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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SIX BITS: Blakely, Hounshell, Jernigan, Brissett

1 » Florida Gators four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), an early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, is scheduled to have shoulder surgery this week that will keep him out of spring practice but hopefully allow him to be available in the summer. It is not known how Blakely injured his shoulder except that it occurred before he enrolled in January.

2 » Three-star offensive lineman commitment Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH), originally scheduled to join some of his future teammates as an early enrollee this month, instead decided to return to high school and take his time making his final decision. Hounshell announced Sunday that he received an in-home visit from Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Frank Verducci, men he described as “first class” and “just great people.” He will be visiting Florida this upcoming weekend in what appears to be a reaffirmation trip.

3 » The Gators coaching staff, barring a packed suitcase and plane ticket to Gainesville, FL, is now complete. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the defensive line coach of the Seattle Seahawks until they lost to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday, has now fulfilled his commitment to his team and should be ready to hit the ground running any day now. A Scout.com report from Friday noted that Quinn’s assistant DL coach at Florida, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young, was already hard at work recruiting. He was in the home of five-star DT Tim Jernigan (Lake City, FL), convincing him to take a trip and give UF some serious consideration.

4 » Though former Gators safety Will Hill decided to leave school early and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, his classmate and teammate in the secondary, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, chose to stick around for his senior season. Hill was shocked by this occurrence, especially considering Jenkins was expected to be a first-round selection, and told the Orlando Sentinel his thoughts on the subject. “He was talking about leaving,” Hill said. “I haven’t heard or spoke to him for two months. Last time I spoke to him, he said he was leaving. That he’s coming back is kind of a surprise.”

5 » After meeting with four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) at his high school on Friday, new Florida offensive coordinator and QB coach Charlie Weis invited him to take an unofficial visit to campus over the weekend. Brissett obliged, watched most of the game with Weis and met up with some of his former Dwyer High School teammates including freshman S Matt Elam. Brissett, also a high school basketball player who could be in a unique position to play both sports at UF, reportedly came away from the visit impressed though he still has plenty of thinking to do. Muschamp extended a scholarship offer to Brissett after Weis left on Friday, something he had not been given under former head coach Urban Meyer.

6 » The Gators’ two basketball programs have had a pretty rough go of it this week. In addition to the men falling 72-69 at home to South Carolina, the women lost a pair of gut-wrenching games on Thursday and Sunday. Routed 83-40 at home by the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 13, Florida blew a 16-point lead with 14:17 remaining in the game to fall 70-64 to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road in Athens, GA on Jan. 16. After getting out to a good start this season, the women have lost three of their last four games including a 73-56 throttling by Auburn on Jan. 6.

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

The 2010-11 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with nine former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2009-10: Averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounds (9.9), field goal percentage (55.1), free throw percentage (78.9) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last year. For the second-straight season he led his team to the second round of the NBA Playoffs where, like in 2008-09, they were swept.
2010-11: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta during the preseason and will be a restricted free agent when the year ends. The Hawks are believed to be making a concerted effort to resign the first-time NBA All-Star and No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft to a five-year deal worth $50-60 million.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2009-10: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (10.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.6), assists (2.1), free throw percentage (74.4) and minutes (30.1), Noah was also good for 2.1 assists per game and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He missed 28 games with a plantar fasciitis injury but regained his form before the playoffs, which saw Chicago fall in the first round.
2010-11: Noah was rewarded by the Bulls for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension in the offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and, with Chicago adding All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to the frontcourt, some of the pressure he felt to do everything for the team defensively may be relived.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2009-10: Averaging a double-double for the second-straight season with the New York Knicks, Lee posted career-highs in points (20.2), assists (3.6), blocks (0.5) and free throw percentage (81.2) along with 11.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent. A fan favorite who was a victim of circumstance due to the blockbuster free agents available this summer, Lee was moved to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade.
2010-11: Agreeing a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State, Lee will once again play for an up-tempo offense in which he will be able to shine. Though he will not be relied upon as heavily with the Warriors as he was with the Knicks, Lee will have ample opportunities to showcase his talent on the left coast.

Profiles for six more former Gators basketball players…after the jump!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins, Gators look to make impact

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FOUR BITS: Wright, Harvin, Demps, volleyball

1 » When former Florida Gators safety Major Wright landed with the Chicago Bears, early expectations were that he would be starting for them right away. However, as training camp went on, Wright broke his left index finger (missing almost the entire preseason) and pulled his groin (losing another week of practice). Finally healthy again, Wright was in the rotation last Sunday but went down with his third injury this year – a hamstring strain. Apparently Wright got hurt on special teams while trying to catch fellow rookie Dez Bryant’s 62-yard punt return for the Dallas Cowboys. Early reports have Wright missing at least three weeks, meaning he will have to start all over again during week six of the NFL season.

2 » In other injury news, former Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was expected to be featured Sunday as his Minnesota Vikings took on the Miami Dolphins. Instead Harvin reinjured his hip while throwing a block and was forced to sit out much of the game. Though head coach Brad Childress has noted that he is not concerned with Harvin’s hip, he did miss practice Monday and Tuesday because of it. When Wednesday rolled around, Harvin stepped on the field for a short time but had to leave as he suffered another bout of migraines. His status for Sunday is questionable.

3 » Florida junior running back Jeff Demps has been added to the 2010 Paul Hornung Award watch list, a first-year honor being given to the most versatile player in college football. In three games this season, Demps has achieved 369 yards of offense and two touchdowns as well as a total of 590 all-purpose yards. Redshirt junior WR Chris Rainey is also on the watch list.

4 » On the road Wednesday, No. 3 Gators volleyball (9-1) took down the rival No. 13 Florida State Seminoles (9-2) 3-0 (25-23, 31-29, 25-21) in Tallahassee, FL, at Tully Gymnasium. With the win, Florida is now 33-16 all-time against Florida State (26-2 under head coach Mary Wise). Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy once again led the way with her 19th career triple-double (11 kills, 20 assists, 11 digs for 12.5 points), while junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel contributed 11 digs and nine kills. The Gators will next see action at home on Sunday against Ole Miss.

Photo Credit: Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

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