FOUR BITS: NCAA, volleyball, Mularkey, Dillman

1 » The NCAA on Tuesday chose to recognize some of the top players and teams that have participated in NCAA Tournaments, as well as many of the top moments to occur in those events, over the last 75 years. The organization picked the 2006-07 incarnation of the Florida Gators as one of the top-25 teams and also recognized center Joakim Noah as one of the top-75 players ever to participate in the tournament. Noah was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 tourney after he registered a then-record 29 blocked shots in the event and averaged 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. Both Noah and the 2006-07 UF team are finalists in their respective categories, which will be voted on before awards are presented at the 2013 NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, GA.

2 » Florida junior middle back Chloe Mann, who put together an impressive 2012 campaign for a Gators volleyball program that exceeded its preseason expectations, was named a First Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on Wednesday. Mann was honored along with outside hitter Ziva Recek, who was named Freshman of the Year by the organization. Florida as a team lasted until the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament where it fell to three-seed Texas. The Gators concluded the season with a 27-5 record and their first SEC Championship since 2010.

3 » Former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey, now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was hospitalized on Monday on the advice of a team trainer after feeling ill at his team’s facility. He was released shortly after being admitted and was healthy enough to return to practice on Tuesday. Mularkey’s first year with Jacksonville has been anything but productive as the Jaguars are currently 2-11 and have lost nine of their last 10 games. This is his second NFL head coaching stint as he previously led the Buffalo Bills to a 14-18 combined record from 2004-05.

4 » As much as head coach Will Muschamp has been credited with turning around the Gators football program, strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman is in many ways equally deserving of praise. Dilliman recently sat down with his hometown paper, the Richmond County Daily Journal, and discussed both how he arrived at Florida and what he thinks of what the team has accomplished this season. Throughout the year, Dillman received plenty of credit for the team’s performance against LSU and how it stood up to the long season from a conditioning perspective. In the interview, he turned around and put the praise back on Muschamp for how the team was run this year. “At the end of the day, it’s the program,” he said. “It goes back to Coach Muschamp and the kids because they worked their butts off. We all have a job to do and Coach Muschamp lets me do my job. All the kids come in and believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Coach is big on keeping it real. My staff and I will be honest with a player, but we also want to keep a positive environment. I have a philosophy of actions trigger feelings and feelings trigger actions. Good things come out of being positive and negative things come out of being negative. I always try to be positive while training an athlete.”

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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, Tebowmania, Hillier

1 » Five Florida Gators baseball players were named to the 2012 NCBWA Pro-Line Athletic Preseason All-American Team on Wednesday. Juniors catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher/first baseman Brian Johnson earned first team recognition, while senior infielder/outfielder Preston Tucker and junior P Austin Maddox were named to the second team. Sophomore P Karsten Whitson, coming off of a stellar freshman season (8-1, 2.40 ERA), was given a third-team nod.

2 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players – right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel were named Wednesday to the 2011 AVCA All-American Team. Murphy, who according to UF “started every match and set of her career,” earned first-team recognition; her cohort Jaeckel was named to the second team. Murphy and Jaeckel led the Gators to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament this year.

3 » If you were thinking Tebowmania was going to slow down any time soon, then you were obviously kidding yourself. According to the Denver Post, Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, CO will be releasing a brand new beer inspired by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow called the Tebrew Sunday Sipper. The company explains that the beer will be made available to the masses once the signature 10 oz. glasses it ordered arrive. It is expected to sold locally only, so chances are that you’ll have to contact Bonfire directly if interested in sampling some of their brew.

In other Tebow-related news, Fathead on Tuesday released a “Tebowing” edition of their signature product, which quickly became the site’s No. 1 seller. The No. 2 Fathead sold Tuesday? The normal version of Tebow.

4 » Florida midfielder Janine Hillier, the lacrosse team’s fourth leading scorer one year ago, has decided to transfer to Stony Brook for her junior season. Hiller, a part of the Gators’ inaugural recruiting class, scored 34 goals along with six assists in 2011. She chose to transfer due to “personal reasons,” as cited by Inside Lacrosse, which notes that Stony Brook is “closer to Hillier’s hometown and her sister, Kim Hillier” is an assistant coach on the team.

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SIX BITS: Miller, bowl, Tebow, volleyball, soccer

1 » Even though his recent hernia surgery will keep him out for up to two months, Miami Heat forward Mike Miller said Tuesday that he is “pretty secure” in his future with the team. Miller, who has four years remaining on his contract with the Heat, is thinking about getting healthy much more than he is about possibly being waived. “I’ve been in this league now 12 years,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve been traded 675 times. First time I’ve been amnestied, but you get used to it. You do what you can. I’ve always done the same things. I prepare myself to play every year. Whether it’s where I’m at or it’s a different place, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. Put yourself in the best position to succeed when you’re there.”

2 » The gift package for the 2012 Gator Bowl was announced this week and the Florida Gators will each get five different items when they travel to Jacksonville, FL in the coming weeks. Every player will receive a Fossil watch, Gator Gear performance headwear, rolling luggage bag, Jostens ring and commemorative football. Many other packages feature electronics like video game systems, iPods and televisions or gift certificates so players can pick out whatever they want.

3 » A fake movie trailer showcasing Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s progression from college star to doubted professional to successful signal caller has been making the rounds recently. You can check it out below:

4 » Florida senior setter/right side Kelly Murphy was featured in a story by ESPNW.com’s Mick Elliott Wednesday about her going into a special zone while on the court no matter how stressful the situation. Since Murphy joined the Gators, the team is 107-17 and has won two SEC Championships while making it to the NCAA Tournament all four years. Murphy has one more chance to win the big one with Florida, something she’s striving to do as the team begins Sweet 16 action on Friday. “I came here because I wanted to win a national championship,” she said. “To finally do that, that would mean everything. That’s the one goal that I’ve always wanted.” Head coach Mary Wise also praised her ability both as a player and leader. “A unique talent,” Wise said. “She has a picture-perfect arm swing coming from a 6-foot-2 left-hander. She has great court vision and great arm speed. That by itself would be enough to make her a special talent. But then she has one of the best deliveries and touches on the ball…of any setter in the college game. She makes it look effortless.” No matter how the season ends, Murphy will always be remembered as one of the best volleyball players ever to wear the orange and blue.

5 » Murphy was one of two Gators – the other being senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel – to earn a spot on the 2011 AVCA Division I South Region Team, the organization announced Tuesday. Two of the best players ever to suit up for Florida, Murphy and Jaeckel are now automatically eligible to be named AVCA All-Americans due to their selections to the regional team.

6 » Three Gators soccer players were listed on the 2011 NSCAA All-South Region team on Thursday. Juniors midfielder Erika Tymrak and defender Kathryn Williamson were named to the first team, while junior MF Holly King earned second-team recognition. Tymrak and Williamson were also given All-SEC first team nods, while King was placed on the second team.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Jaeckel, cheer, Jenkins

1 » Florida Gators sophomore forward/center Patric Young, one of the most important pieces to the team’s 2011-12 season, was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list on Monday. The Wooden Award is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding college basketball player and is awarded after the postseason has concluded. Every player in the nation is eligible to win except freshmen, medical redshirts and transfers. Young is one of seven players representing the Southeastern Conference on the watch list and the only one from Florida.

2 » Gators senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel picked up a pair of prestigious weekly honors after standout performances over the weekend. Jaeckel was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and was honored with the AVCA National Player of the Week award just one day later. Over the course of two road games against Auburn and Georgia, Jaeckel totaled 29 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and two service aces. Florida swept both opponents 3-0 and is now 11-3 with a 4-1 record in SEC competition so far this season.

3 » UF cheerleader Tarin Moses wrote a Sideline Report blog for AmericanCheerleaders.com, which takes readers through a day in the life of a member of the Gators’ spirit squad before, during and after a big contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Though the majority of Florida fans already know of the traditions Moses writes about, the entry is an interesting look at the game from her perspective.

4 » Former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, playing his final collegiate season with the North Alabama Lions after transferring due to multiple rules violations, was named the Gulf Coast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday because he had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal during his team’s game on Saturday. It was Jenkins’s third touchdown of the season (punt return, fumble return), and he is also third on North Alabama with 33 tackles through five games. The Lions have started the 2011 season 5-0.

Extra BIT » Offensive tackle Max Starks has not played a game in the NFL this season after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers when the lockout ended this summer. Due to a massive amount of injuries and an intense need for a player who knows the system, Pittsburgh flew Starks in to work out for the team on Tuesday, NFL.com‘s Jason LaCanfora reports. Starks was originally cut by the Steelers due to weight issues and concerns stemming from offseason neck surgery. When asked last week if Starks was an option to return, head coach Mike Tomlin flat-out said no.

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TWO BITS: All-Americans for volleyball, baseball

1 » Florida Gators junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named a first-team All-American by the AVCA on Wednesday. Three of her teammates – middle back Lauren Bledsoe, outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and OH Callie Rivers – were given honorable mention recognition by the AVCA. Murphy was also the 2010 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. She, Bledsoe and Rivers earned 2010 All-SEC first-team honors, while Jaeckel was selected to the second team.

2 » Three Gators baseball players – sophomore third baseman/designated hitter Austin Maddox, junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis and junior first baseman Preston Tucker were named to the 2011 NCBWA and Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American Teams on Friday. Maddox earned second-team honors from the NCBWA and third-team honors from Louisville Slugger. Panteliodis and Tucker were awarded third-team honors by the NCBWA but were placed on the second and third team, respectively, by Louisville Slugger. Florida’s 2011 baseball season begins with a three-game home stand against South Florida from Feb. 18-20.

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FOUR BITS: volleyball at No. 1, soccer, swimming

1 » Continuing a string of dominating Southeastern Conference performance, the Florida Gators volleyball team took home a pair of 3-0 sweeps while on the road over the weekend against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday night (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday (25-14, 25-20, 25-16). Juniors outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and right-side/setter Kelly Murphy combined for 21 kills to led Florida (14-1, 7-0 SEC) on Friday over Alabama (8-8, 0-6 SEC), while Murphy was at it again with a team-high 13 kills Sunday as UF rolled over Mississippi State (10-8, 2-4 SEC). The Gators received exciting news on Monday as the American Volleyball Coaches Association moved them up to No. 1 in their rankings for the first time since 1996. UF is 8-1 against teams ranked in the top 25 this season.

2 » Contrary to volleyball’s performance, No. 6 Florida soccer (10-2-2, 4-1-1 SEC) had a rougher road trip weekend tying Alabama (8-2-2, 3-0-2 SEC) 1-1 in double overtime Friday before falling to the Auburn Tigers (9-5, 3-3 SEC) 1-0 on Sunday. Against the Crimson Tide, Gators midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis got her team on the board early with a goal from four yards out at 47’. Unfortunately on both Friday and Sunday, Florida allowed an opposing goal at 90’ which led to the respective tie and loss. The Gators remain the leaders in the SEC even after the tough weekend.

3 » Florida men’s (0-1) and women’s (1-0) swimming and diving competed against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium on Monday with the men falling short 153-145 while the women pulled off a close 150-148 victory in the first team event of the season. Freshman Elizabeth Beisel led the ladies by winning the 200-yard backstroke (1:58:.29) and 200-yard individual medley (2:00.89). Like usual senior captain Conor Dwyer was the best men’s performer winning the 200-yard IM and both 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle.

4 » As the Gators basketball team prepares for the 2010-11 season (media day is this week!), head coach Billy Donovan spoke about the expectations surrounding his squad, which is returning all five starters from a year ago. “What ends up happening sometimes in college basketball is that when you have all five starters returning from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament, the expectation is we’re going to be really, really good,” Donovan said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “But I also think we were one of those teams on Selection Sunday that had our fingers crossed. If we were left out, it would maybe be a different feel.”

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TWO BITS: RedHawks on Gators, volleyball excels

1 » When out-of-conference opponents speak about the Southeastern Conference or the Florida Gators specifically, speed is usually one of the factors that noticeably separate them from the pack. Miami (OH) RedHawks head coach Michael Haywood has noticed it on video, calling the Gators’ speed “unbelievable” and a major factor on Saturday. “Most people look at it as skill positions,” Haywood said, “but when you watch their defensive front and you watch their defensive ends come off the ball, I mean they are exploding off the ball, dipping and ripping and turning that corner, and that poses a problem for you. You get less people out in the passing game because you have to [block] with backs, you have to leave the tight end in to help out.”

Miami sophomore quarterback Zac Dysert adds that even watching Florida on film is scary. “We don’t really get a chance to practice [against that kind of speed] out here,” he said. “You’ve just got to be ready for everything they’re doing. If you know everything they’re doing, you know where they’re going to be. Speed’s going to be a factor and you’ll have to make quick decisions. You can’t be late on anything.”

2 » Featured on the front page of ESPNU.com the No. 6 Gators volleyball (2-0) are set for three matches (Albany, Bowling Green and Colorado State) in two days this weekend after defeating two top-10 opponents (No. 9 Iowa State, No. 2 Nebraska) last week. “We’re encouraged by how hard the team played in that atmosphere,” head coach Mary Wise told ESPNU, “but we know we have a long way to go. The words ‘a work in progress’ were stated before the weekend and that hasn’t changed after the weekend.” Florida’s two victories were led by junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy, the AVCA Player of the Week and SEC Offensive Player of the Week, who shined even though the Gators playing in front of a large group of people. “We’ve had some great wins, but we’ve never played in front of a crowd like that before,” Murphy said. “It definitely gives us a lot of convidence. It reassured us that everything we’d been doing over the summer and everything we’ve been doing so far in preseason has been working.”

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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TWO BITS: Holliday to Marshall, volleyball awards

1 » West Virginia Mountaineers associate head coach Doc Holliday will become the next head coach of the Marshall Thundering Herd, according to a report from The Reigster Herald. Holliday, who was an associate head coach, safeties coach and recruiting coordinator during his time with the Florida Gators from 2005-07, will be accepting his first head job after almost three decades as an assistant coach. Holliday’s contract is said to be a five-year deal worth $650,000 (plus incentives) annually.

2 » Volleyball’s sophomore right-side setter Kelly Murphy and senior libero Elyse Cusack have earned 2009 All-America honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Murphy, already a second-team All-SEC selection for 2009 and AVCA National Freshman of the Year in 2008, was named a second-team All-American while Cusack earned an All-American honorable mention for the third straight season. The Gators volleyball team finished the 2009 season 25-6, losing to the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2009 NCAA Tournament round of 16.

Extra Bit » Sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker was named to the 2010 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Pro-Line Athletic Preseason All-America Team on Wednesday. Tucker, who batted .364 with 15 home runs and 85 RBI as a freshman to capture the Gators’ Triple Crown, is the first player in University of Florida history to win the NCBWA Freshman Hitter of the Year Award. He was also co-SEC Freshman of the Year, a unanimous selection to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team, invited to the 2009 USA Baseball National Team trials and was selected as a Freshman All-American by Baseball America, Louisville Slugger, Rivals and the NCBWA. He also led the Florida baseball team with a .628 slugging percentage, 152 total bases, 27 multi-hit games and 23 multiple-RBI outings. His 85 RBI broke the single-season school record.

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