FOUR BITS: Alajajian, Spurrier, Tebow, Stewart

1 » Though junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell’s injury was more serious and detrimental to the Florida Gators considering he is an entrenched starter on defense, the unit also lost another player to surgery recently. Florida announced Wednesday that senior defensive tackle Nick Alajajian had successful surgery on his right wrist on Tuesday. Alajajian, who moved over to defense after spending three years with the Gators as an offensive lineman, is expected to be healthy enough to return for fall camp.

2 » South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier opened up to ESPN.com recently about a number of topics including his team’s game against Georgia being moved back four weeks (“I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”), Nick Saban (“If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”) and how his career might come to an end (“When I leave, they’re not going to pay me $4 million because I had another five years on the deal and got fired. I ain’t going to be one of those guys.). But he also spoke about Florida and a conversation he had with head coach Will Muschamp upon him taking over the Gators in 2011.

“I told Will that he had one of the hardest jobs in America because of what’s happened down there prior to him coming. I don’t know that they have that much greater a team than most others in the SEC now. They’re pretty good. But it’s a tough job because of what Urban [Meyer] has done and prior history. Those fans are expecting 10 to 12 wins every year. Our fans are going to expect nine to 11, which is fair, and that’s good. I hope our players expect it, too.”

3 » Unlike a number of current and former Denver Broncos expressing their support and faith in quarterback Tim Tebow following his trade to the New York Jets, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (who had some of his best games with Tebow behind center) told 790 The Zone out of Atlanta, GA that he is not said to see him go elsewhere. “I ain’t going to say I was sad because the only thing they remember is that pass,” he said. “You gotta go back and look at the rest of the games. I wasn’t getting no balls and you had to make some of these plays where some players were open and he is not making the throws, but I don’t want to talk bad about Tim, but hey I am happy we got Peyton.” Thomas went on to praise Tebow for being a tireless worker and said there was no real tension in the locker room; he added that his former teammate has to learn how to read defenses better and recognize open receivers.

4 » Florida center and London, England native Azania Stewart was one of 20 players invited in April to a women’s basketball camp hosted by Great Britain that will help determine the 12 players that will represent the union in the 2012 London Olympics. Stewart has plenty of European basketball experience and that should give her chances of making the team a boost. Should she do so, Stewart would be the third Gators women’s basketball player in school history to represent her country in the Olympics following in the footsteps of Tammy Jackson (1992) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (2000, 2008).

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TWO BITS: Futures of Tebow and Jenkins

1 » Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer said Thursday something that many fans of quarterback Tim Tebow demanded from the Denver Broncos throughout the 2011 season. Asked how the New York Jets should utilize Tebow while making an appearance on ESPN, Meyer said simply, “Let him play. Just let him play.” He went on to note that Denver did not do that with Tebow often enough last year and that the coaches were way too conservative with him overall. The Broncos’ coaching staff received plenty of praise for the way they “handled” Tebow but Meyer, like Tebow’s supporters, seemed to contend that they were hindering his effectiveness rather than giving him an opportunity to blossom. “When they had success I think they [let him play],” he said. “When you started seeing him throw against those easy coverages it was because they had to stop the run.”

2 » ESPN.com featured former Florida (more recently North Alabama) cornerback Janoris Jenkins on its front page for a good period of time Thursday afternoon. The front page display linked to a video of Mel Kiper, Jr. discussing Jenkins’s talents, an article about him walking a tightrope as he prepares for the 2012 NFL Draft and another listing him as the second-best playmaker at his position.

One portion of the former article, found below, was particularly interesting in regards to how Jenkins has since rebounded from the mistakes he made in Gainesville, FL.

Jenkins met with Muschamp while Cornelio and William listened to the coach’s reasoning for dismissing his star cornerback. The coach told Jenkins he had two options: enter the NFL supplemental draft or transfer.

[...]

During the four-hour ride back to Pahokee, Cornelio clarified things even more while William glared at his son.

“I told him he had three choices,” Cornelio said. “When he finished college, he was either going to the NFL, the Army or back to Pahokee to work with his father [driving a truck]. He had to decide. And to his credit, he needed about 30 seconds to make the right choice.”

“They basically told me that I had made my mistakes,” Jenkins said. “And now I had to figure out how to deal with them.”

William and Cornelio agreed that allowing Jenkins to enter the supplemental draft would be counterproductive. Along with losing money, Jenkins wouldn’t have paid a steep enough price for his mistakes.

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SIX BITS: Macklin, lacrosse, softball, Gilbert, Meyer

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center Vernon Macklin was recently set down to the NBA Development League for no other reason than that the Detroit Pistons wanted to see him get some in-game action rather than sit stationary on the end of the team’s bench during NBA games. According to M Live, Macklin has been playing for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and has been dominating. In his first five games with the team, Macklin is averaging 16.6 points and 17.2 rebounds (10.6 on the defensive glass) in more than 36 minutes a game. He will remain with the team through April 7 before returning to the Pistons. “He’s playing with a lot of energy and effort. He’s gotten better each and every game,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “It’s great for him to get that experience. We see continued development. We see progress in Vernon.”

2 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (11-2) hit two major milestones on Wednesday, recording their first-ever shutout while registering the highest goal total in school history in a 29-0 beat down of the Fresno State Bulldogs (2-6) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored a game-high and career-high six goals on seven shots, and freshman attacker Nora Barry joined her in dominating on offense with five goals on six shots. The duo also combined for six ground balls and six draw controls in the contest. Junior As Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand combined for six goals and three assists with Bruns becoming the first player in team history to eclipse 200 career goals. In addition to scoring the most goal sand allowing the fewest in team history, the Gators set or tied a number of other records. Florida had the most points (41), assists (12) and draw controls (24) in team history, tied their records for shots (44), first-half points (17) and second-half points (12) and also committed a record five fouls, the fewest in team history. The Gators accomplished all of this without Juniors A Kitty Cullen and M Brittany Dashiell, two of the team’s leading scorers.

3 » Despite falling to a ranked opponent, No. 4 Florida softball (29-3) suffered a tough 4-1 defeat on Wednesday in Gainesville at the hands of the No. 21 South Florida Bulls (30-5). Freshman right-hander Lauren Haeger (9-2) tossed a complete game, allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits along with five walks and four strikeouts. In addition to going up arguably the nation’s best pitcher in Sara Nevins, the Gators committed a pair of costly errors that put them in a 4-0 hole through three innings. A solo homer by Haeger (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB) in the bottom of the fifth was the only run to cross the plate for Florida, which left eight base runners on including three in the bottom of the sixth and two in the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying run at the plate. UF defeated USF 3-2 in extra innings on Feb. 12 but will not have another chance to earn revenge.

4 » Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will receive a bump in responsibility next season as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Wednesday that he will help protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side as the team’s new left tackle. Gilbert, who played both left and right tackle in college, was drafted to eventually hold down the former role but was relegated to the latter position in 2011 due to experience and depth issues. “We fully expect him to [move],” Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I probably had more concerns about him being the right tackle than I did him being at left tackle just because of his college experience.” Gilbert is the second Gators offensive lineman to recently be drafted and become an starter for Pittsburgh as center Maurkice Pouncey won his job out of training camp two seasons ago.

5 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for an interview this week with CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd to discuss a number of topics mostly concerning his return to the sidelines and how the Ohio State program is coming along heading into his first season at the helm. However, Meyer also touched on a few things at Florida including what he called an “awful” team that the Gators fielded for his first season in 2005. “We’re not a good team. As a matter of fact, we’re bad, a really bad football team – not aligned, selfish. We had some really good players on defense. On offense we’re a mess. Chris Leak wasn’t ready. Then we lose to South Carolina,” he recounted. “I remember walking to my radio show and there are some boos. The phone calls were absolutely brutal. I’m looking at [Mick Hubert] and I’m just getting greased. I’m thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing here?’” Meyer said the Florida State win really turned things around both on the field and off the field in recruiting. He also spoke about other issues he faced including “the Spurrier culture” in the SEC.

6 » While the Denver Broncos were in the process of signing quarterback Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow was in Tampa, FL helping open up the new D1 Sports Training facility while working out with, meeting and greeting children, teenagers and adults. Despite so much being on his mind about his NFL future, Tebow was obviously thinking about plenty of other things during this special occasion (photo gallery).

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TWO BITS: Nike sues over Tebow, Hunter speaks

1 » Left with tens of thousands of blank jerseys for each NFL team, Reebok (the league’s former uniform and apparel partner) was prepared to scrap the jerseys before the 2012 season began as the NFL reached an agreement with Nike to take their place going forward. However, in a last-ditch effort to clear their stock and make a cash grab in the process, Reebok feverishly produced thousands of New York Jets jerseys with quarterback Tim Tebow‘s name and number on them after he was traded from the Denver Broncos last week. Reebok saw it as their last chance to clear some stock and not take a loss on the jerseys, but Nike saw it another way. According to CNBC‘s Darren Rovell, Nike has decided to sue Reebok for creating the jerseys and is seeking both damages and for the company to destroy any that remain on the market. “We have filed a complaint relating to unauthorized use of Tim Tebow’s name on New York Jets related apparel,” the company told Rovell in a statement. “Nike is authorized and licensed to use Tim Tebow’s name on products. We have no further comment at this stage.” Due to the NFL/NFLPA’s deal with Reebok expiring at the end of the league year, Nike contends that the company had no right to create any products with a player’s likeness. Nike is set to release their new NFL uniform designs at the beginning of April and put them on sale around the 2012 NFL Draft. It is expected that there will only be minor uniform changes in 2012 but that most teams will see some signifigant differences in 2013.

2 » Florida Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, one of the anchors on the defensive line this season, spoke on Tuesday about a number of issues concerning himself and the team. With so few healthy players at his position on the field, Hunter has been getting even more work in than usual but feels like it is paying off in the long run. “It’s very tough. We’re playing a lot more snaps than we normally have to in the rotation. It’s not as strong. But the guys we do have are going hard in practice and everyone is getting better,” he said. “Any time you have a chance to get more snaps, it’s always beneficial towards you. I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit better as far as some technique things I was struggling with last year as far as pass rushing. The more snaps I have to go against the ones on the offensive line have definitely benefitted me.” Hunter credited defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for his vast improvements on the field. “My fundamentals have shot through the roof with him. He’s very patient with me to say the least. We’ll stay after if I need extra film work, he’s always there for me,” he said.

Hunter also confirmed what head coach Will Muschamp said on Monday – junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell has had a fantastic offseason and was the standout player at Saturday’s scrimmage. “He’s probably had the best offseason that I’ve seen from anyone since I’ve been here,” he said. “He’s worked so hard in the offseason and it’s really paying off for him right now. He’s more mature both on and off the field, on the field his pass rushing is unbelievable right now. He’s so stout against the run. He’s really looking good for us right now.” With Powell playing well and both redshirt senior defensive end/Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray and junior DT Dominique Easley coming back from injury, Hunter believes Florida’s defensive line has the chance to be one of the best the school has seen, even putting them up there with the guys from 2008.

» On redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines’s work at running back: “Yeah, he’s big. He’s hard to tackle. He runs really hard – him and [Chris] ”Juice” Johnson. They’re both running very hard for us right now.”

» On redshirt senior guard James Wilson: “He looks better than ever. He looks like his shape is getting there. From the end of last year to now, I’d say he’s in the best shape he’s been in – he’s looking good.”

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FOUR BITS: baseball, schedule, Starks, Tebowie

1 » Despite losing their second game of the season over the weekend, Florida Gators baseball (22-2) held on to their No. 1 ranking in both the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 Poll and the Collegiate Baseball top 25. Florida was the unanimous No. 1 in the former poll, retaining all 31 first-place votes, but UF just edged out Kentucky by five voting points in the latter ranking. OGGOA will offer more comprehensive top 25 coverage for Gators baseball in the upcoming weeks.

2 » Florida announced on the school’s website Monday that the Gators basketball team has already scheduled four non-conference games for the 2012-13 season in addition to the three home-and-homes they are set to complete. Florida will take on Kansas State in Kansas City, MO and host Wisconsin, Central Florida and Richmond in addition to travelling to Florida State, Arizona and Yale. The Gators will also get a home game as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge after travelling to Syracuse last season and are set to compete once again in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the Florida-Wisconsin game is set for Nov. 14.

3 » After suffering an unfortunate end to his 2010 season, offensive tackle Max Starks went unsigned heading into 2011 until the Pittsburgh Steelers encountered a drastic void on the offensive line and brought him back into the fold. Starks ended last season with yet another injury – this time a torn ACL – and is still out of action as his physical therapy will not officially begin until the summer. However, both Starks and Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert have mutual interest in continuing their working relationship. Colbert told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently that the team has not ruled out re-signing Starks for the 2012 season.

4 » On the day Peyton Manning was signed by the Denver Broncos and the team all but announced it would be trading quarterback Tim Tebow, NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon once again did a spoof combining Tebow with David Bowie in a character they call “Tebowie.” You can watch the video below:

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Poised as ever, Tebow says ‘hello’ to New York

Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was introduced Monday as the newest member of the New York Jets at a noon press conference attended by hundreds of media members and covered live on both local and national television.

Lasting more than a half hour, the press conference featured Tebow standing alone at a podium, taking questions about football, faith and his future. He answered most and deflected some but conveyed one general sentiment throughout: excitement about being a member of the Jets organization.

“I want to thank the Broncos for my time in Denver. It was an amazing time. I want to thank my teammates and my fans for being such great teammates and such great fans,” he said in his opening statement.

“I’m looking forward to my time here in New York and my time here as a Jet. I’m so honored and humbled to be a Jet. I’m so thankful that they wanted me, and I’m so excited about me and my teammates. I’ve had the pleasure to meet quite a few already, and I’m looking forward to my future as a Jet. And I’m very excited about it.”

The first order of business was clearing up his exit from the Denver Broncos and whether or not he actually had a choice between New York and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite reports that Denver put the decision in Tebow’s hands, he said it was ultimately the team’s decision and expanded on that greatly on Monday by recounting the events of one week ago.

“When I woke up Wednesday morning, I talked to Coach Fox and they were very gracious the whole time. Coach Fox – I specifically talked to him all throughout the process. He kind of told me some of the opportunities that were out there,” he said. “When I talked to him about it, next thing I know I got a call from Mr. [Mike Tannenbaum] and Coach [Rex] Ryan and they said I was a Jet. So I was really excited about that. ‘When’s the next flight out to new York?’ I was excited about it.

“Then obviously the media circus happened and I found out a few minutes later there was a snag in the contract and I wasn’t a Jet. And so then it was five hours of kind of waiting. Coach Fox was keeping me updated on what was happening. Later on in the day they said they had a few teams that were interested with similar deals. He was very gracious to ask me what I thought. I talked to him very honestly about it, and I told him I would love to be a Jet. I told him also that the Jaguars are my hometown and [to do] whatever was best for them. He said the same for me.

“Ultimately they had my contract there and they had all the power, but he listened to me and what I had to say. It was very gracious of them because they didn’t have to do that. They could have just done whatever. He listened to me and talked to me and I told him I would love to be a Jet. I love the coaches. I had an opportunity to be with Coach [Tony] Sparano at the Senior Bowl. I had an opportunity to get to know Coach Ryan several times. That was exciting for me. I also told them I would love to be a Jaguar. That’s my hometown and that would be exciting for me. Whatever was the best for them. I’m excited to be a Jet and I’m excited to be here.”

Tebow was asked again about the process and not-so-specifically relayed what a lot had already assumed – that he felt the love in New York and not so much in Jacksonville. He also cited his relationship with the coaches as a reason playing for the Jets might be better for him in the long run.

Continue Reading » Poised as ever, Tebow says ‘hello’ to New York

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FOUR BITS: Haslem wins bet, Tebow’s choice?

1 » Teammates with the Miami Heat, power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Dwyane Wade made a friendly wager on Thursday night’s Sweet 16 match-up between the No. 7-seed Florida Gators and No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles. Florida defeated Marquette 68-58 in Phoenix, AZ to advance to the Elite Eight; therefore, Wade will have to put a Gators license plate on his car for a year. You can watch Haslem and Wade discuss their bet in the clip below courtesy of WSVN 7.

The trash talking continued Friday, according to the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman. Wade has already ordered the Gators license plate and will put it on the back of one of his cars; Haslem is trying to get him to put it on a new McClaren MP4-12C (price tag $230,000) that he received for his birthday. “Oh, he’s got to drive that,” Haslem told Winderman. “There’s no way, there’s no way he can’t drive a McClaren. It’s like a million-dollar car, too. I mean who’s putting that in a garage?” Haslem piled it on when the team met for practice on Friday. “U.D. made sure he made his mark,” forward LeBron James told the paper. “He came in with the Gator fight song this morning, played it on the bus, and he’s probably going to mess [with it] through the whole week.”

2 » Despite the fact that he was traded for to be a back-up quarterback and change-of-pace player, New York Jets signal caller Tim Tebow “sees a clear path to resuming his career as a starter” and supplanting Mark Sanchez, sources told the New York Daily News. That is perhaps the main reason why Tebow said going to New York over returning to Jacksonville (where most of his family and friends reside) was his preference. “They want me to come in and compete and get better as a quarterback and help the team any way possible,” Tebow said in a teleconference following his trade. “Whatever that role is, I will do my best. Every time I step on the field, I give my heart and soul.” The Daily News also notes that Tebow did not have the ability to pull the trigger on his destination, which is how both his and Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway’s stories blend together.

The Broncos didn’t come to Tebow in the end and say: Okay Tim, where do you want to go? They had already solicited his opinion. [...] Tebow was impressed the Jets hung in there when it looked like the deal was falling apart: It convinced him how much the Jets wanted him. [...] Ultimately, Tebow felt the love coming from the Jets.

3 » Florida basketball was also well-represented Thursday night by Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who registered team-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds to register the first double-double of his young career. Houston defeated Golden State 109-83 as Parsons saw 39 minutes of court time (eight more than the next Rockets player) and went 8-for-16 from the field (2-for-4 from downtown). He added four assists to his total and finished with a plus-minus of +21 in the game. Following the contest, Parsons spoke to NBA TV in an interview you can watch by clicking here.

4 » Former Gators defensive tackle Brad Culpepper recently told Orlando, FL radio that, while he was playing in the NFL, he was coached up on how to injure quarterbacks. “We practiced techniques to injure players,” he admitted. “We would dive on a mat and aim for the knee portion of a pad like it was the quarterback, and we would practice going at that and trying to bust the quarterback’s knee. You knock the quarterback out, you win the game. [...] We practiced on interceptions – we didn’t care where the ball was – we were making a bee-line to wherever the quarterback was.” Read more or listen to the interview by clicking here.

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FOUR BITS: Caldwell, Tebow, Nike, Donovan

1 » The same day that the Denver Broncos shipped quarterback Tim Tebow off to the New York Jets, the team acquired one of his former wide receivers with the Florida Gators. Denver and WR Andre Caldwell, a free agent who played for the Cincinnati Bengals last season, agreed to terms on a two-year contract Wednesday. Caldwell was vastly underutilized in Cincinnati mostly because there were always a number of talented wide receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. A four-year NFL veteran, he has never registered more than 432 yards in a single season (2009) or caught more than three touchdowns (2009, 2011) though he has been productive when given an opportunity. For example, Caldwell started the final three games of the 2010 season and accumulated more than 80 yards in each contest.

2 » In a conference call with reporters Wednesday night, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum explained the team’s acquisition of Tebow from the Broncos. Tannenbaum said that “Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback” but that the team is adding Tebow “to be our backup and be used in other packages.” He made it clear that the team currently has two men (head coach Rex Ryan and former Miami head coach now offensive coordinator Tony Sparano) “who lost to Tim last year” and that the team has been interested in Tebow for quite some time going back to his days with the Gators. Tannenbaum added, “How many plays Tim plays in one game, Rex and Tony will decide that. But we have a vision for the player, we have a role for the player. [...] He’s a great competitor. He’s going to come in next year and help us win.”

3 » In conjunction with the Gators Nike Sportswear Basketball apparel set written about by OGGOA and released by the company in February, a new commercial featuring the basketball program – “Florida Gators: Rise as One” – was released on YouTube on Wednesday. You can check it out below:

4 » The Sweet 16 in the West Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament is filled with three top-of-the-line college basketball head coaches – Florida’s Billy Donovan, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo – as well as a big-time up-and-comer in Marquette’s Buzz Williams. However two of those four men, Donovan and Pitino, have forged a very special and unique relationship that dates back decades. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg took a look at that relationship in a feature published Wednesday in The Dagger sports blog. You can check it out by clicking here.

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