FOUR BITS: Rivers commits, Florida wants canoe

1 » It is being widely reported Thursday that five-star 2011 guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) has officially committed to the Duke Blue Devils. Considered the top players in his class, Rivers was originally committed to the Florida Gators before opening up his recruitment and then completely spurning the Orange and Blue. His decision to play at Duke is not a surprise considering he has been raving about head coach Mike Krzyzewski for months and admitted that he is seeking the spotlight above all else.

2 » Though Florida and Miami (FL) may not play an annual football game anymore, the rivalry between the two schools continues to exist and, when they do face-off, it is as heated as ever. Intrepid University of Florida student senators Andrew Hart and Jon Ossip realized this and decided that because the Gators won the last game between the two schools (26-3 on Sept. 6, 2008), it is about time Florida is delivered the Seminole War Canoe Trophy. Though Florida symbolically holds the trophy now, it is physically in Miami’s possession and has been located at the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame since 1987 (the year of the final home-and-home series). You can read more about the senators’ mission to bring the trophy home in this story by The Alligator.

3 » Leave it to two columnists writing about Alabama and Florida the longest, The Birmingham News’ Paul Finebaum and The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley, to name the duo college football’s biggest rivalry. Finebaum believes this is the case because of the immense success of both programs and how dominant the Southeastern Conference. Dooley, on the other hand, contends that the Crimson Tide is the one team that can actually beat the Gators with any type of consistency, even though they only play twice every six years and in SEC Championship games. The fact is that both are right. While the rivalry may be stronger between Florida and Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee or even Miami, none of those games played today can match the importance and size of a game between these two behemoths.

4 » OGGOA columnist and former Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be part of a special lunch with the Tampa Gator Club on Friday beginning at 11:30 a.m. Wuerffel will be on-hand to discuss Florida’s football season, tell the story of his life and sign autographs from fans. For more information, visit http://www.tampagatorclub.com.

Photo Credit: Doug Benc/Getty Images

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Austin Rivers – finally – drops Florida from list

Just over five months after decommitting from the Florida Gators, the team which he promised to play for as a freshman in high school, five-star 2011 guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) has completely dropped them from his recruitment list.

At the time of his decommitment, Rivers called attending Florida “still a very possible option for me,” noting that he made the decision in order to open his eyes to other choices. When Rivers made it clear a day later that he wanted to go to a “program where it’s the big stage,” explaining that he committed to the Gators “right after they won two national championships when they were prime time,” it became obvious his eyes had wandered elsewhere.

Especially considering, just six months earlier, Rivers was not even wavering in his commitment, at least according to his father and Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. “[Florida is] where he wants to go. He’s going to Florida,” Doc said at the time. “There’s no doubt about that. He’s committed there. He’s a Florida kid.’’

From the get go, word was that Rivers had fallen in love with the Duke Blue Devils. This became apparent a month after his decommitment, when he raved about Duke’s ability to develop players, calling the Blue Devils “the lead school for me right now.”

In a conversation with Scout.com on Wednesday, Rivers officially ruled Florida out. “I have my three schools: It’s Kansas, North Carolina and Duke,” he said. “I’m planning to visit all three of them. Some of them I’ll go alone and some I’ll go with my family. […] Basically those are the three schools that I really like. I like their style of play, their success and that they win and they get guys to the next level.”

Photo Credit: ESPN Rise

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SIX BITS: Tebow’s ribs, Super Tuesday, DL, Moss

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow left training camp with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, apparently still feeling the effects of some of the hits he took in his first NFL game last week> “[Tebow] appeared to be holding his left side after going through some footwork drills early in the Broncos’ practice,” The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley reports. “Tebow did not participate in sprints at the end of practice Tuesday [either]. He had previously won every post-practice conditioning sprint among offensive players in training camp.”

The Denver Post is calling Tebow’s ribs “bruised” and notes that teammates like Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan appreciated the effort. “That’s what you like about him,” Haggan said. “There was no choice to be made – you go for pay dirt.” One of his offensive linemen agree. “They always talk about the ‘welcome to the NFL’ hit. You’ve got to get your pads firmed up when you start off in the NFL. I think he had an opportunity to do that,” right tackle Ryan Harris said. One more? “[Tebow] has a warrior’s mentality,” safety Brian Dawkins said. “Which is good, but at the same time, being able to decipher when and when not to. Hopefully he won’t have to learn the hard, hard way.”

2 » ESPN announced its men’s college basketball Super Tuesday schedule for 2011 on Wednesday; Florida is set to begin the slate and will appear three times in four weeks: Jan. 11 at Tennessee (9 p.m.), Jan. 25 at Georgia (7 p.m.) and Feb. 1 vs. Vanderbilt (9 p.m.). The Gators also appeared in three Super Tuesday games last season and are already scheduled for four ESPN appearances (Nov. 16 vs. Ohio State – 6 p.m.).

Four more BITS about the defensive line, Jarvis Moss, Austin Rivers and Jenn Brown…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow’s ribs, Super Tuesday, DL, Moss

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TWO BITS: Pouncey update, Rosario recruits

1 » Former Florida Gators center/guard Maurkice Pouncey is on the verge of signing his rookie contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers and has been making sure to keep in shape so he is fit and ready to participate in training camp beginning this weekend. However, allegations that Pouncey received $100,000 from a runner for an agent while at the University of Florida put him off schedule a bit recently, something his speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw noticed. “He’s disappointed that this stuff has come up and thrown a wrench in. That’s the reason why he missed [workouts],” Shaw told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last Wednesday. “He’s gotten to a point where he’s trying to make sure he still has his [good] name. He wants to be able to go back to the University of Florida and still be respected.” Nevertheless, Pouncey is ready to go; now he just has to sign his contract and put the rest behind him.

2 » Florida transfer guard Mike Rosario, who will be eligible to play for the team during the 2011-12 season after sitting out a year due to NCAA rules, spoke with SNY’s Adam Zagoria Wednesday about watching two of the nation’s top recruits – five-star Gators commit Brad Beal and five-star recruit Austin Rivers – play in the AAU U-17 Super Showdown on Tuesday. “I watched them go head-to-head,” he said. “It was a great matchup. Those guys [have] been playing well. I love Brad Beal’s game. He has a smooth game like Ray Allen. I love the fact that Austin Rivers can shoot the ball, put it on the floor. Both of those guys are capable of helping us win a conference championship. I hope they both come here so we can turn this program into a special program.” Rosario also noted that the biggest adjustment he has had to make since stepping on campus is dealing with the heat. “You walk out of the dorm room, it’s just a sauna,” he noted.

Extra BIT » The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Florida has offered a scholarship to 2012 guard/forward recruit Jarmal Reid. “That Florida offer really excited me,” Reid told the paper. “I like the whole atmosphere there. They have great fans and one of the best coaches around in Billy Donovan. I would love to be coached by him.”

Photo Credit: Rob Tringali

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TWO BITS: Tebow praised, Beal struggles

1 » As agent Jimmy Sexton attempts to get his client under contract before training camp officially begins on Aug. 1, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos is working to accomplish at least one feat: winning over his new teammates. Outsider linebacker Darrell Reid has already noticed Tebow’s work ethic and came away impressed with what the Heisman Trophy winner has to offer.

“I’ve actually sat down with Tebow. I call him Lucky Lefty,” Reid said. “I told him, ‘I know they say you’re not as talented, your arm’s not as tremendous as his, but your work ethic reminds me so much of when I was with Peyton [Manning] in Indianapolis.’ I told him, ‘I think you’re going to do big things for us, and I can’t wait to see you get on the field.’ [...] I think the thing people don’t know about him is he’s a very, very, very, very hard worker. He’s almost like a perfectionist. That’s what carries him further. Most people who end up being great, it’s because they want to be great and wind up working harder than everybody else. Whether it’s working on his throwing motion or in the weight room or running, he’s almost always the last guy out of the building. He’s a very humble kid, and he’s a proven winner who will do whatever it takes. That’s why we love him.”

2 » Competing in the championship of the AAU U-17 Super Showcase on Tuesday, Gators five-star shooting guard commitment Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and former Florida five-star guard commit Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) squared off. Unfortunately for Beal, who called it his “worst game ever” on Facebook, he finished with only 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting (1-for-5 from downtown). Rivers, on the other hand, shined with 24 points including a highlight package alley-oop dunk in the first half.

After the game, Rivers spoke with reporters and said that he does not have a favorite in his recruitment with UF, Duke and North Carolina occupying the top three spots in no particular order. “Right now I’m not leaning toward anybody and I like all schools the same,” Rivers said. “I haven’t taken any official visits yet so I don’t have any favorites over the others. But I’m really looking forward to making the visits.”

Photo Credit: Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Young going for gold, Pagan thinking, Gilbert leading, Bullard eliminated from WWE

1 » Competing with the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men, Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) already wow’ed his coaches and is now impressing his opponents, too. Below are his stat lines thus far:

- June 26 vs. Virgin Islands – 5/7 for 11 points, nine rebounds in 10 minutes
- June 27 vs. Mexico – 2/4 for four points, eight rebounds, two blocks in 20 minutes
- June 28 vs. Argentina – 4/5 for 11 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes
- June 29 vs. Canada – 1/2 for two points, one rebound, one block in 10 minutes

Young will join his team in the tournament gold medal game on Wednesday at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antoinio, TX, against Brazil. Also of note is former Gators five-star guard commit Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL), who set a FIBA record with nine consecutive three-pointers in the USA’s defeat of Canada. Rivers went 3/6 from the field and 9/12 from beyond the arc while posting a tournament-high 35 points.

2 » Almost immediately after committing to Florida, there were rumors that four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC) may change his mind. The Gators’ second-best 2011 recruit overall behind quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), Pagan committed back in April, telling Rivals that head coach Urban Meyer “stood up, did a little dance and gave me a hug” when he accepted the scholarship offer. “I decided that I definitely wanted to lock in my spot with the Gators and be part of this team,” he said in April. “I think I’m firm [with my decision]. I don’t plan on taking any more visits or seeing anywhere else. I’m sure people say it all the time, but this feels like home. Florida makes me feel like I am at home.” Now Pagan calls himself “about 50 percent on Florida, but the commitment is still there. It’s strong,” adding that he will “announce whether I’m going to Florida or look elsewhere before the season starts” on Aug. 27.

3 » Florida Today caught up with Florida redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and picked his brain about a few topics including what happened at the end of last season. “We had guys thinking they were better than they were and weren’t playing up to their potential,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got this saying, ‘No primos and no rock stars. Go out and do your job.’ Everybody is going to work the same amount, and there aren’t going to be any superstars on the team. I think everybody – especially after watching that SEC game in Atlanta – everybody has fire and desire to handle things in a different way because my feeling is, I didn’t think we were that ready. We had a good game plan in and we had the players to beat Alabama, but we weren’t ready to go out there and get the job done because I guess we had been there before. That’s what it seemed like to me. We weren’t as focused. That week of practice wasn’t as it usually had been. It was different.” As for this year? “It’s our time. It’s our team,” he said. “That’s what [the seniors] go by. So anything that goes on, they say this is your team; you have to make the decision; you have to be the leaders; you have to step up. It’s our responsibility. I think we have the guys still who can do the same thing — get back there — because we have a talented group coming back. I think we can be better.”

4 » Former Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s (ring name Titus O’Neil) mission to become World Wrestling Entertainment’s next breakout star ended on Tuesday as he was eliminated from the WWE NXT television program. O’Neil, whose background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers, did a Gator Chomp when at the top of the entrance rap and was quite powerful in the ring. However, as some might agree, he was one of the least dynamic personalities on the show and was scripted to both lose matches and make mistakes throughout his short time on WWE television.

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times

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Bradley Beal reaffirms his commitment to Florida

When five-star 2011 shooting guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL) decommitted from the Florida Gators in April, fans and skeptics began assuming the worst – that fellow five-star SG Bradley Beal (St. Louis, MO) would follow suit and leave the program. Instead, Rivers’ departure has maintained Beal’s commitment to Florida, perhaps even strengthening it.

“It’s still solid as I know of right now,” Beal told Rivals last week. “I still talk to coach [Billy] Donovan every week and talk to the rest of the staff pretty much every week so I’m still solid with them. I like their style of play really. I found a system that really fits me best. The offense is great and I like the defense because it’s full court and it’s always up and down.”

Rivers’ decommitment and naming of the Duke Blue Devils as his new leader was not surprising and most consider his chances of rejoining the Gators’ class as slim. However, his decision has also propelled Beal – a top five recruit in the nation in his own right – into the limelight as the prize of Florida’s 2011 recruiting session.

Beal is currently competing with the USA Basketball Men’s U-17 National Team and scored 29 points on nine-of-18 shooting while going five-for-nine from downtown and a perfect six-for-six from the line in a loss to Russia’s U-18 team on Sunday in Lithuania.

Photo Credit: Wiley Price/The St. Louis American

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TWO BITS: Ingram’s return, Rivers’ planned visits

1 » Last week, former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram opened up to the Philadelphia Enquirer about his recovery from a second ACL surgery and ambition about returning to the practice field for the Philadelphia Eagles. Thursday, he spoke with the Associated Press about the same subject. “Any time you get hurt, suffer a major injury, it’s going to be tough,” Ingram said. “When it’s the same injury, the same part of your body, it’s tougher. [It was] terrible, just terrible. But what could I do, except rehab, and work hard to get back.” Ingram now says he is 100 percent healthy and is practicing at full speed. “It feels great,” he said. “Mentally, you have to get that confidence back; you have to learn to trust your knee. It’s scary, because it’s always in the back of your mind, especially when it’s happened twice. But right now I have the confidence. I’m ready to go. I couldn’t wait to get back on the field here. Now, I can’t wait to get to training camp.”

2 » In his latest Dime Magazine hoop diary, five-star 2011 guard recruit and former Gators commitment Austin Rivers once again discusses his recruitment. “I still keep in touch with Coach K at Duke and Coach [Billy] Donovan at Florida,” Rivers said in the middle of the piece. “I only get five official visits so I want to definitely go back to Duke. I’ve got to go to UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida, too.” Previously, Rivers had not mentioned taking an official visit to Florida, seemingly because he knew the program so well. Apparently that has changed.

Extra Bit » Former Gators and NFL star Ike Hilliard has been named the wide receivers coach of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers according to a press release from the league. He was a volunteer assistant coach on the team last season and was recently hired to a full-time position by new Tuskers head coach Jay Gruden.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wilcox/The Gainesville Sun

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