FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Dwyer, Beisel, Debut

1 » Contrary to a bevy of reports stating that he is definitively out for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey considers himself probable for the game with a self-described “pretty bad” high ankle sprain. “I hope so. Right now it’s 75/25, and I’m hoping to play,” he told ESPN’s Chris Berman during media day on Tuesday. “I feel great out the cast, man. I’ve been walking around pretty good. Hopefully I’ll get on the bike today and get some pool action in later. It feels pretty good. Everybody’s been pretty positive about me. It’s a nasty little purple color, but it’s getting better. I don’t know why everybody’s trying to rule me out early. Offensive linemen don’t get ruled out until the last day.” If he is able to step on the field, Pouncey will be the only former Florida Gators player to participate in the championship.

2 » With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, some things appear to be getting clearer with the two recruits from Dwyer High School that the Gators have their eyes on. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels “has a good idea” of where four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) is going and believes he will end up choosing Tennessee over Florida. Daniels also expects four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) to make his declaration at halftime of his high school basketball game on Friday. Brissett is choosing among Florida, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington and is thought to be favoring UM.

3 » For the third-straight year, Florida freshman swimmer Elizabeth Beisel has been named Rhode Island Female Athlete of the Year and will be honored as such at the state’s annual banquet on Feb. 20. Beisel also took home Female Swimmer of the Week honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. Joining her with recognition are Male Swimmer of the Week senior Conor Dwyer and Freshmen of the Week Hilda Luthersdottir and Marcin Cieslak.

4 » The University of Florida announced Tuesday that the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will be moved from 1 p.m. to noon in order to air live on Sun Sports on April 9. Last year the game aired live only on UF’s GatorVision; it is unknown if the contest will be broadcast live online as well.

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SIX BITS: Trattou, Donovan, Dwyer, gym, swim

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou will participate in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on Saturday. He will wear No. 84 in the game, which will air live on NFL Network at 4 p.m.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is currently participating in The Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is representing the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization in the contest. Vote for him right here and remember that “inspiration is contagious.”

3 » When it comes to Dwyer High School four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), it seems no one knows exactly what he is going to do. Though he has officially eliminated South Carolina and Florida State from contention, Brissett is being pursued heavily by a number of schools in addition to the Gators. Miami and Washington are both going hard after him, according to the Palm Beach Post. Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels believes Brissett is the “No. 1 player [Miami] target[s],” and says the player is intrigued by Washington because of their success in getting players ready for the NFL. Daniels disputed that Brissett “holds a grudge” against Florida. “He doesn’t hold a grudge because it’s a new coaching staff. He’s just proud, and he wants to show everyone who didn’t offer him early,” he said. “It wasn’t against UF; it was against the staff that was there before.” That statement aligns with the original story on the subject, the point being that the negative feelings may be too much to overcome – even with a new coaching staff in place.

Daniels also told the Post that four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) was pleased with an in-home visit from Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. He is planning to visit the Gators next weekend and, though he may take an unofficial trip to Miami, is likely between UF, UT and Wisconsin with the first two schools out in front.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (3-0, 2-0 SEC) continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating the No. 24 LSU Tigers (0-3, 0-2 SEC) 196.425-194.00 on the road at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson won her 10th all-around title while claiming at least a share of each of Friday’s five event titles. She is the first Gators gymnast since 2000 to sweep all of the event titles in a single meet, winning the floor exercise (9.95), vault (9.90) and balance beam (9.825) while sharing the uneven bars title (9.80).

5 » Though they put together a solid performance, No. 5/6 Gators men’s and women’s swimming fell to the No. 6/12 Auburn Tigers on Friday at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn, AL. The men (4-3, 2-1 SEC) lost 167-133, while the women (4-4, 0-2 SEC) were upended 165-135. Florida’s men had not fallen in SEC competition in almost two full years…their prior defeat also came at Auburn on Jan. 24, 2009.

In more upbeat news, three Gators swimmers were selected to the United States’ 2011 FINA World Championship Team on Friday. Senior Conor Dwyer, junior Teresa Crippen and freshman Elizabeth Beisel will all participate for USA Swimming in Shanghai, China from July 24-31. Gregg Troy, Florida’s head swimming coach who agreed to coach the United States’ men’s team at the 2012 London Olympics, will be an assistant coach on the FINA squad, which also features another former Gators swimmer, Ryan Lochte. Florida’s three selections to the team led any NCAA school.

6 » No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (1-0) took home an impressive 7-0 victory against the Furman Paladins in their season-opener on Friday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won their doubles match 8-3; No. 4 Lacroix also won his singles match 6-0, 5-7 (10-4). Other ranked victories came from sophomores No. 28 Sekou Bangoura, Jr. (6-1, 6-1) and No. 52 Bob van Overbeek (6-0, 6-1) in singles action.

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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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FOUR BITS: volleyball at No. 1, soccer, swimming

1 » Continuing a string of dominating Southeastern Conference performance, the Florida Gators volleyball team took home a pair of 3-0 sweeps while on the road over the weekend against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday night (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday (25-14, 25-20, 25-16). Juniors outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and right-side/setter Kelly Murphy combined for 21 kills to led Florida (14-1, 7-0 SEC) on Friday over Alabama (8-8, 0-6 SEC), while Murphy was at it again with a team-high 13 kills Sunday as UF rolled over Mississippi State (10-8, 2-4 SEC). The Gators received exciting news on Monday as the American Volleyball Coaches Association moved them up to No. 1 in their rankings for the first time since 1996. UF is 8-1 against teams ranked in the top 25 this season.

2 » Contrary to volleyball’s performance, No. 6 Florida soccer (10-2-2, 4-1-1 SEC) had a rougher road trip weekend tying Alabama (8-2-2, 3-0-2 SEC) 1-1 in double overtime Friday before falling to the Auburn Tigers (9-5, 3-3 SEC) 1-0 on Sunday. Against the Crimson Tide, Gators midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis got her team on the board early with a goal from four yards out at 47’. Unfortunately on both Friday and Sunday, Florida allowed an opposing goal at 90’ which led to the respective tie and loss. The Gators remain the leaders in the SEC even after the tough weekend.

3 » Florida men’s (0-1) and women’s (1-0) swimming and diving competed against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium on Monday with the men falling short 153-145 while the women pulled off a close 150-148 victory in the first team event of the season. Freshman Elizabeth Beisel led the ladies by winning the 200-yard backstroke (1:58:.29) and 200-yard individual medley (2:00.89). Like usual senior captain Conor Dwyer was the best men’s performer winning the 200-yard IM and both 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle.

4 » As the Gators basketball team prepares for the 2010-11 season (media day is this week!), head coach Billy Donovan spoke about the expectations surrounding his squad, which is returning all five starters from a year ago. “What ends up happening sometimes in college basketball is that when you have all five starters returning from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament, the expectation is we’re going to be really, really good,” Donovan said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “But I also think we were one of those teams on Selection Sunday that had our fingers crossed. If we were left out, it would maybe be a different feel.”

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SIX BITS: Knight, NCAAs, baseball, softball, tennis

1 » Five-star 2011 guard recruit Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, FL) looked to be heading anywhere but the University of Florida, after a report surfaced last week that the Florida Gators have decided to stop pursuing him and move on. Whether you believe that to be the case or you think Knight has already made up his mind to play for the Kentucky Wildcats is no matter – Knight has told The Miami Herald that he has not made a decision yet. “I still have an offer [from Florida],” Knight said. “They’re not not recruiting me. They’re just trying to make sure they get a point guard before the signing period is over. […] I don’t feel anything wrong with [that decision]. It’s smart. As a head coach, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and not end up with anything. They just don’t feel as strongly as they did before. Since they’re the hometown school, they thought I would have signed early or something of that nature. I’m not exactly sure.”

2 » Though Gators men’s swimming failed to match the women’s team with a 2010 National Championship, the team did finish in fifth at this year’s event and is the backbone of the 2010 Division I National Men’s Swimmer of the Year, junior Conor Dwyer. The Texas Longhorns ended up winning the event even as 11 Florida swimmers earned 38 All-America performances while simultaneously shattering two school records. Dwyer picked up seven honors of his own along with two national titles in the 500- and 200-yard freestyles. Read more about the event.

3 » No. 2/5 Florida baseball (18-5, 4-2 SEC) succeeded in ending its two-game road losing streak with a dominating 13-1 victory Sunday against the No. 17/19 Ole Miss Rebels (19-6, 4-2 SEC). After falling 3-2 in a tight first game and being trounced in the second game 15-3, the Gators rebounded with three RBI apiece from freshman catcher Austin Maddox (2-4, two runs) and sophomore outfielder Daniel Pigott (1-4) as well as 5.1 solid innings from freshman starter Brian Johnson (2-1). Johnson did not allow a single earned run in the outing.

Catch up on No. 6/13 softball, No. 4 women’s tennis and No. 6 men’s tennis!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Knight, NCAAs, baseball, softball, tennis

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FOUR BITS: Gymnastics wins SEC Championship

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators gymnastics (15-2, 5-1 SEC) took home the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship Saturday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The program’s seventh conference title and first since 2007, it came on a slight 197.05-196.875 victory over the No. 1-ranked and defending SEC champion Alabama Crimson Tide. “There was never a moment in mind I doubted us,” head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It is a huge sense of accomplishment. Look at what makes up our routines. The majority of our routines were done by freshman who have never taken part in an SEC Championship. They don’t even know what it’s like. For them to come up here and compete the way they did, with the guidance of our upper classmen, gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. Look what we can do and what our future holds. It’s really exciting for them.” Next up? The 2010 NCAA Championship.

2 » While gymnastics was busy winning a title, No. 2/5 Gators baseball (17-5, 3-2 SEC) dropped two straight games to the No. 17/19 Ole Miss Rebels (19-5, 4-1 SEC). Ole Miss squeaked by Florida in the first game, taking a 3-2 win after freshman catcher Austin Maddox struck out looking with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth. Rebels’ starter Drew Pomeranz (4-0) only gave up a run over 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts, out-dueling Gators’ sophomore pitcher Alex Panteliodis (5-1), who also pitched 7.1 innings but gave up three earned runs combined in the first two innings. In the second game, Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but gave up nine unanswered runs to fall behind by seven through three innings. They would eventually fall 15-3 with freshman starter Hudson Randal (2-1) giving up five earned runs on six hits in an inning’s work. The Gators hope to salvage the weekend road series with a win in the finale Saturday before facing Florida State in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

3 » Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s “The Promise” speech, and Gators football itself, has inspired 7th grade students at a Harlem public school to dub their classroom “Gator Nation” and work to achieve their dreams. (h/t “mudlizard”)

4 » Trying to match their female counterparts with an NCAA Championship, the men’s swimming and diving team is currently in fourth entering the final day of the 2010 NCAA Championship meet. Junior Conor Dwyer, who became the first NCAA men’s swimmer since 2001 to win both the 200 and 500 freestyle races in the same meet, is leading the team in its efforts. OGGOA will update you on the team’s finish after action concludes.

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Swimming finishes second at SEC Championships

Competing for four days in the Gabrielsen Natatorium at the University of Georgia, the No. 6 Florida Gators men’s and No. 7 women’s swimming and diving teams each finished in second place at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championships. On the men’s side, the Auburn Tigers took first place by only 19 points (784-765), while the Georgia Bulldogs finished ahead of the Florida women by a larger margin (824.5-698).

Men’s coach Gregg Troy and women’s coach Donnie Craine led the Gators’ efforts all season long, bringing home recognition for themselves while assisting numerous student-athletes in reaching accolades of their own. The men’s and women’s teams combined for 14 SEC Championship titles (six and eight, respectively), two SEC records and six school records. Florida also earned 18 NCAA automatic qualifying marks/times.

2010 Florida SEC Awards
SEC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year – Gregg Troy
SEC Women’s Diving Coach of the Year – Donnie Craine
SEC Men’s Swimmer of the Year – Conor Dwyer
SEC Women’s Swimmer of the Year – Gemma Spofforth
SEC Women’s Diver of the Year – Kara Salamone
Commissioner’s Trophy, High Point Award (Men’s) – Conor Dwyer, Shaune Fraser
Commissioner’s Trophy, High Point Award (Women’s) – Gemma Spofforth

Check out Florida’s numerous new SEC titles, SEC records, school records, NCAA qualifiers and more after the break!
Continue Reading » Swimming finishes second at SEC Championships

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FOUR BITS: Softball sets record, lacrosse debuts

1 » No. 3/9 Florida Gators softball (5-1) shutout the Campbell Camels (1-4-1) 7-0 Friday night on the back of a school-record six home runs. Leading their team to victory, junior first baseman Megan Bush had lead-off home runs in back-to-back plate appearances, and junior starter Stephanie Brombacher (4-1) blanked Campbell over five innings while compiling a season-high 11 strikeouts. Six of Florida’s seven runs came on solo homers from five different Gators including Bush (4th, 6th), sophomore outfielder Michelle Moultrie (4th), junior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (6th), freshman C Kelsey Horton (6th) and junior outfielder Kelsey Bruder (7th).

Florida softball (6-1) continued its dominance Friday with a 12-4 win over the Kansas Jayhawks (2-5) in the Gators’ second game of the night. Junior second baseman Aja Paculba went 4-4 with a career-high five RBI. In all, seven UF players accounted for 14 hits and freshman pitcher Erin Schuppert (1-0) earned her first career win in four innings of relief with seven strikeouts while allowing only two runs. Freshman Ensley Gammel started for the Gators.

2 » Florida’s newest sport, women’s lacrosse, is set to debut Saturday against the Jacksonville Dolphins (0-2) at 6 p.m. in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium for the first regular season game in school history. Head coach Amanda O’Leary has done a terrific job preparing the Gators, including recruiting the No. 1–ranked signing class in the nation according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine. The team, which fell 17-8 in its first exhibition match against the U.S. National Development team before rallying to a 7-7 tie at Rutgers and a 10-8 win over Princeton, is made up of two seniors, one junior, two sophomores and 24 freshmen. Admission is free for all home games, so be sure to go out and support this up-and-coming team in its first season!
– Athletic director Jeremy Foley is proud of the school’s newest sport.
– The Florida lacrosse team was years in the making.
– Everything you need to know about how lacrosse is played.

Gators swimming & diving and gymnastics also impressed on Friday…
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Softball sets record, lacrosse debuts

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