Cut day a mixed bag for six former Gators

NFL franchises were forced to reduce their rosters to 53 players on Friday as the 2012 regular season draws closer. Six former Florida Gators were impacted by decisions their respective teams made with the results different for each player.

Receiving the good news were New York Giants safety Will Hill and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson, a pair of undrafted free agents who performed so well in training camp and during a preseason that they earned roster spots on their respective teams.

Hill, who went undrafted in 2011 and did not play in the NFL last season, was signed early in the offseason by the Giants and impressed the coaching staff so much (both on and off the field) that he will not only make the team but also see extensive playing time. He registered 15 tackles (12 solo) and a sack in four preseason games.

Thompson joined the Ravens along with former Gators quarterback John Brantley, who was cut early in the offseason. He led Baltimore in receptions, receiving yards in the first and fourth preseason games (scoring a touchdown in each) and had kickoff returns of 42 yards and 63 yards in the two games in-between.

Dealt the first bit of negative news was New England Patriots running back Jeff Demps, whose season is over after the team placed him on injured reserve. Demps signed with the Patriots two weeks ago and played in the team’s final two preseason games. He took nine carries for 55 yards, caught three balls for 31 yards, returned three kicks for 63 yards and brought back five punts for 65 yards.

He supposedly injured his knee during practice, but it was not at all believed to be serious. New England placing him on injured reserves keeps him under the team’s control (he signed a three-year contract) and gives him the entire season and offseason to get into football shape and learn the playbook. The move is basically a way of stashing a player by circumventing the waiver wire process.

Though New York decided to keep Hill, the Giants chose to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Marcus Thomas on Friday. Thomas signed a one-year deal on Aug. 16 but has now been cut just two weeks later and will look to catch on with another team.

Also looking for new homes now are tight end Cornelius Ingram, who spent the entire offseason with the Denver Broncos but was cut loose on Friday, and linebacker Brandon Hicks, who was hoping to catch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Other prominent Florida players who are also currently free agents include Brantley, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, DT Gerard Warren, tackle Phil Trautwein, defensive end Bobby McCray, DE Derrick Harvey, DE Jarvis Moss, DE Justin Trattou and cornerback Lito Sheppard. LB Andra Davis and RB Earnest Graham are close to retirement.

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 3

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the third week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 3

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 2

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 2

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the first week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

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SIX BITS: Brantley, Donovan, Moss, Tebow, Rainey

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley was cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday after being signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in April. It was unlikely that Brantley would have made the team to begin with though he likely would have remained in training camp longer had Baltimore not needed to sign a free agent tight end as an injury replacement. He could rejoin the Ravens at any time, be added to their practice squad after the preseason or be picked up by another team. Former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson, also signed as an undrafted free agent, remains with Baltimore despite recently “displaying shaky hands,” according to Carroll County Times reporter Aaron Wilson.

2 » One of the hot conversation pieces ongoing as some of the NBA’s brightest stars compete in the 2012 London Olympics is if the league’s owners will get their wish that all Olympic basketball competitors will have to be 23 years of age or younger starting in 2016. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman took a look at what a U23 team might look like in 2016; he believes that Gators guard Bradley Beal would be featured on the squad and that Florida head coach Billy Donovan could be one of two choices to replace Coach Mike Krzyewski, citing his success with the U18 team this summer.

3 » Former Florida forward Adrian Moss informed OGGOA on Wednesday that he has signed a one-year contract with EESM Le Portel of the French Pro B league. Moss averaged 15.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting (35.6 percent from downtown) and grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game last year in Spain. He has also previously played professional basketball in Israel and Germany.

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow may have had a rough start to training camp with his new team, but ESPN’s Ron Jaworski remarked on SportsCenter early this week that he saw improvement from the player in one very important area. “The one thing I’ve noticed about Tim Tebow – and it’s a small sampling thus far – is his [throwing] stroke is much better,” he said. “It’s cleaner. It’s not as elongated. He’s not dropping the football [down to his hip]. That means the ball will come out quicker.” Jaworski did see some room for improvement, however. “I’d still like to see Tebow drive off his back leg a little more,” he added. “Sometimes he has that dead leg and he loses energy at the end of the throw on the deeper throws. It’s fine in the short to intermediate area. But downfield those throws, when they hang in the air, will get knocked down or batted down by the very athletic secondary players in this league.”

5 » Though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey is already coming on strong with his new team, some of his teammates and coaches are noticing that he needs to be pushed hard during practice. According to Scout.com, Rainey has been ragged on by everyone including good friend center Maurkice Pouncey. “He probably needs it. Heck yeah,” he said. “Oh, [the coaches] love him. They really, really love him. I hope it stays that way. I hope he stays here with me as long as he can.” The ribbing Rainey is taking may be good-natured, but head coach Mike Tomlin has reportedly been using a version of the unfortunate text message that got Rainey arrested as part of that motivation. “OK, 22, time to die!” he apparently yelled during the first full-contact practice. “I hear it every day, about five times a day,” Rainey said. “It’s all good. I made a bad mistake in the past but I moved on. It’s funny now. I’m glad I’m here.”

6 » Three members of the Gators lacrosse team were awarded training team spots with the U.S. National Team over the weekend. Seniors midfielder Brittany Dashiell and goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, along with assistant coach (and MF) Caitlyn McFadden, will join the 36-player pool that will eventually be whittled down to 18 (in February 2013) before the United States defends its title at the 2013 FIL World Cup. McFadden was a member of Team USA in 2009 and helped bring home the championship.

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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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