FOUR BITS: Morrison, Wilbekin, Bears, Donovan

1 » Florida Gators sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison was released from Alachua County Jail on his own recognizance Monday, nearly 36 hours after he was arrested and charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for simple battery. Morrison, accused of punching a bouncer outside Kava Bar and Hookah Lounge at 1007 W. University Ave. on Sunday morning, is being represented by attorney Huntley Johnson. “At this point, he would enter a plea of not guilty,” Johnson told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway after his client was released, “but we need to talk to witnesses [first].”

2 » Gators senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, indefinitely suspended by head coach Billy Donovan on June 10 for a violation of team rules, will not be rejoining the program any time soon. “Right now, he needs to prove that he wants to be part of the team and that this is what he wants to do,” Donovan told Brockway on Monday. “He has to take care of responsibilities. At this point, I don’t really want to address any more about his status until the season starts in October. Hopefully this is something he can learn from.” Wilbekin was suspended at the start of the 2012-13 season for a similar violation of team rules; he missed three games but eventually returned to his role as Florida’s starting point guard. Wilbekin is currently barred from the team practice facility as part of his indefinite suspension.

Donovan also commented to Brockway on the status of a waiver that will be submitted to the NCAA by Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter, who is looking to play immediately for UF in 2013-14, and the academic eligibility of five-star power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL). Both are works in progress.

3 » NFL.com on Monday took a look at the five most underrated players in Chicago Bears history and included a pair of former Gators – defensive end Alex Brown (2002-09) and running back Neal Anderson (1986-93) – on the list. “Brown was the type of quiet, high-motor player defensive coordinators covet,” writes Alex Gelhar. “He was second on the team with seven sacks during the 2006 [Super Bowl] season, when he also intercepted two passes, forced three fumbles and batted down four other passes. Talk about productivity.” On Anderson, Gelhar notes: “Anderson took the reins after [Walter] Payton retired in 1988 and never looked back. Anderson rushed for more than 1,000 yards and at least 10 touchdowns every year from 1988-1990, twice helping carry the Bears to the playoffs where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion.”

4 » ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan is currently in the middle of a 20-part series in which he is looking at the programs that have “produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds).” Checking in at No. 11 on his list is Florida, which of course owes much of its success in preparing players for the NBA to Donovan. “He’s been as successful as any coach in the country, and in the process has elevated the Gators from a laughingstock to a program with as many solid current NBA players as any in the country,” writes Brennan.

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the first week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

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FOUR BITS: Brown, Dunlap, Hernandez, Caldwell

1 » Out of the NFL last season, former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown decided to call it quits and will make it official on Thursday when he signs a one-day contract with the Chicago Bears and retires from the league. Brown, who will sign his final contract on the day of Chicago’s first preseason game, was the No. 104 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Bears and became a start defender for the team. He registered 411 tackles, 45.5 sacks, five interceptions, 43 pass defenses and 17 forced fumbles over his nine-year career, the first eight of which he spent in Chicago. “This is pretty special,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune of the Bears offering him a one-day contract to retire. “It shows a level of respect. I appreciate the club and I think they appreciate what I was able to do while I was here, representing the team and their brand as far as the Chicago Bears. I did it and I did it proudly. I tried to play football the right way. I hope people always felt I played my butt off and played the game the right way and kept my nose clean off the field.”

2 » Another former Gators defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, has been coming on strong in his third training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals. Dunlap is looking to have a breakout year in his third NFL season and is putting all he can into camp this time around. “As a pass rusher you want to be at the top. I haven’t done that yet,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Whoever is at the top is not always the same, but I want to be up there with the best of them and crack that 10 [sacks] number. I was coming off the bench before and now I’m going to be a starter. That should help me get in a rhythm during the game.” Dunlap is being tasked with remaining healthy and being an every-down player; he has been showing the coaching staff that he can be exactly what they need going forward. “So far he’s been very good and done everything right,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “Last year it took him about four days before he got started going down. Right now he’s still going in the right direction, so that’s a good sign.”

3 » The New England Patriots may have just re-signed tight end Rob Gronkowski to a huge contract but it is TE Aaron Hernandez whose role the team is desperately trying to expand. According to ESPNBoston.com, Hernandez has been “on fire” and “explosive” to start training camp. Not only is he hauling in plenty of passes, Hernandez has been used as a punt returner by the Patriots and is also staying late after practice to take hand-offs from quarterback Tom Brady. Hernandez is even receiving love from often frosty head coach Bill Belichick, who kissed him on the elbow (picture) last Friday. “I had a little bruise on my elbow and I was whining about it, and he was just showing me the love of a father figure and gave me a kiss on the elbow,” he told the Boston Globe. The love Hernandez truly wants to see is in the form of millions of dollars handed to him as a contract extension, though that may not be coming for quite some time.

4 » One former Florida offensive star may no longer be with the Denver Broncos but that is not stopping one of the team’s newest acquisitions, wide receiver Andre Caldwell, from shining. According to the Denver Post, Caldwell is getting along famously with new QB Peyton Manning thanks to his speed and sure hands; he may even be in line for a starting job. “There’s a place for me in this offense to make big plays to help this team win,” he said. “When Denver made that move at quarterback, this spot became a No. 1 priority.” Caldwell had some great moments but was never a consistent producer with Cincinnati, something that he hopes he can become in Denver now that a lingering injury is no longer a problem. “I mean, two years went by. I kept getting treatment. It kept not getting better and finally the pain got so bad I couldn’t even really sleep through the night,” he explained. “So I finally went to see a specialist, and he checks me out and said, ‘You’ve got a sports hernia, and it needs to be taken care of.’ Right then, I just felt that relief, like a huge weight was off. I know I can be one of those impact guys and now my body’s right. I’m with this team, with this quarterback. This is big.”

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Miller, Graham, Beal

1 » Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been added to the Gator Boosters, Inc. board of directors, according to the University of Florida. Tebow, on the board for a one-year stint, joins some notable Gators including Alex Brown, Lomas Brown, and his own father Bob Tebow on the 60-member board presided over President Bill Heavener and soon President-Elect Rex Farrior III. As explained on their website, Gator Boosters is dedicated to “educate our student-athletes” through scholarship funding and “constantly building, or improving our athletic facilities for Gator student-athltes to be given the opportunity to compete in the finest facilities.”

2 » Former Florida guard Mike Miller spoke with ESPN Radio‘s Ric Bucher immediately following his fantastic performance in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals on Thursday. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

3 » Former Gators running back Earnest Graham has spent his entire NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2004. But with just six weeks until training camp, Graham remains unsigned and told the News-Press that he is mentally prepared for retirement should a team not pick him up soon. “Right now, honestly, I’m going to focus on being a free agent, but I definitely understand that it is likely that I may have already played my last game,” he said. Unfortunately for Graham, he did not even get to complete the 2011 season as he tore his Achilles and only wound up seeing action in seven games. Though that is not the way he wants to go out, Graham said he has his health back and would be able to perform like he has been the last few years if given an opportunity. “I feel fine,” he said. “I’m running around well. If training camp started today, I’d be able to do it.” Graham has run for 2,047 yards and 15 touchdowns while also catching 129 passes for 904 yards and one additional score over his eight-year playing career. His standout season came in 2007 when he rushed for career-highs of 898 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 49 passes for 324 yards as the starting tailback for Tampa Bay.

4 » Gators freshman G Bradley Beal appeared on ROME on CBS Sports Network on Thursday to discuss the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft and his decision to leave Florida.

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TWO Video BITS: Brown on Saints, Noah on Fela

1 » Former Florida Gators, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Brown appeared on ESPN2’s Dan LeBatard is Highly Questionable on Tuesday to discuss playing for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who he said was “wrongfully suspended”) and bounties in the NFL (among numerous other topics like the worst thing he did as a child and his first kiss). “It’s football. It’s not golf now. That’s what we have to understand: That it is football and it was built around hits and that’s what we do.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, currently on the bench while nursing a serious ankle sprain while his team competes in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, was featured in a video by OkayAfrica on Tuesday. In the clip, Noah discusses Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti, how his music has impacted his life and how he shared a bond with President Barack Obama over Fela one year ago.

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Blue tops Orange 21-20 in 2012 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut – Postgame Report

More than 38,000 fans filed into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday to watch the Florida Gators conclude spring practice with a live scrimmage in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut. After combining to score just seven points in the first three quarters, Blue outscored Orange 21-13 in the final quarter to pull off a 21-20 victory.

“Really pleased with where we are at this point,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “I feel much better standing here today than I did a year ago as far as where we are as a football team, our physicality as a team, our togetherness as a team as this moves forward. We got the right kind of guys. We just got to get better. There’s things we need to improve on.”

QUARTERBACKS STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT

Florida fans wanted to see a big-time competition from sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel and that is exactly what they got on Saturday. Brissett (9/16 for 233 yards and two touchdowns) and Driskel (12/14 for 147 yards) each had their good and bad moments on the field including long passes and over/under-thrown balls. Brissett hit freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman with a great pass down the left sideline for 43 yards. He also connected on a bomb with junior Trey Burton that resulted in a touchdown and found redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone early in the game. Driskel completed a nice 44-yard pass to redshirt junior WR Andre Debose near the right sideline and also hit Burton on a deep pass that he brought inside the five. His accuracy and athleticism were both impressive as he was able to extend plays and make correct decisions.

“We saw that both those guys throw the ball extremely well. They’re both really good athletes and guys that can create some off-tempo plays for us as a football team,” Muschamp said. “It was very evident [how close they are]. You see both guys take command of our football team. Both guys made vertical plays down the field, good decisions where they took the ball. There’s no question you saw what I’ve been seeing for 14 practices previous [to Saturday]. I’ve said this before: We can win with both guys.”

Up next for the duo is managing the offense in the offseason. Muschamp wants to see how they rally the players for 11-on-11 drills and PRPs (player-run practices) without any influence from the coaching staff. “Those guys need to take the next step as far as that’s concerned,” he said.

As far as the players go, though both are working hard to earn the starting job, neither is taking the actual competition with their friend too seriously. “I love it. Coming out every day, competing against the No. 1 quarterback in the country a couple of years ago. It don’t get no better,” Brissett said. “I guess I’m slower so that’s what I’m lacking. Jeff is a great quarterback. He can make every throw that I can make, so it’s going to be tough to see what the real difference is. [...] I don’t got nothing wrong against him. I mean, I look better, but that’s just something he’s got to deal with.”

Driskel joked that he doesn’t play basketball with Brissett because his teammate is better in that area and said that the two are making sure the rivalry does not ruin their friendship even if he was not necessarily comfortable with his commitment in the first place. “I wasn’t excited about it at first but I realized they’re going to bring somebody in the next year. There’s always going to be competition. So I embraced that, and I think it’s made me better through the spring,” he said.

Check out the rest of the Orange & Blue Debut postgame report…after the break!
Continue Reading » Blue tops Orange 21-20 in 2012 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut – Postgame Report

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FOUR BITS: scrimmage, Sheppard, soccer

1 » Those who follow us on Twitter saw a retweet from CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman Monday morning noting that the Florida Gators basketball team held a “secret” scrimmage against the Central Florida Knights over the weekend. OGGOA inquired about the scrimmage and learned that Florida head coach Billy Donovan was pleased with his team’s effort following the game. The Gators’ starting five consisted of senior point guard Erving Walker, guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Brad Beal, junior forward Erik Murphy and sophomore center Patric Young.

Beal, as noted by Goodman, was the standout performer in the scrimmage, but redshirt junior transfer G Mike Rosario also played quite well. Florida earned a double-digit “victory” at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, a nice prelude to their exhibition game against Catholic University on Thursday.

2 » Eight full weeks into the 2011 NFL season, former Gators cornerback Lito Sheppard was finally signed by a team. The Oakland Raiders picked up Sheppard, who they cut just before the season after signing him as a free agent, on Monday and hope to have him ready to play as soon as this upcoming weekend. Sheppard was one of three notable ex-Florida veterans available on the free agent market. Defensive ends Alex Brown and Bobby McCray remain unsigned.

3 » Every year, the Gators women’s soccer team holds a special practice on Halloween with all of the players going through the motions in full costume. The annual tradition gives the team a boost each year before they begin playing in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Florida had an opportunity this past weekend to earn a share of the 2011 SEC regular season title but failed to do so dropping a 2-1 decision to the SEC champion South Carolina Gamecocks. SEC Tournament action begins Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. when UF faces Georgia in Orange Beach, AL.

4 » The Gators soccer team received good news Monday when the SEC announced its women’s soccer awards. Junior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and redshirt junior defender Kathryn Williamson were named to the All-SEC first team, while senior D Jazmyne Avant and junior MF Holly King garnered second-team honors. Florida also had two picked as All-Freshman – MFs Havana Solaun and Annie Speese.

Extra BIT » Below is the Thriller video put together by a number of UF student-athletes for Gator Growl in 2009. Happy Halloween!

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Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Alex Brown (football), Abby Wambach (soccer) and Udonis Haslem (men’s basketball) – will be inducted as the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2012 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Wednesday that the honors will be bestowed upon them at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 6, 2012 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2012 class includes Gator Greats Hazel Clark Riley (women’s track & field), Kristen Guise Lee (gymnastics), Jeff Morrison (men’s tennis) and Stephanie Nickitas (women’s tennis) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Travis (football).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the break.
Continue Reading » Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

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