Gators undrafted free agents agree to deals

Updated July 27 at 3:30 p.m.

The end of the NFL lockout sent the league into a frenzy Monday evening as teams were officially allowed to contact and agree to contracts with undrafted free agents who were not selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. With only four Florida Gators picked in the seven-round draft back in April, a number of well-known players remained available heading into one of the most questionable offseasons in pro football history.

With contracts now being signed as names continue to roll in, a number of former Gators have already been picked up to join NFL squads this year.

Everything started Monday evening as linebacker Duke Lemmens chose to stay out west and play for the Arizona Cardinals, defensive tackle Terron Sanders got a call from the Baltimore Ravens, and running back Emmanuel Moody decided to join 2010 undrafted free agent wide receiver David Nelson with the Buffalo Bills.

On Tuesday, punter Chas Henry chose to team up with wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Cornelius Ingram on the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive end Justin Trattou decided to play close to home with the New York Giants, and offensive lineman Carl Johnson joined up with DE Alex Brown on the New Orleans Saints.

Wednesday brought two more signings as LB A.J. Jones found a spot with the Denver Broncos and LB Brandon Hicks [unconfirmed] signed with the Bills. Jones joins quarterback Tim Tebow in Denver, while Hicks teams up with Moody and Nelson in Buffalo.

Safety Will Hill was originally reported to have agreed to a deal with the Washington Redskins; however, it surfaced Tuesday that those reports were premature and the two sides have not spoken about a contract.

OGGOA spoke with Sanders early Tuesday morning, and he related to us that former Florida defensive coordinator now Baltimore defensive backs coach Teryl Austin had a lot to do with him getting this opportunity with a top-tier franchise.

“Coach Austin, he’s up there now, and he put in a good word for me and told them that I can plug the hole and knock people back,” Sanders said. “He convinced them to take a shot at me. They called my agent, my agent called me and asked me if I’d be interested in going to Baltimore. I told them, ‘Yeah,’ and the deal is done.”

Though he has been hoping the lockout would end and has been keeping in shape, Sanders also kept himself busy with a regular job until his future was known.

“I haven’t put on a pair of shoulder pads in a while,” he said. “I’ve been working out, doing some running, and I started working at U-Haul about two weeks ago just to get some money in my pocket until this was decided.”

Other players who could be signed include WR Carl Moore and defensive lineman Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh.

OGGOA will update this post as additional signings are announced.

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Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
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OGGOA’s comprehensive 2011 NFL Draft Preview

Legalities surrounding the lockout may still be looming, but the 2011 NFL Draft will begin without a hitch Thursday night (ESPN, NFL Network) and run through April 30 as more than a dozen former Florida Gators hope to see their childhood dreams come true.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting Florida’s players may not be as excited about the event this time around considering there will be a significant drop-off from the nation-leading nine players that were selected in 2010 (including a school-record three in the first round and six in the first two rounds).

Few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft – trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player brings to the table differently than analysts and commentators do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, we will stick with what likely will happen.

» Center/guard Mike Pouncey will be the only first-round pick, selected before his brother was and headed to one of five teams.

Unless a team decides that they desperately need a center and plans to trade into the top half of the first round in order to jump a handful of other teams, Pouncey will likely be headed to either the Miami Dolphins (15) or New York Giants (19) at their respective draft slots or to one of three teams that would have to trade down/up for him: Dallas Cowboys (9), Chicago Bears (29) or Pittsburgh Steelers (31). The top-rated interior lineman in the draft, Pouncey continues to garner high praise and has plenty of teams around the league looking in his direction.

» Florida will not have another player selected until at least the third round.

There was talk for a while that tackle Marcus Gilbert may be moving into the category of a late second-round selection but that has died down recently. However, he is the only player on the team who has actually climbed up draft boards since the season ended. His size is undeniable and scouts were impressed with his agility and strength. Gilbert projects as either a right tackle or guard in the NFL with many scouts believing he might perform better in the latter position. He will likely be selected sometime in the third round and may very well be one of only two Gators picked in the first two days of the draft.

» The future of Florida’s secondary standouts is not very “safe.”

Like linebacker Brandon Spikes in 2010, strong safety Ahmad Black has seen his stock slide going into the draft due to concerns about his speed. Unlike Spikes last year, Black also has scouts worried about his lack of prototypical NFL size and how his immense talent will be able to translate to the big stage. As Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow knows, all it takes is one team to believe in you. And whether former head coach Urban Meyer is in Bill Belichick’s ear once again (the New England Patriots drafted three Gators in 2010) or a team simply realizes that Black has a high football IQ and can significantly impact a game if given an opportunity, he will likely have someone take a chance on him in the third or fourth round.

Though free safety Will Hill has the prototypical size and speed that Black lacks, those around the league have realized he is missing perhaps even more important things like football IQ and character. His athleticism is undeniable, but there are too many question marks about him (including, simply, his talent level) for a team to take a risk on him early. Hill will be picked on the third day – if he is at all.

» Punter Chas Henry will be drafted later than he should be.

When it comes to specialists, just being picked in the NFL Draft is usually an honor. Sometimes one has so much upside that they are selected extremely early (see kicker Sebastian Janikowski [No. 17 overall, 2000] and P Ray Guy [No. 23 overall, 1973]), but most of the time they are just lucky to be chosen in a middle round. Though Henry was the best collegiate punter in 2010 (and arguably 2009, too), his draft position will be based strictly on team need. His ability to serve as a viable back-up kicker should provide him a bit of additional value but chances are he is picked late on the third day.

» The vast majority of Gators will be undrafted free agents.

Due to red flags ranging from injuries to lack of production, the rest of Florida’s draft-eligible players may not know where they are headed for days, weeks or months depending how NFL teams decide to handle undrafted free agent signings in the face of the (recently lifted) lockout.

Offensive lineman Carl Johnson and Maurice Hurt; running back Emmanuel Moody; wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams; defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; defensive tackles Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine; linebackers A.J. Jones, Brandon Hicks and Lorenzo Edwards; and long snapper John Fairbanks could all be picked up after the draft concludes. There is the chance that a select few (Johnson, Hurt, Moody, Moore, Trattou) could be selected in the sixth or seventh round due to potential long-term upside.

For LIVE COVERAGE of the 2011 NFL Draft, be sure to join us back here at OGGOA beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. and running through the conclusion of the event on Saturday.

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FOUR BITS: Transfer, Noah, Weis, Dixie Grid Iron

1 » Rutgers Scarlet Knights sophomore quarterback Tom Savage, who decided to transfer after the season when head coach Greg Schiano permanently gave his starting job to freshman Chas Dodd, will be allowed to pursue opportunities with the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes, according to ESPN’s Joe Schad. Schiano had previously blocked Savage from speaking with Florida and Miami. It appears as if Savage is primarily interested in joining the Hurricanes, though the Gators could be an option for him should Miami sign a QB in their 2011 recruiting class. Considering four-star QB recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) is also considering UF and UM (in addition to Wisconsin and Washington), his decision to go to one school or the other could, theoretically, dictate where Savage winds up.

Starting all but one game in 2009, Savage threw for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 52.3 percent of his passes. He also started Rutgers’ first three games of the 2010 season and finished the year with 521 yards, two TDs and three INTs along with a 51.8 completion percentage. Why did Schiano change his mind? Savage’s grandparents live in South Florida, hence the reason he is interested in attending college in the stat.e “I have a better understanding of his reasons for wanting to contact those schools after speaking with him,” Schiano told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Because of my relationship with Tom and everything he has meant to the program I have given him permission to contact the University of Miami and Florida.”

2 » After having a pin taken out of his injured thumb, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a cast removed from his hand on Monday and will begin non-contact drills on Tuesday, ESPNChicago.com reports. “I just want to come back as soon as possible,” Noah said. “As soon as my hand is healthy, I want to be back there, regardless of what game it is.” He will begin traveling with the team this week and hopes to be active after the NBA All-Star break. “He’ll start the non-contact part of practice, and from there once he clears that he can practice with contact,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Once he practices with contact then he’ll be able to play. He’s still pretty much on schedule. He’s probably, the way we’re looking at it right now, right after the All-Star break.”

3 » According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown was planning on hiring none other than new Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis for the same position prior to then-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp taking the Gators head coaching job. The paper notes that two sources believe Weis-to-Texas was “all but considered a done deal” until Muschamp took the Florida gig.

4 » Two former Gators – wide receiver Carl Moore and defensive lineman Brandon Antwine – will be participating in the 2011 Dixie Grid Iron Classic on Saturday at noon. The event, which like many of its kind allow graduating seniors the opportunity to showcase their talents for NFL scouts, is mostly made up of players from western states.

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2011 Outback Bowl post-game news and notes

With the 2011 Outback Bowl now in the books and the Florida Gators set to undergo a major shake-up on the coaching staff and within the program, this is as good of a time as any to share some news and notes that OGGOA picked up over the past weekend.

SENIOR BOWL PARTICIPANTS

A source close to the players told OGGOA on Saturday that senior safety Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl.

UPDATE: When rosters were officially announced on Sunday, punter/kicker Chas Henry has also accepted an invitation to play on Jan. 29.

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow – the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper both participated in the game last year.

JUNIORS DECLARING FOR THE DRAFT

Though nothing has been officially confirmed, most close to the program believe junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will indeed declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Jenkins, considered to be one of the top three defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) available, is projected as a first round pick even though he is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder (an injury he played with most of the season).

Also expected to declare is junior S Will Hill, who was projected to be a high pick before the season but has failed to live up to the expectations of both analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill out as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below Black (76) and 24 under Jenkins (92). In addition to his on-the-field problems, Hill is believed to have a poor attitude off the field and has been disciplined numerous times this past season. People he has spoken with personally have been told he will not be returning to Florida for his senior year.

WALKING OFF THE FIELD BEFORE CELEBRATING

Though a number of the Gators’ injured players – including those who were hurt during the game – remained on the field to celebrate after Florida’s 37-24 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions, a few healthy players ran directly into the locker room instead. Hill, redshirt senior wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams and redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose all hurried off the field. Though Hill is likely to declare for the draft and both Moore and Williams are leaving/graduating, Debose’s departure was curious.

Checking in on Debose, OGGOA has learned that he has been quite disappointed with his time at UF thus far, a feeling that is not surprising considering he missed his first season due to injury and was only used sparingly in 2010 as a kick returner even though he showed explosive ability and the Gators struggled offensively. A source close to the team told us that Debose does not practice nearly as hard as the other young receivers and truly does not have a full grasp of the playbook, something head coach Urban Meyer noted early in the season. Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill – Debose simply could have been exhausted or sick or feeling down after being benched due to muffing two kickoffs – his exit from the field so suddenly is worth noting.

With a new coaching staff coming in and the ability to get a fresh start with an offensive coordinator and position coach, Debose may be getting exactly what he needs.

TWO OTHER CURRENT COACHES ARE GONE

In addition to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin moving on, the Palm Beach Post has confirmed that co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater (surprisingly) and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni (not surprisingly) will not be retained. “I will not be back next year,” Heater told the paper. With reports that Florida has hired former player Aubrey Hill as their new WR coach, Azzanni’s departure is not as much of a shock as Heater’s.

QUARTERBACKING YOUR 2011 GATORS IS…

Perhaps the most important position on the field – quarterback – is the Gators biggest question from a personnel perspective going into next season. Though redshirt freshman QB Jordan Reed said he was perfectly fine with moving to tight end to start the season, he has showed some ability behind center and may hope to get that opportunity in a spread offense elsewhere. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley, who has publicly acknowledged he is considering transferring, will have a pro-style offense in place at Florida should he choose to stay. Their decisions could be independent or related depending what Muschamp has to say and what Brantley’s family helps him decide.

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Florida student-athletes graduating in Fall 2010

According to the University of Florida, 33 student-athletes will be earning their degrees in commencement ceremonies on campus over the weekend. Twelve Florida Gators football players and eight swimmers lead the pack, which also includes some of the most accomplished athletes in school history like football’s Chas Henry and swimming’s Gemma Spofforth. OGGOA readers can view the entire list below as compiled by the University Athletic Association.

Continue Reading » Florida student-athletes graduating in Fall 2010

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11/22: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday before the Florida Gators compete in a game the following Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

LONG LIST OF INJURY UPDATES

Though even more Florida players are currently dealing with injuries, Meyer updated the status of a number of guys. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle), redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown (hamstring) and redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones are all listed as probable for Saturday. Freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley (ankle) is questionable and redshirt sophomore defensive end Earl Okine (concussion) is doubtful. Florida should receive preliminary word on junior CB Janoris Jenkins’ status on Monday after he suffered what was initially deemed a minor concussion over the weekend.

Meyer also noted that the Gators are indeed seeking a medical hardship waiver for kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has already missed seven games this year with a back injury. If it is granted, Sturgis will enter next season as a redshirt junior.

CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced Monday that 19 Gators had earned the designation of Champions after Saturday’s win over the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Offensively, Meyer named senior center Mike Pouncey as his player of the game along with redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt senior T Maurice Hurt, redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson, redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee, redshirt junior fullback Steven Wilks, redshirt freshman G Jon Halapio, redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey, redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed, redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr., redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson and freshman QB Trey Burton as his champions. On the defensive side of the ball, senior LB Brandon Hicks won the POG award, while senior safety Ahmad Black, redshirt junior CB Moses Jenkins, senior DE Duke Lemmens, redshirt senior DT Terron Sanders and freshman DT Sharrif Floyd were champions.

NO MORE PUNISHMENT FOR MOORE

Redshirt senior WR Carl Moore was ejected from Saturday’s game after retaliating during a fight with an opposing player. Meyer said Monday that Florida would not impose another penalty on the player seeing as the standard punishment is missing half of a game and he has already done that. “I had a meeting with him yesterday. We don’t do that, and I’m going to reemphasize that with the team,” Meyer said. The NCAA also decided not to pursue the issue further.

HELPING BRANTLEY IMPROVE

Asked how Brantley needs to improve from this point forward as a quarterback, Meyer said his two biggest issues are getting rid of the ball quickly and knowing when to “burn it” when being blitzed or having no open men downfield. Meyer cited the fact that Brantley being sacked causing a 2nd and 17 puts the Gators in a deeper hole than a simple incompletion on 2nd and 10 would.

He also noted, like he has previously this year, that Brantley (as a dropback passer) needs a strong, big running back and solid tight end play to compliment him. “When you have a quarterback like that, he’s got to be able to hand the ball off. It’s nothing new – it’s been like that for 100 years,” Meyer said. “When you’re limited at tight end and you’re limited at fullback [and you don’t have a big running back], you’re in quicksand. Hand the ball off – play action pass – and then utilize the dropback passing game.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/22: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

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Week 12: Gators post-game news & notes

Rebounding with a dominant 48-10 win over the Appalachian State Mountaineers (9-2) on Senior Day Saturday in Gainesville, FL, the Florida Gators (7-4) seemed to get some of their mojo back winning the first game in their last four tries at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

BLACK AND POUNCEY REDUCED MEYER TO A “WHIMPER”

After watching his seniors put on a stellar performance as a class on Saturday, head coach Urban Meyer gushed about two guys in particular – safety Ahmad Black and center Mike Pouncey.

“You [go] start-to-finish with guys; you see the growth not only as football players,” Meyer said after the game. “Ahmad – I have never been around a football player that has made such a progress from day one until day four years later. He’s the best strong safety in college… I can’t say that because I don’t know all of them, but if I had my draft pick of a strong safety, I’m taking Ahmad Black.

“And then Mike Pouncey – him and his brother and I saw his mom break down before the game crying – what those two meant for this program… To think there’s not going to be a Pouncey playing for us next year, that’s real hard to deal with right now.”
Asked after the game if he cried like his players did when they came out of the tunnel before the contest, Meyer tried to act tough but then let down his guard. “I don’t use the word ‘cry’ – that’s soft,” he said. “Whimper? Eye moisture and whimper. [Does] ‘whimper’ sound tough enough? Balled my eyes off then. I was emotional, those are good guys.”

MEYER RECOGNIZES THAT DEFENSE IS STILL STRUGGLING

Though Florida’s defense had a decent day, Meyer continues to notice that it is not playing near the level it did the last two seasons. “I think we could have played better, I really do. I think they played well, but there’s a style of play that’s been a tradition set way before these guys and that is just dominant changing-line-of-scrimmage defense,” he said. “I think we’ll get there eventually; we’re not there right now.”

TAKING BACK GIVING UP THE SWAMP

When Meyer took over in 2005, two of his main goals were dominating the Gators’ natural rivals and reclaiming The Swamp as a land of dominance. Though Meyer is 2-0 (and going for 3-0) against Florida’s traditional rivals this season, his team had previously lost three-straight games at home. “Awful. It’s not back. We’re going to work all offseason to get that thing back. It’s not,” Meyer said. “To say you’re going to go beat Appalachian State and say you got homefield advantage [back], that’s something… We beat it into them when we first got here and we’re going to re-beat… We lost more games [at home] I believe this year than we did the whole previous five years. That’s absolutely unacceptable. That will be a major discussion in the offseason.”

HIS NAME IS GARY…GARY BEEMER

A redshirt senior walk-on who has been specializing in defensive end on the Gators’ practice team, Gary Beemer is a player who may be unknown to most coaches. Not Meyer, who went out of his way to make sure he scored a touchdown on Senior Day. “Gary Beemer is one of my favorite players on our team,” he said. “He’s a guy that is about as unselfish a guy as you’re going to get. Our players love him because he goes every day. He’s going to go into a career of coaching. I grabbed him in the third quarter and said, ‘If we get close enough, I’d like to hand you the ball.’ We did that to Javier [Estopinan] a couple of years ago – just out of respect for the kid.”

INJURY UPDATES

» Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose – ankle – tweaked it before the game warming up, held out as a precaution; should be ready next week
» Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown – hamstring – pulled it earlier in the week and was held out; should be ready next week
» Junior CB Janoris Jenkins – concussion – suffered a “slight” concussion during the game and was held out from that point forward; should be ready next week
» Redshirt sophomore defensive end Earl Okine – concussion – suffered one during the game; next week’s status is unknown
» Freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley – ankle – left on crutches and may be out for the season if it is a high ankle sprain
» Sophomore linebacker Dee Finley – broken collarbone – will return next week

QUOTES (Some good stuff after the break…)
Continue Reading » Week 12: Gators post-game news & notes

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