FOUR BITS: Spurrier and Wuerffel, Elam, Francis

1 » Former Florida Gators head coach Steve Spurrier spoke with Yahoo! Sports’ The Postgame recently about former quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who he called “special” and a “perfect team player.” Spurrier discusses his recruitment of Wuerffel, the player’s success at Florida and the 1996 season. Check out the entire feature by clicking here.

2 » A pair of former Gators now playing in the NFL will be playing against their favorite team growing up this weekend when Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam and wide receiver Deonte Thompson head south to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 p.m. “Playing in front of my family will be exciting,” Elam told The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “I can’t wait. It should be a lot of fun.” Elam and Thompson will also get the opportunity to visit with a number of Florida teammates as the Dolphins have four Gators on their roster including center Mike Pouncey, kicker Caleb Sturgis, linebacker Jelani Jenkins and running back Mike Gillislee.

3 » Florida has basketball commitments all the way out until 2016 at this time, but the best of the bunch thus far is four-star 2014 guard Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL), a native of the Dominican Republic and one of the top 25 players in the nation, according to Rivals. Below is a recent video of Francis at the 2014 Adidas Invitational.

4 » UF freshman gymnast Silvia Colussi-Pelaez competed as part of the Spanish National Team as an all-arounder at the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium this week. She did not come away with a medal but perhaps something that was even more of an honor. “I did a sideways aerial on the beam and I did the skill well so technically it is named after me, so that is exciting,” she said, according to the school’s website. “I was pretty focused on hitting that skill well.” Gators gymnastics does not begin competing as a team until Jan. 11, when it will look to defend its first NCAA national title in school history.

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Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: 7/28 – 8/4

The 2013 NFL regular season is exactly one month away from kicking off on Thursday, Sept. 5.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the second full week of training camp from July 28 to Aug. 4.

The Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys squared off during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game, the first preseason game, in Canton, OH, on Sunday night.

RB MIKE GILLISLEE*, Miami Dolphins: Seven carries for 21 yards (long: 9)
LB JELANI JENKINS*, Miami Dolphins: Two tackles
C MIKE POUNCEY, Miami Dolphins: Started Hall of Fame Game
K CALEB STURGIS*, Miami Dolphins: Did not play – groin

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: Though cameras caught Tebow hauling in passes and protecting the ball in a drill last week, he will be nothing but a quarterback for the Patriots, according to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s just practicing his open-field running,” McDaniels said. “We know Tim has a skill set that some of these other guys don’t possess in terms of ability to run with it, scramble with it when he has it in his hands. … He’s put in a lot of time and effort to improve his individual skill set to play the position of quarterback in our offense, and I think every day is a learning tool for him.” Tebow has also received a nod from starter Tom Brady. “We have good conversations,” Brady said, according to the Associated Press. “He loves playing football and that’s usually the type of guys who do well here.”

Read updates on seven other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: 7/28 – 8/4

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Haden, Halapio, Hines

1 » Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he will have surgery on his torn hip labrum and be out of action for the foreseeable future. Harvin, who got injured in the offseason and will go under the knife on Thursday, inked a six-year, $67 million contract with the Seahawks, which traded multiple picks including a first rounder to the Minnesota Vikings for his rights. “When everything is goin good sometimes life throw u a curve ball…sorry to [have] to report that my injury will require surgery…” he tweeted. “Nobody was more anxious and excited about [the] season [than I]…but I will be back strong as ever..i appreciate all the love and prayers.”

Team doctors initially believed that Harvin would be able to rehabilitate the injury without surgery, but a second opinion on Tuesday led him to decide that surgery was the best option. He is expected to miss 3-4 months of action and has an outside chance at returning for the final four weeks of the regular season. Seattle’s options include putting Harvin on the physical unable to perform list or placing him on the injured list and marking him as “designated to return.”

If Harvin goes on the PUP list to start the regular season, he would automatically miss the first six games. The recently revised rule would require him to be activated by the start of Week 15, or Harvin would automatically be ineligible for the remainder of the season. Placing him on the IR with the aforementioned designation would allow Harvin to return to practice in Week 7 or start playing in Week 9 but not penalize the team if he remained out of action longer. It may give the Seahawks greater roster flexibility, but the designation can only be used for one player per year, so Seattle may choose to hold onto the option for someone else at a later date.

2 » Entering his fourth NFL season, the time is now for Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden to truly break out and become a superstar in the league. According to 850 WKNR ESPN Radio in Cleveland, OH, he may be on the cusp of doing just that.

So far in camp, he has consistently dominated one-on-one drills against wide receivers, which is almost impossible to do, deflected about a dozen passes, has an interception, and has made five or six “superstar” type plays.

Haden is blossoming right in front of our eyes and it is exciting to see.

Haden only played 11 games last season, missing four (and losing $1.856 million) due to a suspension he received after testing positive for Adderall. Married in the offseason, Haden believes he is now more mature and sees 2013 as a fresh start. “[The suspension] was a humbling thing. It was one of the lowest points,” he said. “Last year was last year. What happened is in the past. […] I feel like I honestly owe the team, I owe myself, I owe the fans, I owe the Browns just everything I’ve got this year to keep going and just be elite and hold things down.”

3 » Florida Gators redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio is drawing rave reviews as a 2014 NFL Draft prospect, which is not surprising because sources close to the league that OnlyGators.com spoke to revealed that Halapio would have been a second-day pick had he come out last season. NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who was watching Florida-LSU film from 2012, tweeted early Tuesday morning that Halapio “has crazy upper strength.” He continued. “I counted 13 knockdowns against LSU and several were pure flat-backs. Nasty dude.” Later Tuesday, Jeremiah named Halapio among his top five most physical players in college football.

Halapio is a nasty football player, and I mean that as a sincere complement. He has outstanding upper and lower strength and he is a violent finisher. In the run game, he locks on with his powerful hands and uses his leg-drive to wash defenders down the line of scrimmage before depositing them on the ground. In the pass game, he loves to utilize the snatch move. He sets wide, grabs the defender’s chest and pulls them face first into the ground. He has the ideal temperament for an interior offensive lineman.

4 » Wide receiver Omarius Hines, an undrafted free agent signed by the Baltimore Ravens after the draft but cut from the team last Monday, has been signed by the Green Bay Packers, which have a penchant for getting great production out of undervalued pass catchers. The Packers are lacking depth at receiver, and he is expected to have a great opportunity to prove his worth throughout the preseason.

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Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

The 2013 NFL season is just one week away from beginning with preseason action kicking off on Sunday, Aug. 4.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the first full week of training camp from July 21-27.

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: His first full practice with his new team generated its fair share of excitement with some fans in attendance occasionally chanting his name. Though he is listed as the third-string quarterback – and therefore worked behind center in 11-on-11 drills during practice – Tebow also participated in drills where he caught the ball and attempted to break a tackle. In other words, New England may have more planned for him than head coach Bill Belichick wanted to admit initially. “I just do what I’m told and work as hard as I possibly can to do the best job I can with whatever I’m asked to do,” he said.

Comcast SportsNet‘s Patriots beat writer Tom E. Curran described Tebow’s practice as, in one word, “horrendous.”

After practice, Tebow was swarmed by the media and questioned about former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez. “It’s just heartbreaking and sad, and all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved,” he said. “I understand why you [the media] have to ask all the questions; that’s part of doing your job. Part of mine is listening to instruction, and we’ve been told not to talk about it.”

Tebow was happy to defend former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, however. “I feel like Coach Meyer is a great man, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of being around,” he said. “He is someone that not only tries to win football games, he’s someone that tries to invest in young men’s lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so close to him and why I’m proud of him.”

Read updates on more than a dozen other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

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Matt Elam agrees to rookie contract with Ravens

Updated on Saturday, July 20 at 3 p.m.

Former Florida Gators safety Matt Elam has agreed to a four-year, $6.767 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens and will sign his deal when he reports to the team for training camp.

The rookie’s agreement was officially announced by the team on Thursday. Elam did not hire an agent and instead relied on his brother, NFL veteran and current free agent Abram Elam, to help him throughout the process.

The rookie wage scale is set annually under terms of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union, meaning there was not much for Elam (with his brother at his side) to negotiate.

Elam, arguably Florida’s best playmaker in 2012 and one of the top safeties available, was chosen by the Ravens with the No. 32 overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was the second overall Gators player selected during the event and became the first picked by the Ravens since Travis Taylor (No. 10 – 2010).

Joining wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive backs coach Teryl Austin, who was the Gators’ defensive coordinator in 2010, Elam is the third representative out of Florida to be added the Baltimore franchise in the last two offseasons.

Elam’s four-year rookie deal includes $5.4 million guaranteed – his $3.301 million signing bonus and first three base salaries of $405,000 in 2013, $712,591 in 2014 and $1.02 million in 2015. Elam will earn $1.13 million in base salary in 2016.

The Ravens also possess a fifth-year team option for 2017, though Baltimore would likely lock up Elam with a more lucrative contract before that fifth season if he plays at the level the team expects.

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FOUR BITS: Walk, Elam, Driskel, Kitchens

1 » Former Florida Gators center Neal Walk, the highest-drafted basketball player in school history (No. 2 overall in the 1969 NBA Draft), is featured in last week’s Sports Illustrated “Where Are They Now?” issue. In the piece, Walk discusses how vegetarianism and drug use affected his performance on the court and eventually caused him to get traded away from the Phoenix Suns. He eventually played in Italy but was arrested for drug possession and soon ended his career. Walk, who renamed himself Joshua Hawk in the 1980s following a spiritual journey, has been confined to a wheelchair for the last 26 years after being diagnosed with atrophy. He had the opportunity to return to the Suns shortly after retiring and remained with the franchise up until recently being let go in Oct. 2012. Be sure to pick up the latest copy of SI for a detailed and immensely interesting look at Walk’s life and career.

2 » After going through the 2013 NFL Draft process without an agent, Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam has decided not maintain his stance not to hire one and will instead negotiate his own rookie contract, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. The No. 32 overall pick in April, Elam is being advised by his brother, seven-year veteran NFL safety Abram Elam, who is currently a free agent. Matt Elam’s rookie contract will be a four-year deal worth $6.8 million with a $3.3 million signing bonus, terms that are already worked out under the slotting system that was agreed upon during the last collective bargaining agreement between league owners and the NFL Players Association. He plans to get the deal done before the start of training camp. Other Gators rookies unsigned as of press time are Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans.

Read two more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Walk, Elam, Driskel, Kitchens

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FOUR BITS: Ball, Frazier, Donovan, Elam

1 » Florida Gators redshirt senior linebacker Neiron Ball recovered from the arteriovenous malformation (AVM) that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, registering 10 tackles (0.5 for loss), two fumble recoveries and an interception last year. In this special feature produced by GatorVision, Ball, his family, doctors, trainers and coaches discuss his recovery and resurgence.

2 » Gators guard Michael Frazier began working with USA Basketball on Friday as one of 25 players trying out for 12 spots on the Men’s U19 National Team that will compete in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship from June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic. Along with head coach Billy Donovan, who is serving in the same role for Team USA, Frazier is in Colorado Springs, CO, competing during a five-day training camp; the final roster will be decided on June 19. “Very excited to have the opportunity to get invited and have the opportunity to go play against very talented players and just have the opportunity to be able to represent my country,” Frazier told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “It’s just really fun when I learned the news.”

3 » Donovan coaching USA Basketball does not just benefit his country but also Florida. While in Colorado Springs and Prague, Donovan will be coaching a pair of uncommitted five-star rising seniors, center Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, IL) and forward Justise Winslow (Houston, TX). Ranked No. 1 and No. 10 overall, respectively, in the Rivals150 for 2014, Okafor and Winslow will get to see first-hand what it is like to be coached by Donovan, a huge benefit in regards to the Gators’ recruitment of the two players. Though Florida is not in Okafor’s current list of eight, it is in Winslow’s top 10. Donovan had a similar opportunity last year when he coached the under-18 team and five-star power forward Julius Randle (McKinney, TX), but Randle eventually committed to Kentucky approximately eight months later on March 20.

4 » Rookie safety Matt Elam is earning high praise from his coaches and teammates with the Baltimore Ravens. “Matt Elam is what we expected and maybe a little more,” said secondary coach (and former Florida defensive coordinator) Teryl Austin. “[He’s] going through the usual changes that a rookie goes through, but he’s smart. He’s tough, he’s fast he gets football, and I think he is going to be a fine player for us soon.” During minicamp this week, Elam intercepted quarterback Joe Flacco and began celebrating, only to have his teammates yell at him for not returning the ball. He explained the situation to the team’s website: “I was so excited that I got the pick that I forgot about the rules. Everybody told me to get up and run so I decided to get up and run. That was a great feeling to pick Joe off, the Super Bowl champion.”

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SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

1 » Former Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino earned his first career MLB start on Wednesday for the Seattle Mariners, opening the game behind the plate and batting sixth. Zunino went 1/4 with a strikeout in the game, registering his first big-league hit during his second at-bat. Had Nick Franklin not held up at third base, Zunino also would have registered his first career RBI.

2 » Billy Horschel is the only former Gators golfer competing in the 2013 U.S. Open this weekend and plans to make a statement with his attire. Should Horschel make it to Sunday, which is likely considering he is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings at this time, he will don a dark pair of pants featuring octopi. Really. See here.

3 » Though no further information was provided, U.S. Women’s National Team star striker Abby Wambach on Wednesday tweeted out this picture of her hanging out with New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. “Hey @BrandonSpikes55 nice chillin’ with you. Gators nation forever. No doubt! #newpatsfan,” she wrote on Twitter.

Check out three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

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