FOUR BITS: Harvin, Thompson, Haslem, Miller

1 » The situation between former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin and the Minnesota Vikings continues to get more muddled by the day. After missing practice one day last week and officially requesting a trade, Harvin was believed to be seeking a new contract that paid him closer to what he deserves for his on-field production. However, he came out publicly and said that his contract was not the issue, which brought up his playing time (Harvin was on the field for just 58.4 percent of his team’s offensive touchdowns in 2011) and production (he was not a member of the Vikings’ standard red zone package) into focus. Just one day after skipping practice, Harvin returned to the field and said he will also be a full participant in training camp, leading some to believe that he may have worked out at least some of his issues with the coaching staff. However, head coach Leslie Frazier told ESPN 1500 in Minnesota that he cannot guarantee Harvin will get more touches this season though the team will try to get him on the field more often. “[His] snaps may go up…touches, I don’t know about that,” he said. “We want to keep him on the field more, but his style – he’s a reckless guy and doesn’t hold anything back. [He] always goes 100 miles an hour. So you have to be careful about not overusing him.” General manager Rick Spielman told the same station he expressed to Harvin that he will not be traded, making his request moot considering the team can theorhetically control him contract-wise for three more years by using the franchise tag in 2014. “I know Coach Frazier really met and sat and talked a lot with Percy. I dealt more with the business side of it and dealt with his agent, Joel Segal,” Spielman said. “As far as I know, the last dialogue I had, we’re expecting Percy to be at training camp and ready to go.”

2 » Once again “turning heads” in offseason activities is WR Deonte Thompson, who has been showing the Baltimore Ravens that they made a smart decision in signing him as an undrafted free agent. According to the team’s website, Thompson “blew by Baltimore secondary [and] busted out a leaping celebration for emphasis” when scoring a touchdown last Wednesday and has been a constant bright spot for the organization during minicamp. “It’s competitive. I know I have to bring my ‘A’ game every day because they’re bringing theirs,” said Thompson of his position mates. “I’ve got some wheels. I think they haven’t seen my knack for big plays. I feel like every time I touch the ball there’s a possibility of something big happening,” he added about his talents and chances of making the final roster. “I know it’s possible. I know the best player is going to play here. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and I’ll have a chance.”

3 » Former Florida power forward Udonis Haslem had plenty of praise for Miami Heat teammate guard Mike Miller and the way he performed in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, scoring 23 points in 23 minutes on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown. “It’s hard to explain. He’s been in a tremendous amount of pain, but he comes out every night and lays it on the line. That’s all we can ask for,” he said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “He picked a hell of a time to come through for us.” Haslem captured his second NBA title (he won his first with Miami in 2006) but, like Miller (who won his first this year), was in more of a supporting role this time around. Nevertheless, the duo of former Gators played an integral part in bringing a championship home to South Florida.

4 » Philadelphia Eagles WR Riley Cooper spent last Thursday volunteering with the United Way during the organization’s annual Day of Action. According to Lipsticking.com, Cooper joined “a core group of college-educated, civic-minded NFL players committed to helping United Way recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors” and worked toward that goal by spending time with the foundation and some of its members in Washington, D.C. The website also notes that Cooper “mentored three boys and helped increase their GPAs from 2.0 to As & Bs” while also completing other charity work (both team-sponsored and not) as a student at the University of Florida.

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FOUR BITS: Thompson, Harvin, Beal, Lochte

1 » Players stand out every year during NFL organized team activieis that never wind up making the active roster but word out of the Baltimore Ravens camps is that former Florida Gators wide receiver Deonte Thompson is doing more than just playing well. According to Comcast SportsNet, Thompson’s performance over the last three weeks has been worthy of the “Most Heads Turned” award. “The undrafted free agent receiver from Florida emerged from the masses, exhibiting a ton of speed and nice hands,” insider John Eisenberg wrote. “[Joe] Flacco hooked up with him several times in the workouts open to the media. He gets the early nod as this year’s player most likely to…earn a roster spot as a longshot.”

2 » Probably not much of a surprise to many who have followed his career and injury history, Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin was back out of action on Thursday just two days after joining OTAs for the first time this offseason. Harvin, who had minor shoulder surgery in April, was completely cleared for practice but no-showed on Thursday and wrote on Twitter that “there’s no such thing as minor surgery trust me.” He goes on to indicate that practice on Tuesday was bothersome to his shoulder and he hoped that he did not over-do it. Head coach Leslie Frazier downplayed Harvin’s absence by noting that OTAs are not mandatory, but it is rare for a player to miss one unless it is family or injury related.

3 » Though Gators guard Bradley Beal is not competing at the 2012 NBA Combine in Chicago, IL, he did get measured and weighed on Thursday. Beal came in at 6’3.25” with socks and 6’4.75” with shoes with a 6’8” wingspan and 8’3” reach. He also weighed 202 lbs. and checked in with just six percent body fat. Beal was listed at 6’3” by Florida so teams are certainly excited to see that extra inch of height. His decision not to participate was likely one made by agent Mark Bartelstein.

4 » There have been plenty of cameras and production crews in Gainesville, FL over the last few months filming former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte as he trains for the 2012 London Olympics. The latest came as part of a commercial shoot for AT&T, which filmed Lochte at Broward Pool on Wednesday. “Lochte, who stars in the commercial, sprang from a starting block and disappeared beneath the water’s surface,” according to the The Independent Florida Alligator. “Production crew members used rain barrels to create waves in the pool, which was lined with special-effects material to darken its water.” It is unknown when the commercial will air.

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SIX BITS: tennis, softball, Hill, Thompson, NBA

1 » No. 12 Florida Gators men’s tennis (16-9) continued its hot play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, completing a 4-0 sweep of the No. 24 Harvard Crimson (23-3) to advance to the round of 16. Florida clinched the doubles point and received singles victories from No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-2, 6-3), No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman (6-4, 6-2) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-1, 6-4) to grab the victory and move on to the round of 16 for the third-straight season. UF will resume play on Friday against No. 5 Ohio State at noon.

2 » Gators softball, one day after falling hard in a bid for a conference tournament title, learned Sunday that they have earned the No. 5 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida (46-11) will open the tournament as hosts of the Gainesville Regional, which will also feature Florida Gulf Coast, Central Florida and South Florida. UF is 2-2 this season against the field with victories over FGCU (5-0) and USF (3-2) and losses to UCF (2-0) and USF (4-1). The Gators will play their first game on May 18 at 6 p.m. against FGCU. Should Florida be the victor of their regional, they will take on the winner of the Los Angeles Regional featuring No. 12 UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State and Hofstra. UF would likely host the Super Regional in that scenario.

3 » Five-star point guard Kasey Hill, a 2013 Gators’ commitment and the No. 8 player in the country according to Rivals, received high praise from ESPN’s Dave Telep on Thursday. Telep, who has attended five AAU events since March, said Hill stood out as the top performer at the adidas VIP Run and thinks he is one of two players who could be considered the best point guard in the class of 2013. “The most improved player I’ve seen? That would be point guard Kasey Hill,” he wrote. “He’s refined his approach to the point guard slot and in my mind, become an elite player and impact recruit. There’s a difference between being highly rated and being an impact signee. He’s the best point guard Billy Donovan has ever recruited.”

4 » Two NFL writers had some high praise for former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson based on how he performed in Baltimore Ravens minicamp on Sunday. FOX Sports’ Aaron Wilson said Thompson “had a good day…speed is eye-catching, caught the ball fairly well, too,” while CBS Sports’ Jason Butt noted that Thompson “looked fluid and sharp, and showcased stellar straight-line speed and quick cuts.” Thompson is one of two former UF players (quarterback John Brantley) who signed an undrafted free agent deal with Baltimore this offseason.

5 » Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer became the third former Gators basketball player (and member of the Oh Fours) to be eliminated from the 2012 NBA Playoffs this week after Denver fell 96-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. Brewer, after having some highlight moments during the series, had a rough outing in Game 7. He scored just four points on 2-of-9 shooting (0-for-3 from downtown) with two rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes. Also out of the postseason is center Marreese Speights and the Memphis Grizzlies. Speights also had an admirable series but did not get the opporutnity to contribute much in Memphis’ 82-72 Game 7 loss, scoring just two points on 1-of-2 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 11 minutes.

6 » Only three former Florida players remain in the playoffs: F Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller of the Miami Heat. Bonner is averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game this postseason while Haslem is posting averages of 3.8 points and 6.4 boards in 19.0 minutes and Miller is registering 7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 23.2 minutes.

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SIX BITS: baseball, Guy, Tebow, Lochte, Horford

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (37-13, 15-10 SEC) got off to a hot start in their final home series of the regular season, taking down the No. 25 Mississippi State Rebels (30-19, 12-13 SEC) on Senior Day at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won 4-1 behind a strong outing by junior right-hander Hudson Randall, who gave up an earned run in the fifth but otherwise scattered five hits in his 7.0 innings while striking out two. Junior lefty Steven Rodriguez (2.0 IP, H, 4 K) was dominant in closing out the game and earned his third save of the season. The Gators rallied to cross the plate once each in the second and third and added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth when senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) hit a two-run homer to left. Five seniors including Pigott, RHP Greg Larson, utility player Jeff Moyer, outfielder Tyler Thompson and right fielder Preston Tucker were honored on Friday though a handful of the team’s juniors may also be playing their final regular season home series at McKethan Stadium.

2 » It was reported back in January that Florida had offered a preferred walk-on opportunity to three-star quarterback Jacob Guy (Dade City, FL), but the player had chosen to take some time to consider his options before deciding where he would attend school in 2012 and beyond. Guy has finally made that decision and announced on Friday that he will turn down scholarship offers from schools like Massachusetts, Ohio and Western Michigan in order to walk on with the Gators. “I”ve always been a Gators fan,” Guy told the Tampa Bay Times. “The opportunity to go up there to Gainesville and play for the Gators got me there.” Guy set his high school’s single season records for passing yards (2,672) and touchdowns (42) in his senior year and put up a brilliant line in the Class 5A region final when he completed 17-of-18 passes and scored two touchdowns (one rushing). At 6’5” and 200 lbs., Guy’s size is exceptional for a signal caller. Should Florida’s roster remain unchanged heading into the summer, he will be the ninth quarterback in camp with only four on scholarship.

3 » E! has decided to air a 30-minute special on New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. Unfortunately for Tebow and his fans, the special (which will air sometime in July according to Sports Illustrated), is being created without his participation and therefore is unlikely to include any unique material. “Tebow is a pop culture phenomenon and the interest in his life expands beyond the world of sports. He’s a compelling personality and has a fascinating story,” a network spokesman told SI’s Richard Deitsch.

4 » Former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte is ready and raring to go for the 2012 London Olympics this summer and his manufactured feud with Michael Phelps is beginning to pick up steam heading into the games. The two have been going head-to-head all year and will likely be in many of the same events in the Olympics, so SI.com took a look at how the teammates and rivals are fairing with 78 days to go (as of Thursday) until the games begin.

As Phelps peeled back after Beijing, Lochte ramped up. Phelps won five golds and one silver at the 2009 world championships. Lochte won four gold and a bronze. Phelps won another five events at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships. Lochte won six, bettering Phelps for the first time at a major meet.

Then came the 2011 world championships in Shanghai, where Lochte won five golds and one bronze to Phelps’ four golds, two silvers and one bronze. Lochte won both head-to-heads, the 200 free and 200 individual medley, by a combined half-second over Phelps. That was enough to earn Lochte the title of the new world’s best swimmer.

5 » Forward/center Al Horford fought his way back from a torn right pectoral to play in the final three games of the season for the Atlanta Hawks. A major contributor in those three contests, Horford found himself at the foul line with three seconds left and an opportunity to tie the game if he made both free throws. After missing the first one, Horford made the second and Atlanta wound up losing as there was not enough time for them to come back and get another good shot. Many fans wondered whether should have missed that second free throw considering the team was down two with no timeouts remaining. A day after the contest, Horford spoke about that possibility. “I didn’t really think about it. That’s something I probably should have given some thought,” he said. “The first one felt good. I was surprised I missed it. Looking back I should have missed the second one, not realizing we didn’t have any timeouts. I did [realize it] before but there was a lot of stuff going on through the game.” The real question is why none of his coaches relayed it to Horford to do just that following the initial miss.

6 » Former Florida football players quarterback John Brantley, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive end William Green all signed undrafted free agent deals with their respective teams on Friday. Brantley and Thompson were two of 19 players to come to terms with the Baltimore Ravens while Green was inked by the Cleveland Browns. Offensive lineman Dan Wenger continues to participate in Jets mini camp as he hopes to earn a scholarship, and former Gators safety Will Hill, who did not a legitimate look from any NFL team after declaring for the draft a year early in 2011, is currently working out and hoping to earn a job with the New York Giants.

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Three Gators sign undrafted free agent deals

Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive end William Green each signed undrafted free agent contracts hours after the conclusion of the 2012 NFL Draft on Saturday.

Brantley and Thompson, each of whom had an outside shot of being drafted but were ultimately passed over in the seven-round event, both signed with the Baltimore Ravens. It is the second-straight year that Baltimore penned a former Florida player to an undrafted free agent deal after picking up DE Terron Sanders a year ago (he was eventually released).

“I’m excited,” Brantley told the Ocala Star-Banner. “I was expecting the worst after the last two years (at UF). I just want to get a shot and that’s what I got. The Ravens started showing interest in the middle of the second round. There’s an opportunity there.”

Green will join former Florida cornerback Joe Haden on the Cleveland Browns.

Additionally, center/guard Dan Wenger told OGGOA on Sunday that he has been invited to participate in the New York Jets‘ team mini-camp. He had interest from three others teams but New York ultimately became his destination.

Cornerback Moses Jenkins has yet to sign an undrafted free agent deal or receive/accept any invitations as of press time.

2012 NFL DRAFT
» DT Jaye Howard – Round 4, No. 114 – Seattle Seahawks
» RB Chris Rainey – Round 5, No. 159 – Pittsburgh Steelers
» CB Janoris Jenkins – Round 2, No. 39 – St. Louis Rams

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Florida Gators 2012 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

The Florida Gators may not have a proverbial dog in the race when it comes to the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday but a handful of former Florida players still hope to see their childhood dreams come true this weekend.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting the Gators may not be as excited about the event this time around considering there will be yet another a significant drop-off from the nation-leading nine players that were selected in 2010 (including a school-record three in the first round and six in the first two rounds). In fact, Florida is not expected to have a first-round pick for the first time since the 2006 draft when Chad Jackson was an early second-round selection by New England.

Few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft – trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player brings to the table differently than analysts do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, we will stick with what likely will happen Thursday-Sunday.

» Cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be the only player with (close) ties to Florida to be selected in the first two rounds – probably in the latter part of round one.

Unless a team falls in love with running back Chris Rainey’s potential, Jenkins is the only name Gators fans can hope to hear on Thursday or early Friday. He has early first-round potential but what many teams apparently consider undraftable off-the-field character concerns. Reports coming out this week state that some teams have removed Jenkins from their draft boards entirely while others recognize that his talent may be too good to pass up. Many analysts even believe he has a higher upside than LSU’s Morris Claiborne, who is expected to be the first cornerback selected (somewhere in the top 10) on Thursday. With such a rush of anti-Jenkins reports, it appears as if a number of teams are trying to create a major smokescreen in the hopes that he falls to them late in the first round. Marijuana arrests and multiple children out of wedlock may matter to some front office executives, but they are not considered to be on the same level with felony arrests, for example. It is likely that someone takes a chance on Jenkins Thursday and does not let him slip into the second round where he would be an absolute steal.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2012 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

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SIX BITS: Rainey, Noah, softball, lax, tennis, NBA

1 » NFL.com’s Gil Brandt took a look back at the Florida GatorsPro Day on March 13 and came away with some very interesting information. He clocked Rainey in at 4.41 and 4.35 seconds in his 40-yard dashes and said that he also impressed while working out at wide receiver. Brandt (among others) believes Rainey is a sure-fire third-round pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. He also noted that WR Denote Thompson “ran blistering 4.31 and 4.32 40s” and also worked out as a defensive back and “looked good, even though he has no experience playing there.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was ejected from Saturday’s game after throwing a ball near a referee but was contrite and apologetic on Sunday when asked about the situation. “I don’t know what’s going to happen about that,” Noah said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I just want to apologize to the ref. I just feel bad for what happened. I just want to apologize to the ref for coming at him like that. It was wrong of me. I was just frustrated. I just hope he reads this and accepts my apology.” The NBA decided not to suspend Noah for his actions, which were not overly aggressive.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (29-1, 10-1 SEC) swept the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-12, 2-9 SEC) in three-straight games over the weekend, earning three impressive victories on Friday (6-0), Saturday (3-2) and Sunday (5-0). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1, S3) led the way for the Gators on the mound, registering two wins and a save in the three contests. She combined to pitch 15.0 innings and allowed just six hits and six walks while registering 15 strikeouts. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was dynamite at the plate, going 8/11 with two homers, four RBIs, six runs and a walk. She was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday.

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (10-2, 1-0 ALC) continued their winning ways with a 10-8 victory over the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, 0-1 ALC) to open conference play on Saturday. Florida’s veteran junior class combined for just three goals on the afternoon as a pair of freshman midfielders led the way by putting most of the numbers up on the scoreboard. Nora Barry and Shannon Gilroy combined to score six goals on 10 shots, propelling the Gators over the Buckeyes.

5 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (13-1, 6-0 SEC) and No. 11 Gators men’s tennis (10-7, 3-3 SEC) each registered weekend victories over the No. 19/unranked Ole Miss Rebels. The women won 6-1 at home in Gainesville, FL behind victories from all but one of their ranked players, while the men earned a 5-2 win on the road in Oxford, MS in nearly identical fashion.

6 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford updated his latest top 100 prior to the 2012 NBA Draft. Ford currently has three Florida players listed on his rankings: freshman guard Bradley Beal (No. 3), sophomore center Patric Young (No. 25) and junior G Kenny Boynton (No. 93). Young has already said that he intends to stay in school for his junior season, but Beal and Boynton have both been mum about their respective futures. Beal would be a “lock” in the top five and potentially as high as No. 3 overall, according to Ford, while Boynton is unlikely to be selected in the draft and would likely play overseas if he left.

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FOUR BITS: Pro Day, Tim Tebow, tennis, WBK

1 » Though the date has been set for at least a few weeks now, the Florida Gators officially announced this week that the team will hold its Pro Day on March 13. Free and open to the public, Pro Day will feature a number of draft-eligible Gators working out for NFL scouts and coaches from around the league right on Florida Field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida also announced that seven players who graduated in 2011 – quarterback John Brantley, defensive end William Green, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, defensive back Moses Jenkins, running back Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson – are scheduled to participate. Also in attendance to work out for scouts will be former Gators including DT Troy Epps, DT Lawrence Marsh, DB Dorian Munroe, DB Wondy Pierre-Louis and WR Justin Williams.

2 » EA Sports announced via their Facebook page that QB Tim Tebow is one of two Denver Broncos players representing his team in the online voting for cover athlete for the Madden NFL 13 video game. Voting begins March 7; after the field is cut down to 32 players, head-to-head votes will take place until the final cover athlete is picked. Tebow, who was on the cover of NCAA Football 11 two years ago, may actually want to avoid winning this contest due to the dreaded and much-publicized Madden curse.

3 » No. 15 Florida women’s tennis (6-1) swept the Florida State Seminoles (5-4) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex for the team’s 99th consecutive home victory. The Gators, now 52-1 all-time against the Seminoles, beat their in-state rivals 7-0. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen won 8-2, leading the way for three doubles victories. No. 1 Will (6-1, 6-2), No. 39 Oyen (6-2, 6-1), No. 18 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 23 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-2) and sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-4, retired) all won their singles matches as well in the rout. Florida will compete in back-to-back road meets against Tennessee on Friday and Georgia on Sunday before returning to Gainesville, FL looking for their 100th straight win at home next Friday against Vanderbilt.

4 » Eight-seed Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) is set to begin action in the 2012 SEC Tournament by taking on the nine-seed Auburn Tigers (13-16, 5-11 SEC) on Thursday at 1 p.m. With the game airing live on FOX Sports Network, fans can watch as Florida tries to pull out a victory for the opportunity to square-off with one-seed Kentucky on Friday at 1 p.m.

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