rule altogether. It doesn’t make any sense for that position. It sounds like it’s been made up by people who have never played the game of football.” The league’s all-time leading rusher probably knows a thing or two about this subject.

3 » Yahoo! Sports’s Eric Adelson penned a fantastic piece about Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan “coming of age.” In the feature, which was published on Thursday, Adelson looks at Donovan coming up in the coaching ranks, his immense success at such a relatively young age, the about-face he did with the Orlando Magic and why chances are he will remain a college coach for the foreseeable future, almost certainly sticking at Florida for the vast majority of what should be a long and storied career (if not until the day he retires).

4 » Former Gators and Tennessee Titans tight end Erron Kinney, who spent six years playing in the NFL before hanging up his cleats, was named the new Fire Chief for Mt. Juliet, TN last Monday. Kinney, who has been working as a firefighter since retiring from football, has served as a Captain at two fire departments and recently completed a seven-year term with the Tennessee State Firefighting Commission (he was appointed by the state’s governor). Now he will be fire chief of an entire town, a role that Mt. Juliet public safety director Andy Garrett believes is well-deserved. “I know that Erron Kinney’s exceptional qualifications and experience make him the best fit for our city,” he said in a statement. “Chief Kinney brings with him well over 20 years of exemplary service in all aspects of fire department management, coupled with his deep roots within the Middle Tennessee community.” Kinney, who was born in Virginia but has spent much of his life in Tennessee, is excited about the opportunity to build a fire department from the ground up. “It is very humbling, an honor, and a privilege to be appointed as Mt. Juliet’s Fire Chief,” he said. “I am excited about working in one of Middle Tennessee’s best cities. I am extremely excited about the opportunities that are ahead for the city’s new fire department.”

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