TWO BITS: Walter Camp, volleyball in NCAAs

1 » Three Florida Gators were named to the 2009 Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America team, the nation’s oldest such honor. Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, junior cornerback Joe Haden and junior center Maurkice Pouncey were all awarded first-team honors while senior quarterback Tim Tebow was given a second-team distinction. For Haden and Pouncey, it was the first time they were given this honor; however, Spikes was also named to the first team in 2008 while Tebow was named to the second team last year and first team in 2007.

2 » No. 14/15 Florida volleyball team (25-5) will face the undefeated No. 1/1 Penn State Nittany Lions in the regional semifinals of the 2009 NCAA Tournament on Friday night. Opening serve at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is set for 6 p.m. The match will not air live on television.

Extra Bit » On Wednesday, OGGOA reported that the Tennessee Volunteers were the subject of a “wide-ranging investigation” by the NCAA for some of its recruiting practices including the usage of “hostesses” in order to lure high school players. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated has his own photographic proof that improper contact did indeed take place in one way or another.

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Pouncey, Hernandez win; Tebow, Spikes, Haden and Henry shut out of College Footbal Awards

Two Florida Gators juniors came home from The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards in Orlando, FL, Thursday evening with awards; unfortunately, four other players were not as lucky. Center Maurkice Pouncey was awarded the 2009 Rimington Trophy (best collegiate center) and tight end Aaron Hernandez was honored with the 2009 John Mackey Award (best collegiate tight end). Each was the first Gators player in history to take home his respective award.

Senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who was up for the 2009 Davey O’Brien Award (best collegiate quarterback) and 2009 Maxwell Award (best all-around player), was defeated for both by Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy. Tebow took home the O’Brien Award in 2007 and is a two-time winner of the Maxwell Award (2007, 2008). Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes lost the 2009 Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) to Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh; junior cornerback Joe Haden was defeated by Tennessee Volunteers safety Eric Berry for the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back); and Georgia Bulldogs punter Drew Butler won the 2009 Ray Guy Award (best collegiate punter) over junior Chas Henry. 2009 Heisman Trophy ceremony is on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

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Nine Gators named to All-SEC coaches’ team

Nine Florida Gators football players were named to the 2009 All-SEC team as voted by the league’s head coaches. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow was Florida’s only unanimous selection. Joining him on the first-team offense are juniors tight end Aaron Hernandez, offensive guard Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey. For the defense, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and juniors cornerback Joe Haden and Carlos Dunlap received first-team honors. Seniors DE Jermaine Cunningham and LB Ryan Stamper earned spots on the second team. The Gators tied the Alabama Crimson Tide who also had a league-high nine All-SEC selections.

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Florida has 11 players named to All-SEC teams

The Associated Press released its 2009 All-SEC team lists on Monday and, to no one’s surprise, 11 Florida Gators football players made the cut.

Senior quarterback Tim Tebow, junior guard Mike Pouncey, junior center Maurkice Pouncey, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez, junior cornerback Joe Haden and junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap were all awarded first-team honors while senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, senior DE Jermaine Cunningham and junior punter Chas Henry were placed on the second team. Junior strong safety Ahmad Black received an honorable mention.

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Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

QUARTERBACKS: B
Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

RUNNING BACKS: I
Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

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FOUR BITS: Florida wins, Saban finds a way

1 » CBSSports.com pit two of their national columnists – Mike Freeman and Dennis Dodd – against each other on Friday. Their task, respectively, was to argue why the No. 1 Florida Gators or No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide would win the 2009 SEC Championship game. Freeman began with this: “There simply isn’t enough time to list every reason why Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC title game, so let’s just start with a few: Urban Meyer is a big-game coach and Nick Saban isn’t; super-virgin [senior quarterback] Tim Tebow; a faster defense; more depth and more speed overall.” He then focuses on Crimson Tide QB Greg McElroy, calling him “pedestrian” and explaining that the Gators’ defense will overwhelm the Alabama offense in every way.

2 » Dodd responds by calling Saban a “mad scientist” who will “create [a] way to beat the Gators.” He even admits that “it’s hard to pick against the Gators in this game.” Yet his entire argument rests on running back Mark Ingram rushing for 150 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy, kick returner Javier Arenas grabbing an interception and scoring a return touchdown (against a special teams that has barely allowed double-digit punt return yards the entire season) and Saban using revenge to fuel his team to victory.

3 » As part of his brand new television show, Sports Jobs with Junior Seau, the future Hall of Fame linebacker played the part of a reporter and followed around Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Staples during the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in October. The story that Seau came up with? Gators senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is “a monster” and absolutely dominant on the field. More coverage from SI includes Stewart Mandel’s article focusing on the weight of expectations the Gators face, Andy Staples’ column about the absences of junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Corey McCartney’s three reasons why Florida will lose on Saturday.

4 » No. 13/17 Florida basketball hits the road Friday night for its first true road game of the season against the Jacksonville Dolphins at 7 p.m. at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida.

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FOUR BITS: Haden, Hernandez, flaws, Bama’s OL

1 » He may have broken numerous Maryland state records as a high school quarterback, but Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden wanted to play in Gainesville, FL, and realized he would not be unseating now-senior quarterback Tim Tebow for the job. With the help of his father and coaches (who Haden told he just wanted to get on the field), he became an All-American cornerback, the first to start as a freshman in Florida history. “We worked to shape Joe’s body and mind to be able to absorb anything at any level of football,” his father Joe Haden, Sr. said. “It took years of intense training. He went to school with confidence.” His brother Jordan, a four-star recruit, will be joining the Gators in the spring with the same training and mindset.

2 » According to Todd McShay on ESPN Insider, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez has emerged as the most dangerous tight end in the nation. Mostly due to his versatility, Hernandez can make plays any number of ways and the Alabama Crimson Tide must account for him on both passing and rushing downs. Hernandez moves the chains, has run-after-catch ability, stretches the seam and is dynamic enough to catch screen passes and the triple-option shuffle pass and take them upfield. If you subscribe to ESPN Insider, you can read the entire article.

3 » Wednesday, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com wrote that the Tide were closing in on the title but had to take care of the Gators. Thursday, he looked at Florida’s odd, flawed season and how they are still unbeaten and competing for the 2009 SEC Championship. From questions about Tebow’s NFL prospects, Tennessee Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin’s comments about Florida head coach Urban Meyer, shunning former QB Shane Matthews and the whole team coming down with the flu to Tebow’s concussion, Meyer’s Notre Dame rumors, a $30,000 fine for commenting on officiating, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes’ attempted eye gouge and junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap’s DUI arrest, the Gators have been through a lot in 2009. It all truly comes down to Saturday. “I do feel a sense of, ‘We’re here. Let’s not worry about it. Let’s go play,'” Meyer said.

4 » Protecting QB Greg McElroy and opening running lanes for running back Mark Ingram are going to be of paramount importance for Alabama on Saturday. Losing two All-Americans to the NFL Draft, the offensive line has actually performed better than the 2008 unit did – statistically. “It’s just all those guys getting their nose in the book and learning this offense and being able to be prepared for situations we see on Saturdays,” senior guard Mike Johnson said. The Gators are 39-1 under Meyer when holding an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing; they have done this in four straight games and nine times in 2009.

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Haden named an All-American, Tebow to present

Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden was chosen to the 2009 All-America Team by the American Football Coaches Association on Thursday. Haden, who is also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was the only Florida player to land a spot on the team, the first Gators CB since Keiwan Ratliff (2003).

Beating out senior quarterback Tim Tebow for the honor was Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy, while Georgia Bulldogs punter Drew Butler was selected over Florida junior Chas Henry. Four Alabama Crimson Tide players (running back Mark Ingram, offensive lineman Mike Johnson, linebacker Rolando McClain, CB Javier Arenas) were honored.

Tebow received a different distinction on Wednesday, however, as he was announced as a presenter for The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 10. Along with Faron Kelly, Disney’s director of sports marketing, Tebow will be presenting the Disney Spirit Award (for college football’s most inspirational figure) that he won in 2008. Tebow is a 2009 finalist for the Maxwell Award (most outstanding college football player) and O’Brien Award (nation’s best college quarterback) while teammates Haden, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (Bednarik Award – outstanding defensive player) and Henry (Ray Guy Award – nation’s best punter) are also listed as nominees.

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