FOUR BITS: NFL Combine, Strong poaches recruit

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Ryan Stamper, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and kick returner Brandon James have received invites to the 2010 NFL Combine. Juniors who have declared for the 2010 NFL Draft have yet to receive invitations, but fans can expect DE Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez and safety Major Wright to participate in the event from Feb. 24 to March 2 in Indianapolis, IN.

2 » Three-star athlete Marcus Smith (Columbus, GA) had an outstanding scholarship offer from Florida and was prepared to take it…that is until Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong came calling. “If Louisville would have never been in the mix, I would have probably went to Florida,” Smith told the Courier-Journal. “But I’m glad Louisville came into the mix. I like coach Strong a lot, and I really wanted to play for coach Strong. Louisville is a great program. He wants me to play quarterback, he established that during our talk this morning. To tell you the truth, I just want to play, so I am good wherever he wants me.” Upon taking his position with the Cardinals, Strong said he would not poach recruits the Gators were interested in unless they initiated contact.

3 » The Gators hosted their biggest remaining recruiting weekend the past few days and a number of both committed and undecided prospects came away impressed. Four-star running back Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA), who at one point was wavering after head coach Urban Meyer announced his leave of absence, solidified his recruitment after getting extensive time with new running backs coach Stan Drayton. Brown also told Adam Gorney of Rivals that Meyer may return as soon as March. “He looked pretty fine to me,” Brown said. “He looked healthy. I know he wants to coach, so I know he’s going to be there. He’s going to take a couple weeks off in February, but he’ll be back.” Fellow four-star recruits offensive tackle Chaz Green (Tampa, FL) and wide receiver Christian Green (Tampa, FL) raved to numerous sources about their respective experiences.

4 » Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers with just two seconds remaining in the game, the Florida women’s basketball team gained a bit of revenge by taking down the Mississippi State Bulldogs 55-52 on the road on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum. Sophomore guard Trumae Lucas scored seven points off of the bench in the waning minutes while senior forward Sharielle Smith led the Gators with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also grabbing seven boards.

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SIX BITS: Tough loss, Stamper, Wuerffel, 2011

1 » One year ago, the Florida Gators women’s basketball team upset the then-No. 12/17 Tennessee Lady Vols 66-57 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Looking to repeat history, a much younger Florida team (9-8, 2-2 SEC) had the game tied at 64 against a significantly more experienced No. 4 Tennessee squad (15-1, 3-0 SEC) until Lady Vols guard Angie Bjorklund hit a reverse lay-up with 2.3 seconds left in the second half to pull ahead and ultimately win 66-64. Four Gators scored in double figures, and Florida led for much of the second half but could not hold on.

2 » In a news item that OGGOA broke Thursday via twitter, former Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper was invited to be a participant in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. Stamper is currently slated to play in the game but may have to pull out if the ankle injury he suffered in the 2010 Sugar Bowl flares up. The game will air live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. In other Stamper news, he has decided to sign with agent Garriet Blair of GMB Sports and Entertainment. Quarterback Tim Tebow has declined an invitation to the East-West Shrine and will instead participate in the 2010 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

All-Americans, Wuerffel, 2011 recruits and Gators in the pros after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tough loss, Stamper, Wuerffel, 2011

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Three’s a charm: Wright to enter NFL Draft, too

After conflicting reports surfaced early Monday about his status for next season, Florida Gators junior safety Major Wright told Joe Schad of ESPN that he has decided to forgo his final year of college eligibility and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. “I’m going to the NFL,” Wright said in a text message to Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald.

“I enjoyed my time in Gainesville, they were some of the best years of my life,” Wright said in a University of Florida release. “Beyond winning championships, I will take with me some great memories of personal friendships from my teammates and lessons learned from the coaching staff. I will always be a Gator and look forward to watching them play from the sidelines in the future.”

Wright is the third Florida junior to declare Monday, joining defensive end Carlos Dunlap and center Maurkice Pouncey whose announcements were made earlier in the day. Five juniors in total are making themselves eligible for the draft – cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez are the other two.

“Major will be missed in our secondary and by his teammates,” said head coach Urban Meyer. “He was a physical player who had a presence on the football field and was someone our players looked up to and gravitated to. They enjoyed being around him both on and off the field. We wish him the best of luck.”

Fellow junior S Ahmad Black, Wright’s 2008 running mate and one of three starters at the position in 2009, has “decided to stay in school and get his stock up in next year’s NFL Draft,” his father Bruce Black told the The Miami Herald Saturday night. Black will likely start at safety along with sophomore Will Hill.

The Gators’ 2010 starting secondary will likely consist of Black and Hill along with sophomore CB Janoris Jenkins and redshirt freshman CB Adrian Bushell on either side. That is, of course, unless one of Florida’s four incoming freshman at the position do not usurp one of their roles.

Take a moment and enjoy the best play of Wright’s Gators career:

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Carlos Dunlap also declares for 2010 NFL Draft

Following the trend set by juniors cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez and center Maurkice Pouncey, defensive end Carlos Dunlap has decided to forgo his senior season with the Florida Gators and make himself eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft. Dunalp, who was at one point projected as a top-five pick, saw his stock fall after a shocking DUI arrest the Monday before the 2009 SEC Championship.

“This took a lot of thought and prayer between me and my family, and we decided that this was the best direction for me to take,” Dunlap said. “I’ve loved having the chance to play at Florida for Coach [Urban] Meyer, and playing for Coach Charlie Strong. I wouldn’t be the person or the player I am today without them and the other coaches who have helped me along the way.”

Already close to graduating, Dunlap received a promising grade from the league’s Draft Advisory Board – two factors that likely led to his decision. “The feedback that he’s gotten is that he will go late in the first round or early in the second round,” Dunlap’s father told Rivals last Tuesday. “Staying to get a degree isn’t going to be an issue because he’s on track to graduate in December. He’s close enough to getting his degree that he can do it anytime. So does he want to come back to finish up his education and maybe be the top overall draft choice next year or does he want to come out right now and start working on his NFL career?”

Obviously Dunlap, the defensive MVP of the 2009 BCS Championship and an almost unanimous All-SEC team selection, chose the latter. He closed his Florida career by earning two of the Gators’ three sacks in the Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats and finished with a team-high nine this season.

“Carlos has all of the physical tools to be successful at the next level,” Florida head coach Urban Meyer said. “I believe if he continues to grow and mature he will have a very long career in the NFL. He provided matchup problems for opposing teams and was a big part of our success during the last several years. We wish him the best of luck.”

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Pounceys Split: Maurkice to NFL, Mike to center

Florida Gators offensive linemen and twin brothers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey have been inseparable since birth. Playing next to each other on the line at Lakeland High School and then with the Gators for three seasons, both knew that they would have to go different directions at one point or another. Though it was assumed that the separation would likely come when different teams picked them in the draft, it was always a hope that they would at least be able to leave school at the same time. Instead Maurkice, who plays center, has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2010 NFL Draft while Mike, a guard, remains in the Orange and Blue for one more year, according to Joe Schad of ESPN.

“This is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my life,” Maurkice said. “I am glad that my brother and I made the decision to be Gators. God gave us the knowledge, strength and ability to be great players, but it is now time for my brother and me to part ways. I would like to thank my family for standing behind me in the decision that I have made and my coaches for believing in me as a true freshman and helping me achieve everything that I have as a Gator. I would like to thank all the fans for cheering us on and getting us hyped up for the games. I am going to miss the Gator walks and the Gator Nation.”

“I’m very excited to come back and wear the Orange and Blue for the 2010 season,” Mike added. “I’m looking forward to being a leader on this team, having the opportunity to play center and continuing to learn from Coach Steve Addazio. It has been an honor to play here, so I can’t wait to run out into The Swamp for another year.”

Before the 2010 Sugar Bowl, the brothers both submitted paperwork for evaluations by the league’s Draft Advisory Board. It was decided long ago by the Pounceys and their mother Lisa Webster that each brother would only declare if his grade was determined to be a first- or second-round selection. Maurkice, who was awarded the 2009 Rimington Trophy for best collegiate center and plays a more specialized position, likely received this grade while Mike has decided to wait and improve his next season. Both Pounceys received honorable mentions in OGGOA‘s Florida Gators All-Decade Team and were unanimous All-SEC team selections.

“These are two guys who we’ve been able to build our program around for the last several years,” said head coach Urban Meyer. “They have both provided an unbelievable amount of leadership and energy to our team. These guys embody the toughness and physical style of play that we want Florida to be known for. We wish Maurkice the best of luck, and we’re looking forward to having Mike continue to be a leader on the team and anchor our offensive line.”

OGGOA previously reported that Mike intends to attempt playing center and could very well end up starting for the Gators at that position in 2010. Schad confirmed this report. Succeeding at such a move would make him a more valuable commodity at the end of next season and likely raise his draft stock as well.

“Maurkice has all the tools to succeed in the NFL,” interim head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio added. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will be a great player at the next level. I wish him nothing but the best because has been like a son to me. I also know that Mike has a great future ahead of him. I believe he will be the top returning offensive lineman in America. Coming back just gives him another opportunity to grow as a player and as a leader and will help him increase his positional versatility. Without question, Mike’s future is very bright.”

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SIX BITS: Dunlap’s future, QB offered, DT Floyd, Big Board, Smith and Holliday, Lewis

1 » Though juniors cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez have declared for the 2010 NFL Draft, the decision is not an easy one for defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Once considered a top-five talent, Dunlap’s arrest and subsequent suspension for DUI prior to the 2009 SEC Championship had him fall down draft boards. “The feedback that he’s gotten is that he will go late in the first round or early in the second round,” Dunlap’s father told Rivals on Tuesday. “Staying to get a degree isn’t going to be an issue because he’s on track to graduate in December. He’s close enough to getting his degree that he can do it anytime. So does he want to come back to finish up his education and maybe be the top overall draft choice next year or does he want to come out right now and start working on his NFL career?” Dunlap’s father will also consult former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong for advice. “We value Charlie’s opinion. We value Charlie’s evaluation. We value Charlie’s leadership. So if Charlie tells us this is how he thinks it should be, I trust he is going to tell us what is best for Carlos based on the evaluations and feedback he has received.”

2 » JC Shurburtt of ESPN is reporting that Gators quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler has extended an offer to five-star 2011 QB recruit Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL). “I was real excited about the offer,” Driskel said. “I have been talking to Coach Loeffler just about once a week, and he told me that he was ready to offer me. When I got it, obviously I was real excited.” He has also received offers from Auburn, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Florida International. Driskel also told Shurburtt that while he does currently live in Florida, location won’t factor much in his final decision. “When I was younger, we moved around a lot because my dad was in the Navy,” he said.

Four more BITS including recruiting and NFL Draft news after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Dunlap’s future, QB offered, DT Floyd, Big Board, Smith and Holliday, Lewis

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Haden, Hernandez declare for 2010 NFL Draft

Juniors cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez have both announced this week their intention forgo their final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. Haden, who started all 40 of his career games and was the first true freshman to start at CB in school history, made his declaration on Sunday while Hernandez, who was the first TE in Southeastern Conference history to win the John Mackey Award, let his decision be known Wednesday.

Finishing his career with eight interceptions and 218 tackles, Haden was a consensus first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC coaches selection and first-team All-SEC Associated Press selection as well as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009. “This was a tough decision, and I spent a lot of time with my family talking about it,” Haden said. “I’m so proud that I had the chance to be a Gator. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Coach [Urban] Meyer and Coach [Vance] Bedford have helped me in so many ways. I’ll always be thankful to them for everything, and I know I’ll never forget the fans in Gator Nation.”

Hernandez, also a first-team All-American, first-team All-SEC coaches selection and first-team All-SEC AP pick, led his position group in the nation with 68 receptions and 850 receiving yards in 2009. He started 27 games with the Gators and finished with 111 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns while setting school records for most catches by a tight end in a season (68) and career (111). “After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am declaring myself eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft,” Hernandez said. “It is really special for me to take this first step toward my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL on the fourth anniversary of my father’s passing. I know he would be proud of not only me, but of my whole family, whose love and support are the only reasons I am where I am today.

“My three years at Florida provided me with the foundation I need to succeed as a player and a person. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Foley, Coach Meyer and the entire Gator coaching staff for bringing me to Florida and serving as my family away from home. They were constantly pushing me to become a better player and – more importantly – a better person. I am so grateful for their guidance and support. I also want to thank my teammates for their help on the field and their friendships off the field. I was fortunate to have been a part of three great Gator teams with many great players who I know I will see at the next level. Finally, I will never forget Gator Nation. You all are the reason I wanted to come to Florida and I look forward to returning to Gainesville to cheer on future Florida teams with the best fans in the country.”

Five remaining juniors including defensive end Carlos Dunlap, offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey and safeties Major Wright and Ahmad Black are still deciding whether or not to leave school. This year’s NFL Draft will be held from April 22-24 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY. OGGOA will offer live coverage of the event both on this Web site and via twitter.

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Grading the Florida vs. Cincinnati game

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive grades the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the final game of their season, the 2010 Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

QUARTERBACKS: A+
When the best player in school history plays the best game of his career in the final game of his career, it is tough not to give him an “A+” grade. And that is exactly what senior quarterback Tim Tebow has earned – not just for his outstanding performance Friday evening but for his career in the Orange and Blue. Pick your poison: was it the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award he was given before the game, the Sugar Bowl record 12 consecutive completions, the career-long 80-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, the Sugar Bowl and BCS bowl game record 533 yards of total offense, the Sugar Bowl/BCS record 482 passing yards, the 31 completions which set a new Sugar Bowl record, the Sugar Bowl high four touchdowns or the 88.6 completion percentage that set a BCS record? The answer, of course, is “all of the above.”

RUNNING BACKS: A-
Tebow was once again the leading ball carrier for the Gators with 14 touches for 51 yards and a touchdown, but both redshirt junior Emmanuel Moody and redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey came up big throughout the game. Moody rushed eight times for only 14 yards but scored two touchdowns on the ground (he also had four receptions for 19 yards) while Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards and ran four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Mike Gillislee cleaned up at the end of the fourth quarter and took a ball 52 yards for a final line of five carries for 78 yards. Sophomore Jeff Demps, the true starter, left the game after he dislocated his elbow on his third rush of the game. Though the attempts and yards were not there, three rushing touchdowns brought this unit up a half-grade.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Sugar Bowl after the jump…
Continue Reading » Grading the Florida vs. Cincinnati game

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