FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Tebow, Nike, Eckstein

1 » Facing his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey continued his next-level play as a youngster stuck right in the middle of a veteran team. He was excited to play so close to home and showed it with how he played all game. “It felt amazing,” Pouncey told The Lakeland Ledger of playing Tampa Bay. “I’m 20 minutes from Tampa, and pretty much all of Lakeland came up here to support me.” Also having Pouncey’s back is veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, who thinks the former Florida Gators star will truly be something special. “He’s had a lot of help from all of the veterans. Right now, he’s learning on the run,” Ward said. “When Maurkice gets three or four years into the league and finally figures this whole thing out, look for a lot of Pro Bowls. […] When the game slows down and he starts seeing the defense and making the calls, he’s going to have Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl.” As far as how the two get along? “I love everything about the kid – the tenacity, he doesn’t quit. Unfortunately, I hate him because he’s a Gator,” said Ward, a Georgia Bulldog, “but I love everything about him.”

Also… Asked by the paper about his brother, senior center Mike Pouncey‘s, snap problems earlier in the season, Maurkice had the following to say: “When I first moved over, I had the same thing. I had the horrible snaps, snaps everywhere. He is such a high profile player, everyone’s going to notice it. Even the commentator said it last night that he’s still one of the best linemen in college football. The snaps will get better. They’ve been getting better all along.” Has he given him any advice? “Nah, I’ve always thought my brother was a better player than me. Don’t tell him that, though.”

2 » For the first time in his short career, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow was the team’s No. 3 quarterback and technically listed as inactive for its game Sunday. he reason? Head coach Josh McDaniels‘ game plan did not call for Tebow. “[We] didn’t have anything [in the game plan] relative to Tim being in the game and playing a role in it, and we’ll try to do that the best we can each week,” McDaniels said.

3 » Tebow may not have seen the field Sunday, but he has been hitting television screens as one of two players prominently featured in Nike‘s newest commercial. Check out this trailer where he and Detroit defensive tackle Nndamukong Suh watch a Manny Pacquiao fight while getting fitted for suits.

4 » Check out this feature story on former Gators now San Diego Padres second baseman David Eckstein put together by the Los Angeles Times on Monday. Eckstein has become an instrumental part of the resurgent Padres in his two years with the club.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Montana, Fisher, Whitson

1 » Reports coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp have former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin back with the team – though he is, of course, being kept out of action. After spending the night in the hospital, Harvin was seen on the practice field Friday morning exchanging pleasantries with players and coaches before heading inside the facility. All word from inside camp is that he is feeling much better and on the road to recovery from his severe migraine attack Thursday.

2 » Earlier this week, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was a guest on The Matt Minkus Show. He discussed a number of topics but, most importantly to OGGOA readers, gave an endorsement of Denver Broncos rookie QB Tim Tebow. “I think he’s going to be fine. I think one of the things that people forget – they’re so worried and concerned about changing his motion. I’m not as concerned about changing his motion as just him learning footwork. I think that’s the most difficult part for him,” Montana said. “Today, they spent more time in the shotgun than taking snaps anyway. When you look at where he played – in the SEC – he’s not a D-III player playing against teams that are obscure and players who might be obscure. [He’s] playing against pretty good teams week-in and week-out. I think he’s definitely got the ability to have a successful career. You saw him the other night – made a couple great throws. He’s physical and he’s tough and he’s going to put in the work that’s necessary for him to get better. And I think that’s probably the biggest key.”

3 » New Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher, who has failed to beat Florida in his last three years as the team’s offensive coordinator, has decided to begin referring to the Gators as “that little team down the road” rather than their proper name. Cute decision, even if it is a pretty weak response to Florida head coach Urban Meyer only calling FSU the “school out west.” Also notable is that Fisher’s statement is blatantly incorrect. The University of Florida enrolls over 10,000 more students (50,691 vs. 40,225) and is more than five times the size (2,000 acres vs. 395.15 acres) of Florida State University. Oh, and by the way, UF has outscored FSU by 90 points (127-37) in Fisher’s three games with the team. OGGOA‘s universal mantra? Win – then talk.

4 » The following was written for OGGOA by Darren Heitner of SportsAgentBlog.com

The much talked about and debated NCAA “no-agent” rule could end up hurting an incoming Florida baseball player who is recognized as one of the best pitching prospects in the country. Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, recently decided that he would not sign with the San Diego Padres and would instead play at least three years for the Gators. Unfortunately, his student-athlete status may be at risk after a couple of articles mentioned that his advisor might have been negotiating directly with the Padres. The no-agent rule specifically states that a player may not have his advisor speak directly to a team on his behalf or even be in the presence of the team when the player is negotiating his deal. There is no word yet as to whether the NCAA is investigating this matter.

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Cooper, Whitson, Demps

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, speaking at the 40th annual UF Joint Civic Club Luncheon alongside president Bernie Machen, paid tribute to longtime Gainesville, FL, police officer Johnny Hornes who died last week of cancer at 67. Speaking about Hornes, Meyer noted that he helped change his players’ perceptions of law enforcement and even taught redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey how to tie a neck tie. During the tribute, Machen happened to say something of note regarding Meyer’s future. “And after [the Meyers] finish working, they’re going to stay in Gainesville as members of the community. So they’ve chosen this as their home, and they’ve chosen you as their friends and neighbors, and I think we’re all better for that.”

2 » According to the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News, former Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper has firmly taken control of the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 4 receiving role from veteran Hank Baskett. He has been a standout during training camp and has performed well while some of the team’s starters have been out with a variety of injuries.

Three more BITS including thoughts from baseball star Whitson, an honor for Demps and a photo spread featuring a Florida cheerleader…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Meyer, Cooper, Whitson, Demps

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FOUR BITS: Hammond, Whitson, Nixon, Alli

1 » Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. disappointed his coaches, teammates and fans with his unlawful actions over the summer, but according to WR coach Zach Azzanni, he is doing his best to make amends on the field. “He’s got a good attitude, Azzanni said, according to the Miami Herald. “It’s like I tell him, ‘You can’t walk around here with your head down all the time.’ He’s a great kid who made a bad – a bad, bad – choice and a bad decision. He knows that. He’s a good kid, and he’s just trying to make amends right now by keeping his mouth shut and playing as hard as he can.”

2 » Florida baseball got some shockingly good news late Monday evening as 2010 MLB Draft first-round pick pitcher Karsten Whitson declined to sign a rookie contract with the San Diego Padres before the league’s midnight deadline. Rather than compete as the No. 9 overall pick for approximately $2 million, Whitson has decided to take his talents (video) to Gainesville, FL, and the Gators. At 7-3 with 123 strikeouts in 55 innings last season, Whitson will not be allowed to re-enter the draft until after his junior season.

3 » Though he got some work as a starter at left tackle last season as a true freshman (five games), sophomore Xavier Nixon is currently competing with redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan for the first-team role and is doing what he can to win the job. “I see it as no different than last year,” Nixon said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “Whether you’re on the blind side or the front side, the guy across from you is trying to kill you, so you better protect yourself and the quarterback.”

4 » Redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson spoke out about his position-mate redshirt freshman Stephen Alli on Monday, nothing that he has really been coming along. “He’s making strides,” Thompson said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “He’s going to be a great player here in the near future. He’s getting his game down. Coach Z is one of the best things that could happen to him because he’s going to get him back to fundamentals and teaching him the game. Yeah. He’s a freak athlete. He goes up and gets the ball, too.” Azzanni agreed. “Alli needs to figure out what he can do well,” he said. “Once he figures out that his job is going over the top of people and being physical, he’s going to start blossoming some more.”

Photo Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr./St. Petersburg Times

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TWO BITS: Fans and media, Swisher’s proposal

1 » The Florida Gators have made two announcements concerning fans in the last day or so, one about permitting them access to the players while another removing access from the team. The Gators will hold Verizon Wireless Football Fan Day on Sunday, Aug. 15 from 1-3 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., admission is free and autographs will only be allowed on the team-provided 2010 football poster. However, fans will be barred from Florida football practices this season, as will the media and other on-lookers who want to catch a glimpse of the Gators before kickoff against Miami (OH) on Sept. 4

2 » With an Internet rumor spreading that New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher had the assistance of former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow when proposing to his girlfriend last year, the slugger spoke with Florida Today and wanted to squash that fib as soon as possible. “I’m a man! I don’t need to do that!” Swisher exclaimed. “That’s total BS! [Bleep] no! I don’t need some other dude to ask my girl to marry me. I’m a Major League Baseball player. I’m a man. I asked her on the balcony at my place in New York City. Tim Tebow wasn’t there.” Always the jokester in the clubhouse, Swisher’s tone doesn’t come across in the piece, but his fiancée is a big Florida fan – her entire family went there – and the All-Star got a chance to meet Tebow and head coach Urban Meyer while getting a tour of The Swamp at the tail end of the 2009 season.

“Don’t get me wrong, Tim Tebow’s a great guy. Class act. Definitely a role model for a lot of people,” he said. “I set it up through the Yankees that my girlfriend and her family could meet Tim. I couldn’t believe he took the time. It was his last game at Florida, against Florida State, Senior Day, and he came and talked to us for about 10 minutes. Great, great guy.” Though Swisher may not have been able to laugh at himself, at least his teammate and fellow OF Marcus Thames did. When told about the rumor regarding Tebow, Thames replied, “Probably, because you ain’t got no game. You need a college kid to help you.”

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OF Jonathan Pigott signs with Atlanta Braves

Former Florida Gators outfielder Jonathan Pigott has signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. He is the fourth member of the 2010 team to sign with an MLB team and the only one to do so after not being selected in the 2010 MLB Draft.

Pigott has been assigned to the Gulf Coast League Braves, who play their home games at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL.

A defensive-minded player, Pigott did not commit a single error in 267 chances during his four-year Florida career.

Closer Kevin Chapman (fourth round, Kansas City Royals), outfielder Matt den Dekker (fifth round, New York Mets) and catcher Hampton Tignor (36th round, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) are the other former players who found professional homes this offseason.

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TWO BITS: Tebow starting, Caldwell working

1 » Appearing Friday on The Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio, the network’s AFC West blogger Bill Williamson predicted that former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will start this season for the Denver Broncos – beginning in week 12. Williamson believes Kyle Orton will play the first 10 games of the season, and Tebow will take the reigns if the team is no longer in playoff contention. ESPN Insider notes that “Williamson points out that Tebow was drafted not to serve as a clipboard holder or gadget play extraordinaire, but to play starting QB, and he will be given the opportunity to do so unless Orton comes through with a very solid season.”

2 » One of the best things about following athletes on Twitter is the ability to read their streams of consciousness when going off on a tangent or speaking passionately about an issue. Monday, former Gators wide receiver Andre Caldwell of the Cincinnati Bengals expressed his desire to take his game to another level while putting some responsibilities – like family and friends – on the back burner for a short period of time.

“Training camp starts in [nine] days. I can’t wait. I dedicated my entire offseason to getting better and working hard – now it’s time to show it off,” Caldwell wrote. “I worked extra hard this whole offseason. I haven’t had much time to hang out with family and friends. I’m trying to accomplish my dream and be the best WR in the NFL, and the only way I know how to be the best is to work harder than every WR in the league. My friends and family say I’m selfish and I have changed [be]cause I don’t make time for them. I tell them I’m chasing my dream. Am I wrong? People say I have become crazy and my work ethic is insane, but my love for the game is much crazier and failure is not a[n] option. I see and hear all the comment[s] these report[er]s write and how they write me off, but it just add[s] fuel to this fire burning inside me.”

Extra BIT » Former New York Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent was a thorn in the side of the Boston Red Sox, so it is no wonder that having his son – and Florida freshman – Cody Dent playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the summer was a “risky” move. “The first day they were joking about Bucky (Bleeping) Dent,” Cody told The Gainesville Sun. “I just laugh along with it. It’s all good humor.” The move was a suggestion by head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who elicited a funny response from the elder statesman. “I texted Sully and said, ‘What are you trying to do, get my son killed?” Bucky exclaimed. Never nervous while playing professionally, watching his son play makes Dent jitter. “I can’t sit still,” he said. “I’ve go to move because I get really nervous. Way more nervous than when I played. I’m sitting there in the College World Series and he’s playing third base against Florida State and I’m going, ‘Oh God, he’s 18 years old, there’s 20,000 people in the stands and national TV,’ and I’m sweating bullets.”

Photo Credit: Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Chapman, Parsons, Macklin, Brown

1 » Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals, Florida Gators junior closer Kevin Chapman realized his dream and solidified his future by officially signing with the team on Monday. Posting a 1.64 ERA and 3-0 record with 11 saves in 43.2 innings last season, Chapman struck out 44 batters and only walked seven. He has been assigned to the Royals’ Class A affiliate Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League and will do his best to work his way through the minor leagues and into the majors soon.

2 » While a number of the NBA’s top free agents were deciding their futures last week, some of college basketball and high school basketball’s top players participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, OH. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla was on-site and had this to report about the two Gators who were invited:

Redshirt senior forward/center Vernon Macklin
Macklin is not a fluid athlete but is tough around the basket and gives a very good effort. He’s a big key for a Gator resurgence this season.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons
Parsons played well at the camp, showing an ability to slash to the rim and make jump shots, as well. For a right-hander, he’s a very dominant left-handed driver. I would work on that right hand the rest of the summer if I were Parsons.

An interview with Jenn Brown and update on Dwayne Schintzius…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Chapman, Parsons, Macklin, Brown

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