4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,’” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. [...] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.’”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 NFL BITS: Brown, Lemmens, Spikes, Black

1 » In a surprising move on Tuesday, the New Orleans Saints released former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown. A nine-year NFL veteran who spent the first eight years of his career with the Chicago Bears, Brown was signed by New Orleans as a free agent in 2010 and notched 39 tackles (32 solo) with a forced fumble and two sacks as a 16-game starter. He held the same position through the first three preseason games and worked with the first-team defense in every practice this offseason. “It saddens me to say that I have been released from the Saints because [they're] a first class organization and I will miss it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Good luck to the guys and Who Dat Nation keep roaring… My family and I had a blast here.. Thanks.” Brown joins DE Bobby McCray and offensive tackle Max Starks as big-name free agents currently available with Florida ties.

2 » Also receiving bad news was former Gators linebacker Duke Lemmens, an undrafted free agent who found out Tuesday that his contract with the Arizona Cardinals had been terminated. Lemmens played in the team’s first three preseason games and made a number of tackles but was one of many players the team released in this round of cuts.

3 » New England Patriots LB Brandon Spikes had not practiced or played with the team since Aug. 4 but finally returned to the field on Tuesday according to reports from numerous media outlets. Spikes has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury but is expected to see some time in the team’s preseason finale at home on Thursday. He played in 12 games with eight starts during his rookie season and was fifth on New England with 71 tackles (41 solo) and an interception. He was suspended for four games in 2010 for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

4 » Another player out for an extended period of time was former Florida safety Ahmad Black, a fifth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2011 NFL Draft. Black suffered a high ankle sprain in the team’s preseason opener and has missed numerous practices and both subsequent preseason games since. There are rumors that Black could be cut soon because the team is only planning to keep four safeties and he has not had much of a time to make an impression, but head coach Raheem Morris has said previously that he believed Black was one of the steals of the draft. “I know he’s going to try to go this week,” Morris said, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “But it’d be hard right now for him to go out there and do some things, especially with the way Larry Asante’s playing, and Corey Lynch. Those guys played their butts off this preseason, not to mention our starters. It’ll be tough. You’d like to see him out there.” Black could always be a candidate for the practice squad in a worst-case scenario.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Blakely, Wright, Goble, The Voice

1 » In a conversation with Rivals affiliate AuburnSports.com, former Florida Gators running back Mike Blakely discussed at length his departure from the team and decision to transfer to the team he actually wanted to play for, the Auburn Tigers. “On signing day, I didn’t even want to sign,” he said. “I didn’t even want to put my name on the paper. But I saw the boys around me doing it and I was like, ‘Might as well do it.’ I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I signed and regretted it.” Blakely says that, contributing to his displeasure, was the head coaching change from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp, the offense switching from the spread to pro-style, and having (what he thought at the time was) unnecessary surgery on his shoulder.

Now looking back on his short time with the Gators, Blakely has fond memories of his former teammates and Muschamp, who he says he appreciates, respects and will still call ‘Coach’ whenever he sees him. Blakely goes into great detail about his situation and has plenty to say; click here to read the rest of the story.

2 » The NFL is currently investigating the usage of images of a handful of its players by Exxxotica Expo 2011 in promoting its May event in Miami, FL. According to the ABC affiliate WLS-TV in Chicago, IL, an on-the-field picture of former Florida now Chicago Bears safety Major Wright was used in advertisements for the event. Billed as one of the party’s hosts, Wright was featured in the ad alongside pictures of players from the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Though Wright cannot personally be held liable, the Bears are upset that their team was featured on the ad, and the NFL is bothered by the company violating licensing rights. “While Wright could not be reached, he is a fixture in Miami’s South Beach party scene, and he appears in ads and videos as the host of similar club events,” WLS-TV reports.

3 » Gators assistant women’s golf coach Jay Goble has been named head coach of the Baylor Bears. From the University of Florida: “Florida reached the postseason and improved in each of Goble’s three seasons in Gainesville. In 2009, the Orange and Blue finished 16th in the NCAA East Regional, eight spots shy of the top-eight finish needed to qualify for the NCAA Championships. The following season, the Gators placed 11th in the NCAA East Regional and in the 2011 NCAA East Regional, secured a berth in the NCAA Championships after landing in seventh.”

4 » Whether or not you are a fan of the new singing competition The Voice on NBC, it was interesting to learn Tuesday night that the show features a pair of connections to Florida. Kendra Andrews, the fiery redheaded sister of ESPN reporter and former UF dazzler Erin Andrews, is not only the main choreographer on the program, she also appears from time-to-time as a backup dancer (including last night during the second-to-last performance). Additionally, Casey Weston, a singer on Adam Levine’s team, is the sister of Gators junior volleyball player Sundai Weston. Should you wish to vote for her, you can do so up to 10 times (for free now through Monday) by calling 1-855-VOICE-02. Good luck to both ladies for the duration of the program.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

QB Chris Leak signs with CFL’s Roughriders

After three successful seasons as a back-up with the Montreal Alouettes including back-to-back Grey Cup championships, former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak was cut by the team in February. He did not last long as a free agent, signing a two-year contract by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday.

Saskatchewan, which was defeated by Montreal in the two Grey Cups Leak won, had an open spot on its roster and felt they could use Leak as a back-up behind starter Darian Durant. Leak could come in as either the No. 2 or No. 3 signal caller.

Since not being selected in the 2007 NFL Draft, he has bounced around looking for an opportunity to play. Leak first signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears but was cut before the regular season. He then planned to play in the never-formed All-American Football League and tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs but, once again, did not make the roster.

His CFL career began with a six-day stint with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2008; he was waived and claimed by Montreal, which kept him for almost three full seasons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Two former Gators selected in 2011 UFL Draft

The 2011 NFL Draft came and went last weekend with four former Florida Gators selected during the three-day event.

Center Mike Pouncey was chosen by the Miami Dolphins in the first round, tackle Marcus Gilbert was picked in the second round and is headed to join Pouncey’s brother with the Pittsburgh Steelers, safety Ahmad Black had to wait until the fifth round to be selected by his childhood favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Washington Redskins gave guard Maurice Hurt a chance in the seventh round.

The United Football League held its third draft on Monday with two former Florida players earning unique opportunities.

Cornerback Reynaldo Hill, a four-year NFL veteran (Tennessee Titans, 2005-08), was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the first round by the Omaha Nighthawks. Hill was a seventh round pick by Tennessee in 2005 but has been out of the league for years.

Defensive tackle Ian Scott, a seven-year veteran and fourth round pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2003 NFL Draft, was chosen No. 30 overall in the sixth round by the Virginia Destroyers and head coach Marty Schottenheimer. After playing for Chicago (2003-06), Scott had a short stint with the Philadelphia Eagles (2007) before finishing his career with the San Diego Chargers (2008-09).

The duo join former Gators guard Tavares Washington in the UFL; Washington has played the last two seasons for the Las Vegas Locomotives.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gators SS Ahmad Black falls to Tampa Bay at No. 151 overall in fifth round of 2011 NFL Draft

Round 5 – No. 20 (151 overall)
Ahmad Black, SS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Height: 5’10″ – Weight: 184 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Senior

Arguably the Florida Gators most valuable starter in 2010 and perhaps the most talented player coming out of Gainesville, FL this year, strong safety Ahmad Black was selected Saturday afternoon by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 20th pick in the fifth round (No. 151 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Chosen late in the process due to concerns about his size (5’10” 184 lbs.) and speed (4.74-second 40-yard dash), Black has proven over his four-year college career that he has every other attribute necessary to be successful at the next level. He is tough, durable, smart and can sniff out passes with the best of them.

“I’ve done a lot, a lot, a lot. And people always doubted me about my size,” he told the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday. “Definitely, that’s one of the biggest reasons. As frustrating as it is, I’ve just got to live with that.”

Black is the second Florida safety drafted in as many seasons. Major Wright was chosen in the third round with the 75th overall pick by the Chicago Bears in 2010.

He joins former Gators running back Earnest Graham on Tampa Bay and is the ninth Florida player selected all-time by the franchise. The Buccaneers last picked offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker with the No. 14 overall pick in 2001.

A Tampa Bay fan growing up, Black also has an aunt who was previously a cheerleader for the team. His last collegiate game – the 2011 Outback Bowl – was played in Raymond James Stadium. Black won the contest for the Gators with a game-sealing 80-yard interception return for a touchdown. He was named the Most Valuable Player.

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

» OGGOA’s 2011 NFL Draft Live Blog – Click here!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TWO BITS: Will Hill and Jones-Drew…on Twitter

1 » Former Florida Gators safety Will Hill, making an appearance on The Pat Dooley Show on Monday, claimed that recent criticism he received over messages from his Twitter account were not his but instead the work of someone else. “The Twitter thing just came up to me. I haven’t been on Twitter for the last five or six months. I called my people to see what was going on. I deleted everything but some blogger cut and pasted some things. Somehow, my thing has been hacked,” he said. “That was really hard on me. I would never want to disrespect the Gator Nation or Coach [Will] Muschamp or Urban Meyer. I don’t want people to think of me as a bad person.” Hill also said academics, not behavioral issues, were the reason he was suspended the first two games of the season and played sparingly in the 2011 Outback Bowl. He chose to clarify his decision to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft as well. “Coach Meyer always talks about family and when he decided to step down he talked about how important his family was and I was thinking the same way,” Hill said. “I have three beautiful sons and a beautiful wife. I thought it was best for me to leave the university. I know I didn’t have the best year, but I know I’m a great athlete. There was a lot going on this year. I had a few injuries and I couldn’t perform to the best of my abilities. I felt I let people down.”

2 » Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who cut-down Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday via his Twitter account by claiming he “quit” like former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, decided to back-off a portion of that statement Monday…the part about Cutler. “I never attacked him, called him soft or a sore loser,” Jones-Drew said about Cutler. “I never questioned his toughness. I think people took my joke out of context.” So what exactly was his joke? “I was taking a shot at Florida fans,” he quipped. Smart move for someone playing in a metropolitan area with arguably the largest collection of Florida fans outside of Gainesville, FL. Editor’s note: Jones-Drew attended UCLA.
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 Page 3 of 8 « 1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »