SIX BITS: Walker, softball, Nelson, gym, lax

1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:

2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.

3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.

6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from the No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.

Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, PGA, Caldwell

1 » In his season-ending meeting with the media, Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway gave quarterback Tim Tebow his biggest endorsement thus far even if it was not completely what Tebow’s fans may have wanted. “Tim is the starting quarterback going into training camp,” Elway said Monday, according to the Denver Post, failing to go further than that designation. “He made great strides. He has earned the right to be the starter going into training camp next year.” Elway also admitted, as expected, that Denver will look to add some competition for Tebow at the quarterback position because the Broncos’ “passing game was not where we want it to be.” As he mentioned during the season, Elway plans to work with Tebow in a number of areas including in the film room and on his footwork, drops and timing with receivers. He expands on these comments in the video below:

2 » Continuing his stellar play this year Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons had yet another solid game Monday, again earning the start and scoring eight points (on 4-of-7 shooting) with eight boards (three offensive), four assists and two blocks in 29 minutes. He also had two impressive plays in the game including one put-back slam and another dunk over Washington’s 7’0″ center JaVale McGee, which you can see below:

In related NBA news, center Marreese Speights had his best performance with his brand new team the Memphis Grizzlies, registering a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. Speights went head-to-head with Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah, who has been struggling with a hand problem this season and had just two points and five rebounds. Memphis beat Chicago 102-86 on Monday.

3 » Former Gators golfer Matt Every, who led the 2012 Sony Open for two days, wound up finishing tied for sixth in the event…with fellow former Florida golfer Brian Gay and two other players. Every and Gay (-10) each ended the tournament three strokes back of the leader (Johnson Wagner, -13) and were two of three former Gators in the top-13 with Chris DiMarco finishing -8 over four rounds. As OGGOA mentioned over the weekend, Every recently opened up about a marijuana arrest. This video provides more on that and includes a discussion he had while leading after the second round.

4 » According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it is not likely that former Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell will be back with the Cincinnati Bengals next season. Caldwell, who brought in 37 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns last season, is now a free agent and is unlikely to be retained by the team. Caldwell himself is probably looking for a better opportunity as well and may find that with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Bengals’ former offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, has taken that same position with the Jaguars.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Wild Card

With the 2011 regular season complete, six Florida Gators participated in Wild Card action during the first round of the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs over the weekend. A total of 11 former Florida players were on the rosters of five of six teams that played, but a number were either inactive or forced to sit out due to injury. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos^: 10/21 for 316 yards, two touchdowns (QB rating: 125.6); 10 carries for 50 yards, touchdown

Continue Reading » Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Wild Card

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4 BITS: Larson avoids jail, Pouncey gets fined

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson will not serve any jail time in South Dakota even though his 120-day suspended sentence was revoked earlier this week by Minnehaha County Judge John Schlimgen due to Larson’s arrest in Florida on April 10. According to KSFY ABC, Judge Schlimgen re-invoked Larson’s suspended sentence due and gave him two more years of probation. Larson’s jail sentence will remain suspended as long as he stays out of trouble and follows a number of terms and conditions set forth by the Minnehaha County State Attorney’s Office. If he violates his probation again, chances are the judge will not be as lenient next time. Larson remains indefinitely suspended from the Gators basketball team because his legal status had not yet been decided until Friday. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely reinstate him soon, as he did with junior F Erik Murphy after his case was settled.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was fined $7,500 by the NFL on Friday due to an unnecessary roughness call he got Sunday against Houston. Pouncey was fined for what the NFL determined was a late hit, though Pouncey said he did not hear the whistle and will not let the fine affect him. “I’m not changing how I play,” he said.

3 » Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was praised by Pro Football Focus as the second-highest rated player at his position in the league. Dunlap does not have a sack yet this season after registering 9.5 in 2010 (including 8.5 in the final six games). He does, however lead Cincinnati with eight quarterback pressures, which is a great sign for the player. “Once you get one usually you get on a roll. Right now though the first one is the toughest,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’m getting quarterback hits and pressures. Eventually they are going to turn into sacks.”

4 » On the injury front, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (sprained MCL) returned to practice for the first time on Thursday since getting hurt in Week 2. He is considered “on track” to play. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy, who has yet to play this year due to a sports hernia/groin injury, resumed practicing this week but was limited. Murphy, a starter in 2010 who was looking like Oakland’s most promising receiver, has fallen on the depth chart due to his absence and will have to work his way back up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham was injured during practice on Thursday. Graham hurt his hamstring and is questionable to play on Saturday. Though he may not be raking in the scores, he has been an integral part of Tampa Bay’s offense up to this point.

Updating the item above, Hernandez is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report, Murphy will miss one more week, and Pittsburgh’s new left tackle Max Starks has earned the starting role for Sunday’s game.

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TWO BITS: Injuries good news for NFL receivers

1 » Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell – stuck behind the likes of Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh during his NFL career – will finally move into a starting role with the team on Sunday. Jordan Shipley, the Bengals’ primary slot receiver, tore his ACL last weekend and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. This allows Caldwell to replace him in the rotation, a move that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown reception just moments after Shipley was injured on Sunday. Caldwell hopes to prove he deserves a starting role going forward as he tries to improve on his performance from 2009, the best year of his career in which he caught 51 passes for 432 yards with three touchdowns.

2 » In a similar situation going forward is Buffalo Bills pass catcher David Nelson. Though Nelson did perform well with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie campaign, he will become Buffalo’s full-time slot receiver after both Roscoe Parrish and Marcus Easley were ruled out for the remainder of the season. Nelson scored the Bills’ game-winning touchdown on Sunday and has been an undrafted free agent gem for Buffalo since the team signed him in 2010. NBC Sports points out that, “The slot receiver in a Chan Gailey offense is a heavily targeted position and Nelson has excellent red zone skills at 6’5/220. There’s major breakout potential here, starting this Sunday with a plus matchup against the [New England] Patriots.”

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FOUR BITS: Boynton, Hill, Collinsworth, Crowder

1 » Florida Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton has always viewed himself as a scorer, someone who was able to do everything in the high school and has liked to put the ball in from long range in college. The truth, at least as head coach Billy Donovan sees it, is that Boynton’s best characteristic right now is his defense. Boynton was a lock-down defender in 2011, forcing some of the best college basketball players in the country to struggle against Florida in big games. Going forward, his defense (especially if his offense does not improve) could be what gets him onto a NBA bench.

“He has the ability to be the best defensive player in our league, no question,” Donovan said Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings. “And I’m not saying his role’s going to change just to be a defender, but when you talk about him really leading us in scoring and then the fact that he’s got to guard John Jenkins twice a year, he’s guarding Jimmer Fredette, he’s guarding [Scottie] Hopson from Tennessee, he’s guarding Brandon Knight. […] If there’s one thing about Kenny that I think he’s right now is I think he’s an NBA defender. He can really guard anybody on the perimeter. I think the next step for him is decision making, assist-to-turnover ratio, being a better finisher in the lane, those kinds of things. But I think he’s working to get better.”

2 » Former Gators safety Will Hill, who declared for the 2011 NFL Draft as a junior and was not selected during the seven-round event in April, was arrested Thursday by Alachua County Police and booked at 2 p.m. on an out-of-county warrant stemming from having been cited for driving with a suspended license in Lake County. Hill had his bond set at $2,000 for the misdemeanor charge.

3 » Former Florida wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, who played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and is currently a color commentator for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, has been looking for something to keep him busy while the league’s lockout remains in effect. With that in mind, Collinsworth has decided to coach the wide receivers at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, KY, where his son Jac is currently playing. Highlands has won four consecutive titles (including a 50-0 victory last year) and went 14-1 in 2010. “I just got the playbook and I feel like a first year rookie all over again,” he said on his FootballProsLive.com blog. “The plays are scrambled eggs in my brain, and I feel a little anxious. But, I love coaching. I coached many of these kids in the junior football league, and they always kept me entertained.”

4 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder spoke with the media recently and provided his thoughts on a number of topics concerning the current NFL lockout. Crowder, who in our opinion provides the best sound bites and quotes in sports, even comments on Raw Lewis’s opinion that crime would increase nationally if football isn’t played. You can check out Crowder’s comments in this piece from the Sun-Sentinel.

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TWO BITS: Dunkley to USF? Dunlap back at UF.

1 » Redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Dunkley, who agreed to part ways with the Florida Gators and transfer to another school, is strongly considering – and possibly favoring – the South Florida Bulls as his destination. The St. Petersburg Times spoke with Dunkley’s Pahokee High School coach Blaze Thompson, who indicated that was the case. “I think USF is the top one on his list,” he said. “A lot of schools have expressed interest in him, but USF Is the only one he has actually visited. They’re interested in him, and he has asked me to look into them as well.” Dunkley was suspended from team activities due to his academics at the time he decided to transfer from Florida; however, the Times reports that they will be high enough for him to earn a scholarship at another school. South Florida seems like a likely landing spot for him due to their penchant for accepting big-name transfers and location relatively close to home.

2 » Former Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap, now playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, has been back in Gainesville, FL this spring trying to finish his degree at the University of Florida. A top NFL prospect going into his junior year, Dunlap’s stock plummeted after he was arrested for driving under the influence and suspended for the Southeastern Conference Championship game that year. InsideTheGators.com‘s Kyle Maistri caught up with Dunlap, who has made it his goal to fulfill the promise he made to his family (getting his degree) while trying to make a better name for himself.

“Initially, I wanted to come back and clear my name,” Dunlap said of possibly returning for his senior season. “I wanted to come back and get my degree as well as clear up my name, but after talking with my core group and talking with various friends of the family, we came to a consensus that it was the best decision to leave now. And I’m happy I did when I did.” Now that he’s back? “I’ve got mixed results [from fans],” he said. “The fans are going to have their various opinions as fans, that’s a situation that I’ve put behind me. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe the final outcome will display a true person’s character. You don’t know someone until you meet them in person, but everyone knows what happens. And it happens to the best of us.”

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FOUR BITS: Bond, Manuel, Dwyer, swimming

1 » Florida Gators guard Jaterra Bonds, who is second on the women’s basketball team in points this year, was named to the 2011 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team on Tuesday. She won the SEC Freshman of the Week award twice this season and scored a career-high 22 points one week ago.

2 » Former Gators safety Marquand Manuel, a sixth-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, completed an eight-year NFL career in 2009 and has been hired as an intern with the football staff, according to the University of Florida. Manuel, who played under former head coach Steve Spurrier from 1998-2001, totaled 308 tackles (nine for loss), six interceptions, 22 passes defended, eight sacks and six fumble recoveries in his college career. He played in both a SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl and was an honor student at UF. In the league, he saw extensive time from 2002-2006 with Cincinnati, Seattle and Green Bay. Manuel caught and returned an interception 32 yards in the 2005 NFC Championship game to help send Seattle to Super Bowl XL, a game in which he started. He also spent a full season as a starter with Green Bay the following season before being released by the team and bouncing around the NFL until deciding to call it quits.

3 » Florida senior swimmer Conor Dwyer has been chosen as the cover athlete for the March 2011 issue of Swimming World Magazine, which is a College Championships Preview issue. Dwyer is the defending NCAA National Men’s Swimmer of the Year and is having yet another fantastic season.

4 » Gators swimming, under head coach Gregg Troy, has announced a significant restructuring of the program due to the 2012 London Olympics. Troy was named head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Swimming Team and, with Florida’s blessing, will need some assistance handling both gigs next season. Below is a portion of UF’s release, which can be read in full here.

The University of Florida men’s and women’s swimming program will undergo an organizational restructuring in preparation of the 2012 Olympic year, head coach Gregg Troy announced Tuesday. Assistant head coaches Martyn Wilby and Anthony Nesty have each been promoted to the title of associate head coach, while assistant coach Steve Jungbluth has been named recruiting coordinator. Assistant coach Leah Martindale-Stancil will retain her duties on deck as well as her role as swim camp director, while Erva Gilliam has been elevated to the director of swimming operations.

“The restructuring of our program will provide us with an opportunity on deck to really focus in on the first-hand development of premier performances by our swimmers,” Troy said. “With the number of current and post-graduate swimmers here on our campus that are training towards the 2012 London Olympics, the delegation of administrative duties will allow us more time on deck to really work hand-in-hand with the training of each of our student-athletes, allowing them to compete for SEC, NCAA and Olympic Championships.”

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