SIX BITS: NFL, Rainey, Beal, Rosario, track

1 » In addition to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey (who is expected to be released from his contract) and Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (a restricted free agent), six other former Florida Gators currently under contract with NFL teams will be unrestricted free agents the day after the Super Bowl. Those players include Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Louis Murphy, Kansas City Chiefs LB Brandon Siler, Oakland Raiders guard Cooper Carlisle, Pittsburgh tackle Max Starks and Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman.

On rosters for Super Bowl XLVII are San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald and Baltimore Ravens WR Deonte Thompson. The end result and may very well come down to which quarterback stands out and makes as few mistakes as possible.

2 » Speaking of Rainey, the former Gators running back had his recent simple battery charge reduced to disorderly conduct by Alachua County Judge Walter Green after the State Attorney’s Office decided it did not have enough evidence to pursue the more serious offense. The judge withheld adjudication and fined Rainey $200 to go along with court costs of $300 for the offense, effectively ending the legal issue, according to Florida Today. The alleged victim in the case denied that Rainey hit her the day after his arrest and contradicting statements from witnesses made the state’s case inconclusive. The Steelers announced the day of Rainey’s arrest that they had decided to waive him; however, NFL transactions made during the postseason cannot be completed until after the Super Bowl. With the charges being significantly reduced, Pittsburgh could theoretically have a change of heart or consider bringing Rainey back on a cheaper free agent contract.

Check out four more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NFL, Rainey, Beal, Rosario, track

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SIX BITS: NBA All-Stars, Dunker’s legal status, Brissett, Quinn, Hilliard, players drafted

1 » Final balloting for the fan vote for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game was released on Thursday evening and none of the players initially selected for the game were former Florida Gators. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (230,796 votes) finished seventh in Eastern Conference frontcourt balloting. Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (165,875) checked in 10th in Western Conference frontcourt balloting with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (144,697) finishing 15th. The top three frontcourt players from each conference automatically became starters for their respective teams. The 30 NBA head coaches will vote for a total of 14 players – seven in each conference – to fill out the benches. Those reserves will be announced on Jan. 24 with Noah and Lee both expected to be chosen. Noah is averaging career-highs in points (12.4), assists (4.1), blocks (2.0), steals (1.3), minutes (38.4) and free throw shooting (.800) while also registering 10.7 rebounds per game. Lee is averaging 19.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists while playing a career-high 37.5 minutes.

2 » Arrested on Wednesday for third-degree felony grand theft of a motor vehicle and second-degree misdemeanor driving with a suspended license, Florida freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker entered an Alachua County Court on Thursday morning and was eventually released on his own recognizance. Dunker, via his attorney Huntley Johnson, denied stealing the scooter that was reported stolen. “His position is he paid $600 for the scooter and I’m prepared to represent him on that basis,” Johnson told the judge, according to The Gainesville Sun. The State Attorney’s Office has yet to file formal charges against Dunker as it is still reviewing the case. He remains on the Gators football team as of press time, but head coach Will Muschamp is expected to address the player’s status on Friday at noon.

Read four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NBA All-Stars, Dunker’s legal status, Brissett, Quinn, Hilliard, players drafted

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FOUR BITS: NCAA, volleyball, Mularkey, Dillman

1 » The NCAA on Tuesday chose to recognize some of the top players and teams that have participated in NCAA Tournaments, as well as many of the top moments to occur in those events, over the last 75 years. The organization picked the 2006-07 incarnation of the Florida Gators as one of the top-25 teams and also recognized center Joakim Noah as one of the top-75 players ever to participate in the tournament. Noah was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 tourney after he registered a then-record 29 blocked shots in the event and averaged 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. Both Noah and the 2006-07 UF team are finalists in their respective categories, which will be voted on before awards are presented at the 2013 NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, GA.

2 » Florida junior middle back Chloe Mann, who put together an impressive 2012 campaign for a Gators volleyball program that exceeded its preseason expectations, was named a First Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on Wednesday. Mann was honored along with outside hitter Ziva Recek, who was named Freshman of the Year by the organization. Florida as a team lasted until the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament where it fell to three-seed Texas. The Gators concluded the season with a 27-5 record and their first SEC Championship since 2010.

3 » Former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey, now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was hospitalized on Monday on the advice of a team trainer after feeling ill at his team’s facility. He was released shortly after being admitted and was healthy enough to return to practice on Tuesday. Mularkey’s first year with Jacksonville has been anything but productive as the Jaguars are currently 2-11 and have lost nine of their last 10 games. This is his second NFL head coaching stint as he previously led the Buffalo Bills to a 14-18 combined record from 2004-05.

4 » As much as head coach Will Muschamp has been credited with turning around the Gators football program, strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman is in many ways equally deserving of praise. Dilliman recently sat down with his hometown paper, the Richmond County Daily Journal, and discussed both how he arrived at Florida and what he thinks of what the team has accomplished this season. Throughout the year, Dillman received plenty of credit for the team’s performance against LSU and how it stood up to the long season from a conditioning perspective. In the interview, he turned around and put the praise back on Muschamp for how the team was run this year. “At the end of the day, it’s the program,” he said. “It goes back to Coach Muschamp and the kids because they worked their butts off. We all have a job to do and Coach Muschamp lets me do my job. All the kids come in and believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Coach is big on keeping it real. My staff and I will be honest with a player, but we also want to keep a positive environment. I have a philosophy of actions trigger feelings and feelings trigger actions. Good things come out of being positive and negative things come out of being negative. I always try to be positive while training an athlete.”

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FOUR BITS: Cunningham, Gilbert, volley, Quinn

1 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. The substance Cunningham used was not disclosed and it is currently unknown if he already filed or plans to file an appeal. Cunningham is the fourth former Florida Gators defender to receive a four-game suspension for PEDs since 2010. New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010), Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (2012) and New York Giants safety Will Hill (2012) have missed four games each. All three claimed their positive tests resulted from an ingredient contained in ADHD medication like Adderall. Cunningham would be eligible to return in the playoffs.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is one of four former Gators on his team and one of three Florida offensive linemen that got injured this season. Unfortunately for Gilbert, while center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Max Starks were able to return to action, he has been sidelined since Week 6 with an ankle injury and was officially placed on the team’s injured reserve on Monday. He is the third former Gators player to be knocked out for the season with an injury, joining Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (ACL) and Patriots running back Jeff Demps (leg).

3 » Following in the footsteps of the soccer program, which cleaned up at the Southeastern Conference‘s annual awards announcement, Florida volleyball matched the program with three major awards and a number of placement on the All-SEC teams. Junior middle back Chloe Mann captured SEC Player of the Year honors, outside hitter Ziva Recek brought home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Mary Wise was named SEC Coach of the Year for the 13th time. The Gators note that “this is the first time since 2000 and second time in program history for Florida” to win all three awards. Mann is the 17th player in team history to win Player of the Year, and Recek is the fourth UF freshman to be honored by the league in that capacity. Also honored Monday were junior setter Taylor Brauneis and senior right-side Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Mann and Recek on the All-SEC first team; senior MB Betsey Smith on the All-SEC second team; and Recek again on the All-Freshman team.

4 » Three members of the Gators football team have been named finalists for yearly national awards. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of three finalists (Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Tulane’s Cairo Santos) for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and sophomore punter Kyle Christy is one of three finalists (Louisiana Tech’s Ray Allen, Ball State’s Scott Kovanda) for the Ray Guy Award, both of which will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN.

Joining them is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is one of five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant college football coach in the nation. The other finalists are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco, Texas A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Quinn has UF’s defense ranked top-15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (No. 1), scoring defense (No. 3), yards per play (No. 3), yards per attempt (No. 4), third-down defense (No. 5), rush defense (No. 6), interceptions (No. 6), yards per rush (No. 7), red zone touchdowns (No. 13) and red zone defense (No. 15).

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FOUR BITS: Hernandez, Muschamp, soccer, volley

1 » Only two weeks into the 2012 NFL regular season and a second former Florida Gators offensive starter has gone down with a serious injury. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had six receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, got rolled up on during his team’s game on Sunday and seriously injured his ankle. Though the exact injury has not been announced publicly, it is believed that Hernandez suffered a high-ankle sprain as tests after the game revealed that he did not break any bones. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Sunday that the Patriots are expecting Hernandez to be out up to six weeks, a timeframe consistent with a high-ankle sprain (as was the fact that he left the stadium on crutches with his foot/ankle in a protective boot). Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last week and will miss the rest of the season.

2 » A fan video posted on YouTube after the now-No. 14 Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers happened to catch head coach Will Muschamp celebrating. Check him and all of his Gator Chomps out below (you can skip to 0:30 if you wish):

3 » Since OGGOA’s last update on the team, Florida women’s soccer has remained somewhat average, now boasting a 4-3-1 (1-1-0 SEC) record just two games into league play. The Gators defeated New Mexico 3-2 at home on Sept. 9 to close out their non-conference schedule and split a pair of weekend road matches. Florida fell 2-1 to the Kentucky Wildcats (6-1-0, 1-0-0 SEC) on Friday, taking an early 1-0 advantage with a goal from redshirt senior forward McKenzie Barney at 13’ but allowing UK to score two unanswered goals (one in each half) on their way to victory. The Gators did just the opposite on Sunday, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to force overtime and win just 10 minutes into the period. Florida took a 2-1 overtime victory over the Auburn Tigers (4-5-0, 0-2-0 SEC) thanks to strikes from senior midfielder Holly King (73’) and junior F Adriana Leon (100’). UF will now look to rely on some home cooking as the Gators host four-straight matches over the next two weekends.

4 » OGGOA was equally negligent in covering volleyball last week though No. 13 Florida (8-2, 2-0 SEC) has rattled off five-straight wins over the last two weekends. The Gators won the self-hosted Active Ankle Challenge in dominant fashion with big victories over the Jacksonville Dolphins (3-0: 25-18, 25-11, 25-11), Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1: 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1: 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22). On the Georgia Tech roster is former UF head coach Urban Meyer’s daughter Nicki Meyer, who registered 11 digs for GT.

Florida began league play this past weekend with a pair of road victories. The Gators earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13) over the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 0-1 SEC) on Friday before putting together a dominant 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-14, 25-18) of the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats (6-5, 0-1 SEC) on Sunday. Junior middle back Chloe Mann led the way with a combined 25 kills on the weekend, but senior right side Tangerine Wiggs was equally impressive with a combined 23 kills of her own. Florida will host Missouri on Friday in their only action this week.

Extra BITS » Two OGGOA readers sent in pictures this week. The first, by baker Reuben Romney, is a cake he sold to a Florida State fan with orange and blue cake on the inside (they laughed). The second, by Ray, is a graphic representation of the nickname Hot Light Hammond, in reference to redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.‘s play making and love for Krispy Kreme donuts.

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TWO BITS: Nelson injured, Haden suspended

1 » Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was officially ruled out for the remainder of the 2011 on Monday when the injury he sustained to his knee on Sunday was deemed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The team’s No. 3 wide receiver, Nelson compiled 658 yards and five touchdowns on 61 receptions in 2011, his second as an undrafted free agent after a long career with the Florida Gators. Nelson, who had two receptions for 31 yards on Sunday before injuring himself, is in the final season of his three-year rookie agreement and is set to be a restricted free agent in 2013.

2 » Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden has been suspended for four games after breaking the NFL’s banned substance policy, the league officially announced on Monday. Haden, who had already technically received the suspension but immediately filed an appeal to delay the proceedings after getting word that he tested positive for Adderall, was able to play in his team’s season opener on Sunday because a ruling had not been made on his appeal. He finished the game with six tackles (five solo) and an interception with a 50-yard return (one of three Gators to pick off a quarterback on kickoff weekend). Haden will return after his team’s game on Sunday, Oct. 7. He is arguably Cleveland’s best player but is now no longer eligible for Pro Bowl recognition.

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FOUR NFL BITS: Tebow, Cooper, Nelson, Black

1 » It was a busy weekend for New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow (at least as far as the media was concerned). With training camp beginning for the Jets, ESPN.com’s James Walker took a look at the many roles he could play with the team. That was before camp actually began and Tebow had a rough first day in which he threw some wobbly passes and was “heckled” by New York fans. It was later reported that the hecklers consisted of 3-5 total fans or less a quarter of a percent of those in attendance. Tebow also made headlines, believe it or not, for running shirtless in the rain (video below).

Linebacker Bart Scott, one of Tebow’s teammates, came out in support of the quarterback. “[It’s] his humility. How can you ever not accept somebody who has humility, works hard, who’s a great teammate? I knew Tebow well before he came here. He showed me the respect to seek me out and asked me how he could be a better pro. I mean, guys don’t do that,” Scott said, according to the New York Daily News. “You see the cameras that follow him. Half of you [media members] wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t here. But he takes it all in stride and it never affects his relationship with his teammates. We understand it comes with the territory and we’re able to deal with it. It’s New York.”

Tebow also sat down for an interview Monday with ESPN‘s Hannah Storm:

2 » Tebow’s former teammate with the Florida Gators, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, was injured in training camp over the weekend and is expected to miss at least six weeks of action. Cooper was trying to haul in a deep pass from QB Michael Vick when he landed hard and fractured his left collarbone. He is set to undergo surgery on Monday and is unlikely to return to action until at least Week 2 of the regular season. Cooper was said to be set as the team’s No. 4 receiver heading into the season and should resume that role once he is completely healthy.

3 » Cooper was not the only former Gators wideout to give his team a scare this weekend as Buffalo Bills WR David Nelson also went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Luckily for Nelson and the team, doctors diagnosed him as having a strained tendon in his right leg and he will only miss about a week of practice.

4 » Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black was concerned when his team cleared house and hired a brand new coaching staff this offseason. A project of former head coach Raheem Morris, Black was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft but cut before the regular season after a severe high-ankle sprain caused him to miss much-needed preseason practice and in-game action. He was immediately signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad and earned his way on to the active roster at the end of the season, registering five tackles and a fumble recovery in four games. When Morris was fired, Black’s future was up in the air simply because it was unknown how the new coaching staff would view his potential. So far so good, according to The Lakeland Ledger. “I think he has really great feet,” assistant defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley told the paper. “I think he’s got great quickness. He’s very instinctual. He’ll go play the ball in the air. He gets to the ball. He’s one of those guys who is always around the ball and always making plays.” Black will likely continue to see most of his work on special teams but could factor into the Bucs plans on defense this season depending how he performs over the next few weeks.

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Gator Bites for Monday, July 2

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators pitcher Darren O’Day, currently a reliever for the Baltimore Orioles after spending time with three other MLB teams, was pranked by MLB Fan Cave and his manager Buck Showalter. Watch him get chewed out and completely fall for it:

» Former Gators striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach sat down for an in-depth and informative interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts and discussed a number of topics including the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. Wambach became an extremely popular sports figure after leading the Americans to the finals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup with some incredibly clutch goals and is now the face of the sport in the United States.

» Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte spoke with NBC‘s Bob Costas when he was done competing in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials over the weekend. Lochte speaks about the Olympics, his rivalry with Phelps and learning how to become a better athlete and competitor (Video).

» The Detroit Pistons did not extend a qualifying offer to former Gators forward/center Vernon Macklin over the weekend, officially making him an unrestricted free agent just one year after the team selected him with the No. 52 overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Despite not being tendered, Macklin will still play with Detroit’s summer league team in hopes of being re-signed or catching the eye of another squad. He was sent down to the NBA D-League during the season but dominated the competition by averaging 14.5 points and 14.3 rebounds in the games he played. He should be picked up by a team at some point sooner than later.

Read SIX more Gator Bites on Nelson, Cooper, Hill and Beal…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, July 2

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