SIX BITS: Wilder, Smith, Harvin, Ingram, Heat, golf

1 » Though he did not commit to the team as was rumored late last week due to a falsified e-mail, five-star athlete James Wilder, Jr. (Tampa, FL) does have a leader: the Florida Gators are the “team to beat,” according to Rivals’s Mark Wheeler. “Sources say [his upcoming visits are] more to confirm his choice of Florida than anything else,” Wheeler wrote. “Wilder Jr. is enthused that Florida looks to be moving to a more traditional power running game.” In addition to recruiting fullbacks, the Gators are “expected to still feature the dive play and many inside and off-tackle running plays, but instead of [Tim] Tebow carrying the ball, Wilder would be the guy. Throw in his comfort level at Florida as well as that of his family, and the Gators will be tough to beat.”

2 » Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith has done plenty in his career. An inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, he holds NFL career records for rushing yards (18,355), rushing touchdowns (164) and 100+ yard rushing games (78). The eight-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champion was also the 1989 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and is a member of the Gators’ Ring of Honor. But where he may have made his biggest impact is at Escambia High School, where he began his legacy. The Florida High School Athletic Association Player of the Century, Smith was not only a great player, his presence at the school helped ease racial tensions. “I wasn’t thinking about any racial tensions when I got to Escambia,” Smith told the Canton Repository. “It never dawned on me that I was part of a transformation at the school. I knew Escambia had a negative past, but I saw it was over and done with. I had played with white guys, black guys, all kinds of guys. Maybe that was me being naive.”

Four more BITS on Percy Harvin’s charity work, Cornelius Ingram’s knee, Gators on the Miami Heat and The Open Championship…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Wilder, Smith, Harvin, Ingram, Heat, golf

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Gator Bites for Thursday, July 15th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers. In those instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee of the Golden State Warriors has been invited to try out for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team and will be trying to prove his worth during a training camp next week in Las Vegas, NV.

» Twilight actress Ashley Greene is a huge Gators fan, even recently discussing the team on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (watch video). Here is a picture of her Wednesday night with Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA. Looks like a happy (and beautiful) young lady.

» Speaking of the ESPYs and Tebow, host Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live joked about the Heisman Trophy winner during a small portion of his opening monologue. “Tim Tebow is here. Tim’s jersey is already one of the top selling jerseys in the NFL. I heard that and thought: ‘Jesus…who does this guy know? … Oh right, Jesus.’ Just kidding, Tim. And I hope this goes without saying but…just kidding, Jesus.”

» One more… Playing a slight joke on Tebow on the ride back to the hotel Wednesday night after the ESPYs was ESPN‘s NFL insider Chris Mortensen. Sitting next to him on the hotel shuttle, Mortensen told him, “You’re gonna make a heckuva H-back.” Tebow “had a good laugh.” Also confirmed in attendance were Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer and sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Jenn Brown.

» Ranking his top six basketball players of the 2011 recruiting class, FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman has Florida five-star commit Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) taking the last spot. “[He] reminds me so much of Ray Allen. He’s silky smooth and can really shoot the ball from deep. Beal is also a winner,” Goodman notes.

» Three former Gators golfers – Camilo Villegas, Brian Gay and Mark Calcavecchia – are participating in The Open Championship at St. Andrews this weekend. In opening round action, the three men are T17 (-4), T46 (-2) and T73 (E), respectively.

» Sophomore jumper Christian Taylor, who had a great track & field season with Florida, won his second gold medal at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships at Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, FL, on Sunday. Winning the men’s triple jump to go along with his men’s long jump crown over the weekend, he is also a three-time NCAA Champion.

» The University of Florida‘s Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been named the host of the 2013 NCAA Gymnastics Southeast Regional.

» If you love recruiting and would like a quick update as to where the Gators are right now in putting together their 2011 class, check out this piece by ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. Most if not all of this has already been written about here on OGGOA, but Newberg’s article is a nice recap and does provide some interesting tidbits.

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TWO BITS: Baseball takes Bama, Wright inspired

1 » No. 4/6 Florida Gators baseball (32-11, 16-6 SEC) handled the Alabama Crimson Tide (28-18, 9-13 SEC) on Friday on the road at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, coming away with a 9-3 victory on the heels of freshman starter Hudson Randall’s seven shutout innings. Randall (6-3), cleared way for the Gators’ bats to get to work, and the lineup responded with every single player getting a hit. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) led the way with three RBI; freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (2-5) attempted to match him with two RBI and two runs of his own. Florida faces Alabama the next two days before returning to Gainesville, FL, for a five-game home stand.

2 » A day before Mother’s Day, it is good to hear a nice mother-son story prominently featuring a former Florida football player. For new Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, his mother Andrea Eluett has stood as a major part of his life, which is the reason why he gave her his 2009 BCS National Championship ring last year as a present. “She’s been a big inspiration in my life,” Wright said. “Growing up, we didn’t have it all. Everything wasn’t going right for us. But she’d always be there for us no matter what it took. Her [returning to school for a pharmacy degree] showed our family that we could go to college and be productive and get great jobs. It let us know that we could do all things and not to let anything hold us back.” Read the rest: ChicagoBears.com

UPDATE » Four former Gators started competing in The PLAYERS Championship on Thursday, but only one remains after two rounds of action. Camilo Villegas (143), Brian Gay (144) and Mark Calcavecchia (147) all missed the cut while Chris Couch will continue competing with a two-day 142 (-3).

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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TWO BITS: Masters day two, Prather an all-star

1 » Former Florida Gators golfers Brian Gay and Camilo Villegas continued their trek through the 2010 Masters on Friday. Both players finished their first round with a 2-over 74 but finished the second day with contrasting totals. Gay continued struggling, hitting a 5-over 77 for a two-day total of +7 151; he is expected to miss the cut. Villegas, on the other hand, improved from his first outing shooting par (72); he remains just 2-over with a total of 146 and will likely make the cut to play the remainder of the tournament.

2 » Florida four-star 2010 forward commitment Casey Prather (Jackson, TN) knows he will have to do battle with the Florida State Seminoles as part of his new team’s annual schedule. However, before he puts on the orange and blue, Prather is teaming up with Florida State four-star point guard recruit Ian Miller (Charlotte, NC) at the Florida vs. USA Hardwood Classic all-star game in Orlando, FL. Prather, who averaged 23.1 points and 11 rebounds as a finalist for Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball honor, spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about the Gators. “I think [head coach Billy Donovan] likes the effort I bring,” Prather said. “I’m athletic and I can score, but I take pride in trying to stop a good player.” As for why he decided to play in this game? “I wanted to do something where some of the [Florida] fans can see me play.” The last recruit of Prather’s size and skill level who the Gators grabbed out of Tennessee? Now-Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Corey Brewer.

Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Yeguete, Masters, Lemmens, Strong

1 » The Gainesville Sun is reporting that 2010 power forward recruit Will Yeguete of Florida Air Academy will visit the Florida Gators this weekend. Yeguete – who is choosing between Florida, Indiana and Georgia Tech – would not the first to make the transition from FAA to UF; guard Walter Hodge did it just a few years ago.

2 » Day one of the 2010 Masters has come and gone, and two former Gators are already struggling. Both Brian Gay and Camilo Villegas finished their first round at 2-over par. Gay birdied four holes (2, 3, 7, 13), bogeyed four (6, 10, 12, 14) and double-bogeyed one (16) to finish with a score of 40 on the back nine. Villegas bogeyed three holes (3, 11, 13) and only earned one birdie (15), shooting a 37 out and in.

Two more BITS on Duke Lemmens and Charlie Strong…after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Yeguete, Masters, Lemmens, Strong

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Former Gators golfer Villegas wins Honda Classic

Former Florida Gators golfer Camilo Villegas had been searching for a signature victory on the PGA Tour. He found it Sunday, winning his third tour title following four days of outstanding golf at the 2010 Honda Classic from the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Villegas, who shot a four-under 66 in the first round on Thursday, duplicated his performance Friday for a tie atop the leaderboard with Anthony Kim with a combined eight-under 132. Looking to pull away from the pack Saturday, he birdied four of seven holes before bogeying three in a five-hole stretch. Villegas still finished the third day with the lead after a three-under 67 kept him atop the leaderboard with an 11-under 199.

He closed out the tournament Sunday with a beautiful birdie putt on 18 for a final round two-under 68 and his first PGA Tour victory of the season. Villegas won the tournament by five strokes with a 13-under 267, tying hall of famer Jack Nicklaus‘ tournament record for margin of victory.

Villegas, who lives in South Florida, had the comfort of staying in his own home throughout the tournament and benefited from the cheering and support of local fans as he progressed throughout the weekend.

“I’m sleeping in my own bed this week, which is always nice,” Villegas said Saturday. “I’ve been nice and relaxed. Golf tournaments are four days. So with that said, you’ve got to put four good rounds together and see what happens at the end.”

After the win Sunday, it was obvious that he felt a sense of accomplishment. “It’s been a long week, but man, it’s been a good one. I loved every second of it,” he said. “It’s never as easy as you think. I stayed patient and my attitude was great all week.”

Fellow former Gators golfer Matt Every finished tied for 26th place with a one-over 281. Chris Couch missed the cut after the second day of the tournament.

Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/Associated Press

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TWO BITS: Gators at The Honda Classic, lacrosse

1 » Former Florida Gators golfers tore up the first round of The Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Thursday. Camilo Villegas was T3 on Thursday with a -4 66, Matt Every followed at T19 with a -1 69 and Chris Couch brought up the rear at T43 with a +1 71. All three have begun the second round hot with Villegas, as of press time, tied for the lead.

2 » Lacrosse (3-1) continues to roll in its inaugural season, picking up a decisive 22-11 win over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (0-2) Thursday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman attackers Ashley Bruns and Julie Schindel scored five and four goals, respectively, as the Gators cruised to victory. The team is up for some stiff competition when the No. 5 Georgetown Hoyas come to town Tuesday.

Extra Bit » Before the match, Florida freshman midfielder Brittany Dashiell was named the American Lacrosse Conference Co-Rookie of the Week after scoring six combined goals against La Salle and No. 4 North Carolins last week.

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