FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week after spending time in both the Arena Football League and Fall Experimental Football League last season. Okine, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last May, did not make the team’s regular-season roster. He picked up 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.

2 » Florida head coach Jim McElwain made a statement with his 2015 recruiting class, proving that the Gators were not only able to close strong but also add some out-of-state commitments to the fold. Overall, UF locked up five players from the state of Georgia – including rising athlete Chris Williamson – last cycle after not grabbing a single Peach State prospect in 2014. McElwain this week told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Michael Carvell why he has made Georgia such a priority. “I think [it was due to a] couple things,” McElwain said of why UF had success recruiting the area. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited the area in the past. That obviously helps. But for us, our thought is [to lock down] a five-hour radius around Gainesville. And with that being said, that goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

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Florida infielder Mark Ellis retires from baseball

A 17-year veteran who played for four MLB franchises during his career, 37-year-old second baseman Mark Ellis officially retired from baseball on Tuesday.

Ellis, who primarily played third base for the Florida Gators from 1996-99, was a three-year starter for UF and the Most Valuable Player of the 1998 Gainesville Regional, where he hit .500 with three home runs and 10 RBI.

Ellis had at least one hit in 28 of 31 career postseason games for Florida and holds school records for runs scored in a career (240), most home runs in a single game (three), most stolen bases in an inning (three), most homers from the shortstop position in a single season (14, 1998) and most career doubles in the SEC Tournament (six).

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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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Florida Gators baseball (4-0) opens 2015 with dominant hitting, solid pitching

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (4-0) has used power hitting and strong, consistent pitching to open the 2015 campaign with a bang, sweeping the Rhode Island Rams by a combined score of 37-5 over the weekend and earning a dominant 13-3 victory over the USF Bulls on Wednesday.

Florida’s opening-weekend sweep and four-game season-opening winning streak are firsts for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan since 2011.

The season began for Florida with a 9-1 win Friday night. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 K), the 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, picked up where he left off by tossing five scoreless innings and collecting the win. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader (2/4, HR, 3 RBI, R) led the way with a two-run homer and RBI single, and freshman catcher Mike Rivera (0/2, RBI, R) drove in a run and crossed the plate in his first collegiate game.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Wambach, NFL, Rimmer

1 » Tuesday’s baseball game between the No. 5 Florida Gators and Florida A&M has been postponed due to weather with no make-up date yet scheduled. Florida (3-0), which moved up 19 spots from No. 24 in the latest USA Today Coaches’ Poll, will next take the field for its first road game of the season when it faces USF on Wednesday in Tampa. UF will then return home to host No. 14 Miami in a three-game series over the weekend. OnlyGators.com will provide a Gators baseball update after Wednesday’s game and following the conclusion of the series with the Hurricanes on Sunday.

2 » Former Florida striker Abby Wambach was announced Sunday as the honorary starter for this year’s Daytona 500 on Feb. 22. Wambach, whose international goal scoring world record is up to 177, will lead the United States Women’s National Team as it prepares to compete in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup beginning June 6.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Horford, Sloan, Bader

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was a guest on Golf Channel‘s Morning Drive on Monday. After a sit-down interview with the hosts (Watch), Tebow took to the golf simulator, telling one golf pro’s host that his son should go to Florida over Florida State before lining up and ripping a 343-yard drive.

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2015 Florida baseball primer: Can a strong junior class finally get the Gators over the hump?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Florida Gators baseball opens its 2015 campaign against Rhode Island on Friday evening at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Projected to be in the thick of the national championship picture this season, the Gators have opened ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6 in various preseason polls.

In his eighth season, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan (292-155) will manage a squad that returned 22 lettermen and added a highly-touted class of 10 new freshmen, plus one transfer.

Sky-high expectations have become a February tradition in Gainesville during the O’Sullivan era, and back-to-back first-round exits from the NCAA Tournament are not about to deter experts and fans alike from expecting to see the Florida in Omaha for the College World Series.

The Gators return a majority of their 2014 starters in the field and a deep pitching staff, but as always, there are a few areas of uncertainty to be addressed: three incoming freshmen have big shoes to fill behind the plate, starters at second and third base are not yet set in stone, the starting first baseman is sidelined with an injury and one of Florida’s hurlers must establish himself as the No. 3 weekend starter.

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FOUR BITS: Harris, NFL, Horford, Tobias

1 » The second-degree misdemeanor charge of operating a motor vehicle without a license has been dropped against Florida Gators freshman quarterback Treon Harris after the player acquired his driver’s license. “He got his license and they dismissed the case [Wednesday],” Harris’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, told The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu. “He took the test and got it re-upped. He did what I expected him to do.” The incident drew extra scrutiny as the police report noted the officer on the scene found marijuana in the vehicle but did not charge any of the three people in the car with possession because it was not on their bodies and the vehicle was not registered to any of them. Freshmen defensive backs Jalen Tabor and J.C. Jackson were in the car with Harris at the time. New Gators head coach Jim McElwain said last month that he is looking “forward to getting into [Harris’s] life and being a big part of his life.”

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