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.

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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.

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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!

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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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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.
 

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Miller, visits, MJD, Chickillo

1 » A victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship ensured that, for the ninth consecutive season, a former Florida Gators player will be going to the Super Bowl. Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game of the 2010-11 season for Pittsburgh but left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with a high-ankle sprain (left), could also become the 14th former Gators star to win a ring. “I know in my heart that I’m playing in that game,” Pouncey said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I had the same injury before on my other ankle and I know how to attack it. I know how to approach things.” Should the Steelers be victorious in Super Bowl XLV, it would be the third-straight year a Florida player has won a ring (Pittsburgh-Starks, New Orleans-McCray). Editor’s note: Steelers left tackle Max Starks would also receive a ring, though he has missed most of the season after injuring his neck earlier in the year.

2 » Getting off to a slow start this year after returning from a serious thumb injury he suffered during preseason training camp, Miami Heat guard Mike Miller went nuts on Saturday with two of his team’s best players on the sideline. Playing a season-high 33 minutes, Miller went 12-of-20 (and 6-of-11 from downtown) for 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists and set a franchise record with 22 points in the second quarter alone. He was 5-for-18 before Saturday’s game and had only scored 15 points on the season. “It’s not like I forgot how [to shoot],” Miller said. “It’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it. It was a matter of time.”

3 » UF received official visits from four-star cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and three-star offensive tackle Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, MI) over the weekend, both of whom were hosted by players and took in Florida’s big basketball win over Arkansas with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Roberson, currently committed to Texas Tech (where his uncle Otis Mounds is the CB coach), may be up for grabs depending how he feels his visit went. Fisher, on the other hand, has his recruitment completely open and is strongly looking around. A former Michigan commit, he decided to weigh his options after head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired.

4 » When Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship game on Sunday with a knee injury, many current and former NFL players took to Twitter in order to bash him. An interesting – and to Gators fans “offensive” – tweet came through from the account of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who likened Cutler’s sitting on the sidelines to Florida head coach Urban Meyer resigning. “Hey I think the Urban Meyer rule is effect right now. When the going gets tough… QUIT,” Jones-Drew wrote. “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee. I played the whole season on one…” Editor’s note: Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the 2010 season (while Jacksonville was still in playoff contention) with a knee injury.

Extra BIT » Though the new coaching staff, including head coach Will Muschamp made a strong case to get him to switch, four-star defensive end Anthony Chickillo decided to reaffirm his commitment to the Miami Hurricanes over the weekend.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Conference

With the 2010-11 NFL regular season having come to a close, a number of Florida Gators participated in Conference Championship action during the NFL Playoffs. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the third week of the playoffs.

S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Six solo tackles

C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Started but suffered an injury in the first quarter and did not return; diagnosed after the game as a high-ankle sprain, which is usually a multiple-week ailment. Pouncey’s status for Super Bowl XLV is unknown.

REGULAR SEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

PLAYOFFS: Wild Card | Divisional

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Pouncey, Wright, Noah, Horford

1 » After head coach Josh McDaniels was fired, murmurs surrounded the Denver Broncos specifically about whether or not his replacement would be a fan of rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Now that John Fox has been hired as the team’s new head coach, questions about Tebow’s safety in Mile High have been quieted. The issue now is whether or not he will be tabbed as the team’s starter in 2011. “Just like any position, they’ll compete and we’ll go from there,” said Fox on the Dan Patrick Show when discussing Tebow and veteran Kyle Orton. “It’s too early for me to say. I’m going to evaluate guys on grass and we’ll have to see when we get those opportunities.” Most of Denver is calling for Tebow to be given the reigns to the offense after he started the final three games of the 2010 season; Fox hopes to be convinced of the same next year.

2 » The Beaver County Times sat down with Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey and pick his brain about the team’s playoff run. One of two Florida Gators rookies remaining in the NFL Playoffs, Pouncey was candid in his answers. “It’s so much better,” he said of winning an NFL playoff game compared to playing in big games at Florida. “There is so much more on the line. In college, it was awesome. We had a great group of guys. But it was amazing. It was unbelievable. Man, our fans were awesome. For them to be out there with that much energy, it was crazy.” Pouncey also said winning a Super Bowl would be “the greatest accomplishment ever.”

3 » Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris injured his hip in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, paving the way for Major Wright to see extensive playing time against the Seattle Seahawks. Though Harris will be back against the Green Bay Packers, Wright is expected to see more playing time than usual in relief of his teammate.

4 » Catching up with injured Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, who is currently on the outside looking in, NBA.com reports that the former Gators star will have a pin removed from his injured right thumb in a week’s time and will finally begin rehabilitation on the thumb shortly after. “It’s been long and sometimes frustrating not being able to be out there with my teammates,” Noah said on Monday. “Physically, I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and working out. I feel strong and I’ll be ready to get back and help the team. I’m just trying to control what I can control right now. I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before that because I would love to play in that game.” The article also discusses Noah inviting a dozen children to a game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, his thoughts on point guard Derrick Rose and how good he believes the team can be this season.

5 » Speaking of former Florida stars in the NBA, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford is once again having an impressive season. In addition to averaging a career-high 16.5 points per game, Horford set a new career-high in blocks with seven on Monday night. He also scored 23 points (on 10-of-16 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and dished six assists in his team’s victory against the Sacramento Kings.

6 » Swimmers Gemma Spofforth (who graduated in December) and senior Conor Dwyer have been named the 2010 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top female and male student-athlete who excels in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Spofforth is the third woman to win the award in back-to-back seasons (Angie McGinnis-2006-07, Nicole Haislett-1992-93); she and Tebow (only three-time winner) were honored in 2009. Dwyer is the third men’s swimmer to get the award (Ryan Lochte-2004, Greg Burgess-1993).

Photo Credit: NBA.com

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