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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SIX BITS: USA, Tebow, Spikes, Pouncey, Sturgis

1 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons are two of 27 players that have accepted invitations to participate in the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV. Though Parsons does not have much experience competing internationally, Beal was involved with USA Basketball as a high schooler and has represented his country before. Both men will have the opportunity to impress head coach Mike Krzyzewski during the mini-camp in hopes of earning placement on the 2013-16 U.S. Men’s National Team that will participate in international competitions, qualifiers and eventually the 2016 Rio Olympics. Eight of the players that participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp in 2009 went on to make the 2009-12 team and eventually win gold in the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow is not the only member of the New England Patriots making waves in minicamp. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed all of the team’s organized team activities while training on his own in Florida, arrived on Monday and began working with his New England teammates on Tuesday. “Honestly, I just felt like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team and also help this team win a championship,” Spikes told the Boston Globe. “I mean, you guys know me. I frequently do things a little bit different from everybody else. I don’t think they’re bad, or a shocker. Honestly, if everybody in the world was a conformist, it would be a boring place.” Spikes offered a “no comment” when asked about being in the last year of his rookie contract and also addressed the team bringing in Tebow.

“I was happy for him [when I heard he’d been signed],” Spikes said. “He got to get his job back and come out here and compete. So that’s good to see him smile, you know that big smile I’m used to seeing for the last few years down in Florida. … He’s a hard worker, a competitor, and he loves the game and you need guys like that.”

Check out four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: USA, Tebow, Spikes, Pouncey, Sturgis

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Patriots set to sign Gators QB Tim Tebow

Just over one month after being waived by the New York Jets, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has found a home with the team that always seemed like the best fit for his unique talents and personality. According to multiple media reports, Tebow will sign with the New England Patriots on Monday and be in uniform for the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.

The Patriots are acquiring Tebow as a quarterback, according to ESPN’s Ed Werder, and have already waived third-stringer Mike Kafka in order to bring the former Heisman Trophy winner into the fold. New England had previously looked to trade back-up signal caller Ryan Mallett, who just happens to wear Tebow’s No. 15, earlier in the offseason.

Joining the Patriots, Tebow reunites with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who selected him with the No. 25 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft while serving as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

“The thing that really makes this unique and gives it real potential is the presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels,” Werder reported Monday on SportsCenter. “He believes he has the ability to teach mechanics to quarterbacks. He was undergoing that process with Tebow on a daily basis in Denver his rookie year.”

Ironically, a Yahoo! Sports report from May noted that New England head coach Bill Belichick “hated” Tebow as a football player. Four days ago, Belichick emphatically refuted that report to ESPNBoston.com.

“Every single player has strengths and weaknesses but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless and irresponsible. It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported,” he said.

In fact, Werder explained on SportsCenter that this move had been discussed by the two parties and under consideration for a long time.

“One of the things the Patriots wanted to see before they agreed to do this deal with Tebow was they wanted to see him maintain a low-key presence throughout the offseason. And to the extend he could control that, he certainly delivered on it.”

Tebow barely contributed to the Jets in 2012, seeing the field in just 12 games and rarely playing on offense. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 39 yards and took 32 carries for 102 yards, never once finding the end zone.

OGGOA RELATED: The Silver Lining – Tim Tebow’s release is an opportunity

One year earlier, as a mid-season replacement at quarterback for the Broncos, Tebow set the league on fire by leading his team to numerous come-from-behind victories and seven wins in eight games from Weeks 7-14.

Tebow also threw a game-winning overtime touchdown against Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs. He went 10-of-21 for 316 yards with two passing touchdowns and carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards and a rushing score in that game.

Tebow joins former Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham with the Patriots. All four were key players in Florida winning the 2008 national title.

Photo Credit: ESPN

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SIX BITS: Alabama, Spikes, Tebow, Cooper, Black

1 » Multiple reports on Saturday confirmed that the Florida Gators’ football schedule will not be getting easier any time soon. Though future schedule details have yet to be officially released by the Southeastern Conference, Tuscaloosa News reporter Cecil Hurt and ESPN blogger Chris Low respectively noted on Saturday that it has been decided that Florida will face Alabama in 2014 and/or 2015. The standard rotation of SEC West opponents was interrupted in 2012 when Missouri and Texas A&M were added to the league. UF never got a return game against Auburn after hosting AU in 2011, picking up TAMU in 2012 and now UA in 2014 and/or 2015. The Gators and Crimson Tide just finished a rotation in 2010-11. Florida is facing Arkansas this year for the first time since 2009 despite not having taken on Ole Miss since 2008. If Alabama does wind up on the schedule for the next two seasons, the Gators and Rebels will not go head-to-had until at least 2016, a seven-year gap.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes missed nearly two months of voluntary workouts with his team, opting instead to train at Bommarito Performance in South Florida in hopes of proving to the coaching staff that he can be a three-down player this season. According to reporters on site, Spikes attended the start of mandatory minicamp Monday morning and will be with the team going forward. He will take a standard physical on Monday before practicing with the team for the first time since the end of the 2012 season from Tuesday-Thursday.

3 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan will be travelling to Colorado Springs, CO within the next week to begin coaching the USA Basketball under-19 team as it prepares to do battle on the world stage. Last week, however, he spent some time in Miami, FL watching three of his former players participate in the 2013 NBA Finals. Below is a picture of the Donovan family – including three named “Billy” – chatting it up with power forward Udonis Haslem after his Game 2 victory.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Alabama, Spikes, Tebow, Cooper, Black

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12 Gator Bites for Friday, May 31

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Despite signing a National Letter of Intent in February and expecting to be a member of the Class of 2013, three-star defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Scooba, MS) will not be joining the Florida Gators this season. Reed was hoping to obtain his associate degree from East Mississippi Community College in one year but fell about 25 credits short. Instead, he will continue playing for EMCC in 2013 with hopes of completing his coursework and departing before the spring semester starts…though he may no longer be heading to Florida. According to The Gainesville Sun, Reed has decided to reopen his recruitment but does have the Gators at the top. “Florida is my favorite school,” he said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to close any doors just in case something crazy happens. I’d like to go on [official] visits. Who doesn’t want to take free trips?”

» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was honored Thursday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with the state of Florida’s Great Floridian Award, presented to him by Governor Rick Scott. Also in attendance were Gators head coach Will Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley. Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow received the honor just one month ago. Check out the local news report by GTN’s Julie Quittner.

» Former Gators cheerleader Caroline Davidson, who concluded her run with the spirit program in 2010, had successful brain surgery to completely remove a tumor on Thursday. Her mother, Kimberly Davidson, posted on Facebook that Caroline was in ICU recovering after the surgery but all signs were positive.

Check out nine more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12 Gator Bites for Friday, May 31

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SIX BITS: Beal, Tebow, Spikes, Leak, Francis

1 » If Chicago point guard Derrick Rose did not have enough motivation to come back and play well next year, comments from Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal may give him that extra kick in the butt. Beal this week told 106.7 The Fan that he might lose respect for a teammate who was cleared by doctors but chose to sit out and not try and help his team in the playoffs. “He might have to give it a go,” he said. “If you’re practicing for two months, and then everybody in practice is saying you’re practicing well, I mean, I think you have to give it a shot in the game. Look at David Lee. You don’t have to play significant minutes, but the fact that you’re out there and that you’re actually giving it a go, I think people will respect that.” He continued: “Because I know the type of player he is, and the mentality and the competitiveness that he has, I think he would have gave it a go.”

2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow was back in Jacksonville for the weekend – not for a tryout with his hometown’s NFL team but rather to speak at New Life Christian Fellowship. During his speaking engagement, a fan asked Tebow to pinpoint his most memorable moment was from his breakout 2011 season. Tebow self-deprecatingly replied: “One of my favorite stories, ironically, was against the New York Jets…and probably my greatest Jets highlight, I guess.” Tebow was also on NBC’s All-Star Celebrity Apprentice finale over the weekend as he donated $300,000 to charity on behalf of Trace Adkins, one of the two finalists competing to win the show.

3 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes is entering the final year of his rookie contract and undoubtedly hopes to remain with his team long-term. Not only does Spikes have a tremendous personal relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick also values the player’s contributions on defense. Nevertheless, Spikes is only set to earn $630,000 in salary in 2013 (along with $240,000 as part of a prorated signing bonus) and undoubtedly feels like he deserves to get paid. New England has a history of getting its players to sign below-market-value contracts before they hit free agency, so keep an eye out for Spikes to get something done soon. According to ESPNBoston.com, he “hasn’t been seen much at Gillette Stadium since the offseason program begin in mid-April,” an approach that could be productive in letting the team know he is wanting to get a deal done before the season.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Beal, Tebow, Spikes, Leak, Francis

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TWO BITS: Tebow’s future, Spikes’s agent

1 » The New York Jets reportedly spent plenty of time at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine looking for a trade partner so the team can finally split ties with quarterback Tim Tebow. However, in a conference call with season ticket holders on Monday, new general manager John Idzik made it sound as if Tebow may very well get an opportunity to compete for a job in training camp. “Tim, as you know, he’s currently on our roster. What we’re doing is we’re trying to increase competition at that position and positions across the board,” said Idzik, according to the New York Daily News. “So we’re going to let the competition play out. We’re going to see who we’re able to bring on board and let it play out this offseason and into training camp. So I think that’ll be healthy for all concerned, including Tim.”

Should the Jets cut Tebow, like many insiders believe the team plans to do if it does not find a suitor for him, more than $1.5 million of the $2.5 million in pay he is due for 2013 would be dead money against the salary cap. New York also spent fourth- and sixth-round draft choices and paid $2.5 million to Denver to acquire Tebow, assets that the team hopes not to waste on a failed trade. However, should the Jets keep Tebow and potentially cut him late in training camp, the team will only be doing his career an even greater disservice than it already has by avoiding playing him like he was the plague. With a new offensive coordinator (Marty Mornhinweg) in the fold, Tebow’s career with the Jets may not be over just yet, so stay tuned.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes has signed with his third agency in as many seasons. According to the Boston Herald, Spikes has signed with Premier Sports & Entertainment and will be represented by Gary Uberstine and Eric Kaufman. With his rookie contract expiring and the 2014 offseason set to be a huge one for Spikes, linking up with an agency he trusts is of utmost importance heading into the process. Though New England will likely want to re-sign him, the Patriots are keen to offering backloaded contracts similar to the one that tight end Aaron Hernandez received prior to the 2012 season. Spikes, who has a great relationship with owner Robert Kraft, may want to avoid that and might feel like he will have better options on the open market. All of this remains to be seen, of course, and New England may even be interested in locking him up prior to the start of the 2013 season. Perhaps that is the reason Spikes felt he needed yet another agent change.

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Former Florida Gators in NFL: Conference (2012)

The 2012-13 NFL Playoffs continued this past the weekend with seven former Florida Gators football players spread over all four teams that competed on Sunday.

At the conclusion of play there were two total players on rosters of teams that advanced to Super Bowl XLVII.

A total of five players participated in Conference Championship Round action with two others either inactive or injured.

For the third-straight year, OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what all of these Gators accomplished during the third week of the 2012-13 postseason.

ACTIVE (5)
LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Played as a reserve
DE JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Nine receptions [team-high] for 83 yards (targets: 14 – team-high, long: 17); rush for six yards [Player of the Week]
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: 11 tackles (six solo) [team-highs], QB hit
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Five tackles (three solo)

INACTIVE (1) / INJURED (1)
WR DEONTE THOMPSON*, Baltimore Ravens: Inactive
RB JEFF DEMPS*, New England Patriots: Injured – “ankle” (season)

NFL PLAYOFFS NOTES
- San Francisco (McDonald) will face Baltimore (Thompson) in the Super Bowl.
- A former Gators football player is guaranteed to win a Super Bowl ring.

* Rookie

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