Six Gators sign 2013 undrafted free agent deals

Former Florida Gators linebacker Lerentee McCray, defensive tackle Omar Hunter, defensive end Earl Okine, offensive tackle Xavier Nixon and wide receivers Omarius Hines and Frankie Hammond, Jr. each signed undrafted free agent contracts minutes after the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Draft on Saturday.

McCray, who was expected to be selected on the third day of the draft, wound up agreeing to a deal with the Denver Broncos. Nixon’s stock dropped immensely during the draft process, but he got inked by the Washington Redskins. Hines was snatched up by the Baltimore Ravens. Neither Hunter nor Okine nor Hammond were expected to be drafted, but the three signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.

McCray will be the second former Gators player on the Broncos as wide receiver Andre Caldwell is currently signed by the team. Nixon joins quarterback Rex Grossman, guard Maurice Hurt and tight end Jordan Reed (third round, No. 85 overall) on the Redskins. Hines will see familiar faces in safety Matt Elam (first round, No. 32 overall) and WR Deonte Thompson with the Ravens. Hunter links up with center Maurkice Pouncey and G Marcus Gilbert on the Steelers.

Offensive linemen James Wilson and Sam Robey remain unsigned as of press time.

Some of the undrafted free agent signings were first reported by InsidetheGators.com‘s Bryan Holt, Florida Today‘s David Jones and Gainesville TV20‘s Kassidy Hill.

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Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Meetings

Through the 2013 NFL Draft from April 25-27, Florida Gators safety and 2012 leading tackler Josh Evans will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Evans’s seventh entry covers his last two weeks, which included numerous workouts and meetings with NFL teams. There are only two more entries upcoming.

Last time we touched base was before I started taking private meetings with teams. The only team I had met with at that time was the New England Patriots and that happened at The Swamp. There was a meeting scheduled two weekends ago between myself and [safeties coach] Brian Flores where he was going to come down to Brooklyn, NY to meet with me but it never really materialized. We had an interview over the phone instead, and he told me that Coach [Bill] Belichick liked me and was going to watch even more film on me. They said they liked my film, liked how I played and that I was a guy they could see being a part of their organization.

That following Monday, I flew out to meet with the Cleveland Browns. It went great. I got a chance to see Joe Haden, and it is always good to see a former teammate in the NFL. He said he put in a good word for me and told the coaching staff that I was a good football player who never had off-the-field issues and could come in and contribute.

The coaching staff was really cool, very down to earth. It’s a whole new staff so they’re running a brand new scheme on both sides of the ball. I definitely felt a connection there with them as far as the defensive backs coach [Louie Cioffi], the head coach [Rob Chudzinski] and the defensive coordinator [Ray Horton], even the special teams coach [Chris Tabor]. They all showed a lot of love and interest in me, and I enjoyed myself.

Continue Reading » Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Meetings

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SIX BITS: George, Bostic, Demps, Tebow, Caldwell

Aside from a story specifically about the events that took place on Monday, OGGOA chose to refrain from posting new material out of respect for those in Boston, MA. Below are six stories from Monday that we did not cover at the time.

1 » Senior forward Jennifer George was chosen with the No. 33 overall pick in the third round of the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever on Monday, becoming the first Florida Gators women’s basketball to be selected in the event since Sha Brooks in 2009. George is the 17th Florida player to ever be picked in the WNBA Draft and joins an Indiana team that concluded the 2012 season by winning the league title. She will not, however, be the only former member of the Gators to be a part of the Fever as former Florida head coach Mickie DeMoss is currently serving as an assistant coach.

2 » Could senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic be the third Florida player selected in next week’s 2013 NFL Draft. According to veteran analyst Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, Bostic – who is widely expected to be a third-round selection – may be drafted even higher. “In recent conversations, I’ve been told it’s a distinct possibility he could slip into the late part of the second frame,” Pauline writes. “Teams like the fact that Bostic is a three-down defender and offers the potential of being a day-one starter.”

3 » After informing the New England Patriots that he had decided to return to the track but also hoped to continue his football career – a move that would involve missing much of training camp and perhaps even a few early-season games – running back Jeff Demps was thought to be a goner from the organization. And while that may very well wind up being the case, the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that another option may be on the table – a trade. Demps’s agent Daniel Rose told Howe that the Patriots have discussed a possibility, which is not much of a surprise considering New England’s propensity for making deals (especially around draft time).

Read three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: George, Bostic, Demps, Tebow, Caldwell

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Urban Meyer on Tim Tebow: “I think he’s going to win a Super Bowl.”

Tim Tebow detractors appear to be multiplying by the day, but his former head coach with the Florida Gators is most certainly not one of them.

In an interview with WOCA 1730 AM on Wednesday, Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said that he still maintains a strong relationship with the New York Jets quarterback and believes in his abilities on the football field just as much as he did when he was coaching him in Gainesville, FL.

“I think I’m like every Gator fan and anybody that just appreciates great people and great warriors. There’s got to be a team – it all comes down to one team believing in a human being or believing in an athlete or a player. I think I got the same feeling as most everybody that watched him and grew up with him,” he said.

“All they need is to let him get his foot in the door and he’s going to win games, and I think he’s going to win a Super Bowl. I still believe that, probably because I spent as much or more time with him as any other coach. I have that much confidence in him.”

Meyer went on to describe their relationship, saying he and Tebow still converse “very frequently, once a week probably” though they have not spoken in the last few weeks.

The coach and former pupil went to lunch a few months ago when Meyer was in New Jersey recruiting the Tri-State Area. He felt Tebow was still in good spirits despite being traded from the Denver Broncos following the 2011 season and barely stepping foot on the field with the Jets in 2012.

“He’s a positive guy. He wants to win. He’s a winner. He’s always won. This losing thing doesn’t really sit well with him,” Meyer said. “He wants to be on a team that’s…he believes New York is committed to win. He has a lot of respect from Coach [Rex] Ryan. He’s a guy that’s pretty positive all the time, but I could see there was a little bit of worry in his face, concern.”

Recent word nationally (and out of New York) is that the Jets tried to find a trading partner for Tebow at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. If New York is unable to trade Tebow – a likely scenario because team sources have already let it be known that the player will be cut if a trade partner is not found – he is expected to be released when free agency begins in early March.

As far as Meyer is concerned, NFL teams should definitely be interested in Tebow as long as they are willing to give him a legitimate opportunity to succeed.

“You put Tim Tebow on a team with great players, he’s going to be a great quarterback,” Meyer said.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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SIX BITS: Muschamp, Young, Valentine, Tebow

1 » It appears as if Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and members of his coaching staff recently met with Luther Campbell, the former frontman of 2 Live Crew known as Uncle Luke. Campbell, who has a strong and long-time association with the Miami Hurricanes, is a known pornographer, hosts a Miami radio show, writes a column for the Miami New Times and recently ran for mayor of Miami-Dade County. He is also the defensive coordinator at Miami Northwestern High School.

2 » Could Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young be on his way to the Seattle Seahawks to join defensive coordinator Dan Quinn? It is all speculation at this point, but Seattle did just lose defensive line coach Todd Wash to Jacksonville and Quinn may very well wish to bring Young along for the ride and his first NFL coaching job. The Gators recently hired Brad Lawing as assistant head coach and defensive line coach (with a focus on the defensive ends) rather than promoting Young from assistant defensive line coach (with a focus on defensive tackles) to the full role. Young has received overwhelmingly positive reviews as a coach and recruiter over his two years at Florida. He is not yet signed for 2013 but is on a one-year renewable contract.

Read four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Muschamp, Young, Valentine, Tebow

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FOUR Tebow BITS: Elway, book, support, Vatican

1 » Interviewed Thursday on the Boomer & Carton radio program up in New York, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway spoke at length about quarterback Tim Tebow and his NFL career. Asked first if he thought Tebow could succeed in the league long-term, Elway admitted that it was a possibility. “I think in the right situation – he wants to and his drive to play and that’s what he wants to do – in the right situation, I think it’s a possibility. He’s got to be in the right situation,” he said. Furthermore, Elway addressed Tebow’s immense fan support and said that he had to push that aside when deciding what was best for Denver going forward. “Tim has a loyal fan base behind him. It’s a lot of people that really want to see him,” he said. “I think Tim Tebow has a lot of fans. … I went with what was best for the Denver Broncos, and Peyton Manning was best for the Denver Broncos.”

Elway was also asked about the report that the Broncos gave Tebow the option to choose his trade destination. He confirmed that the situation was reported accurately but also praised Tebow for what he did during his time in Denver. “We had two options – Jacksonville or the Jets. We laid it out to time and said, ‘It’s up to you.’ I’m not going to tell you which deal I liked better, but I will tell you that we did give him the option. He ended up picking the Jets, thinking that was the best opportunity for him,” Elway said. “As I’ve said about Tim, he’s a good kid and he works his tail off. He did a lot of good things for us in 2011. We were 1-4; when he came in, we won seven out of eight games after that, won a playoff game. So, he did a lot of good things for us.”

2 » The Nielsen Company this week released “State of the Media: 2012 Year in Sports” which, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, included plenty of mentions of Tebow. Per the Nielsen list, Tebow had the best-selling sports biography of the year with his “Through My Eyes” selling 116,000 copies (not including sales through Wal-Mart) or more than three times the next person on the list (R.A. Dickey – 39,600 copies). Tebow also checked in with an N-Score (endorsement potential rating) of No. 4 among mothers and No. 2 among people 65 years of age or older.

3 » It’s always interesting to see which random athletes support Tebow. Enter Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday, who told 94WIP radio in Philadelphia, PA that he is a big fan of the player. “I mean, how can you not [like him] though? His trophies. I guess everybody says he’s not a quarterback, but when he’s played quarterback even for the Broncos, he’s won games which is all that matters,” Holiday said. “I don’t know man, it’s about winning games right? I’m not saying skill-wise he’s the best one, but he got the wins. Well, he used to get the wins.”

4 » According to the Catholic News Service, the Vatican has asked Tebow and Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin to appear at a sports conference with the hope of encouraging athletes to compete in a moral manner. The sports conference, titled “We Believe in Sports,” is being put together by the Pontifical Council for Culture. “We want to work with the big sports bodies to give new value to sports,” Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda said. “[We want] to help put healthy values back into sport and counteract the current market logic, because if the current state of affairs continues, all is lost.” As noted by the Christian News Network, neither athlete has yet to accept the invitation and it is unknown if either will as “some Christians refuse to work with the Vatican because they believe that its traditions and teachings are unBiblical.”

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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