Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”

» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.

» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.

Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

Growing up watching his father play professional football, Ran Carthon found a passion for the game and knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s profession but blaze his own path to glory. So when his family moved from Osceola, AR to Key West, FL and he began playing high school football, Carthon hoped to be recognized for his efforts on the field rather than his father’s famous last name.

He received that recognition from the Florida Gators and committed to wear orange and blue throughout his college career. After working hard to earn time on the field and being given a second chance to shine under head coach Ron Zook, Carthon led Florida in rushing in 2003 with 595 yards and six touchdowns (he also caught 21 balls for 185 yards and another score).

He played in 48 games with 11 starts over his career, running for over 1,300 yards on 270 carries and scoring 12 total touchdowns.

Now a professional scout with the Atlanta Falcons, “The Mayor” (a nickname he was given in college for knowing everyone in Gainesville, FL) is not only still involved in football but also constantly working on ways to give back to the community.

Carthon sat down with OGGOA last week for a 45-minute exclusive interview that touches on his life growing up, advice for recent Gators commits, time at Florida, playing in the NFL and the newest charitable venture he is involved in, the Florida Players Network.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it like playing high school football in Key West? Did you find it was hard to get recognized?
RAN CARTHON: “Living in Key West was awesome and amazing; we had a lot of community support. Kind of like most football stories you hear, it was a small town community that really rallies around their high school sports. In terms of being recognized, honestly it was something we never thought about. We played a lot of Miami schools – and those schools had talented players – so we knew if we wanted to get on scholarship that we had to dominate those guys in order to get our recognition.”

AS: Did you feel any added pressure either living your life as the son of a well-known NFL player (New York Giants and Super Bowl-winning fullback Maurice Carthon)?
RC: “For me it was always like I wanted to create my own identity. Earlier on I fought against everything you read about – ‘son of former Giants player’ – and I wanted to establish myself and let people know that I can play this game. That was the initial thing. As I got older, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. My dad is who he is and my talents would be recognized because of him because of the gene pool. After a few years, I gave up on that fight.”

AS: Florida has Bryan Cox, Jr. committed for 2012 and just earned a verbal pledge from Kelvin Taylor. Do you have any advice for those guys on how to live and play in the “shadow” of their respective fathers?
RC: “I would just say be who you are. The player that you are has gotten you to this point, gotten you recognized by elite schools. I’ve been following Kelvin since his eighth grade year as a senior at Glades Day. I’m very familiar with him and that’s just more so because of how much of a fan I was of Fred [Taylor]. Fred and Terry Jackson were probably two of the main reasons why I selected to go to UF. I thought under [Steve] Spurrier they were allowed to show everything they could do as backs. I had offers from schools that were predominately running the ball, but I felt like I was more versatile than that. For those guys – Bryan Cox, Jr. and Kelvin Taylor – those guys need to embrace who their father is but at the same time continue to do what got them to where they are.”

Read the rest of our interview with Ran Carthon…after the break!
Continue Reading » Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

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Florida Gators report to NFL training camps

Updated at 9 p.m.

With NFL training camp finally underway after an extended lockout cancelled organized team activities and mini camps, more than three dozen former Florida Gators are working out and trying to earn their keep this year. Below is a comprehensive look at each player in the league as well as those still looking for work.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators report to NFL training camps

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Wild Card

With the 2010-11 NFL regular season having come to a close, a number of Florida Gators participated in Wild Card Weekend action during the NFL Playoffs. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the first week of the playoffs.

DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Six tackles (five solo, two for loss), pass def.
RB DeSHAWN WYNN, New Orleans Saints: Played but did not record statistics.
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Two receptions for 18 yards (targets: 4)
DE BOBBY MCCRAY, Philadelphia Eagles: Played but did not record statistics.

NOTES
- Wynn was released by San Francisco and signed with New Orleans on Monday.
- McCray, a free agent this season, was signed by Philadelphia on Dec. 30.
- Both teams featuring former Gators lost this weekend in the wild card round.

ACTIVE FOR REMAINDER OF PLAYOFFS
Linebacker Mike Peterson (Atlanta Falcons); safety Major Wright (Chicago Bears); LB Jermaine Cunningham, tight end Aaron Hernandez, LB Brandon Spikes, running back Fred Taylor, defensive tackle Gerard Warren (New England Patriots); center Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh Steelers)

REGULAR SEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

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FOUR BITS: Haden shining, Leak wins Grey Cup

1 » Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden has really turned it on in recent weeks, nabbing an interception in each of his last three games. Haden, who is technically a back-up but started his first game on Sunday in place of the injured Eric Wright (knee), is set to start once again this week. “Joe has done really well,” head coach Eric Mangini said of Haden. “He’s getting better as we go. He’s making a strong, strong case for continued playing time.”

2 » The Montreal Alouettes of the CFL won the 2010 Grey Cup on Sunday and two members of the team have ties to Florida. Former Gators National Championship-winning quarterback Chris Leak, the team’s back-up, and head coach Marc Trestman, who worked with former Florida QB Tim Tebow on his throwing motion and mechanics prior to and after NFL combine workouts, both picked up their second Grey Cup rings. The duo also participated in the 2008 Grey Cup but failed to be victorious.

Extra BIT » Former Florida running back DeShawn Wynn, a member of the San Francisco 49ers practice squad this season, was promoted to the active roster on Tuesday as a replacement for Pro Bowler Frank Gore, who fractured his hip during the team’s Monday Night Football game yesterday. Wynn is a four-year NFL veteran who saw his most action with the Green Bay Packers (203 yards and four touchdowns) in his rookie season (2007).

Photo Credit: Todd Korol/Reuters

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FOUR BITS: Addazio, volleyball, soccer, Harvin

1 » When things do not always go as planned for the Florida Gators, the fan base seems to freak out. Like last year, fans’ frustrations have already been pin-pointed on offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio. But as both the Orlando Sentinel‘s George Diaz and The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley will tell you, it was only one game and Addazio may indeed deserve a break. “I wasn’t happy with some the play calls Saturday, especially the screen pass from the 1-yard line that should have been ruled a safety,” Dooley wrote in particular. “But with Addazio as coordinator, Florida is now 14-1. I think that has to count for something. Let’s see what happens the rest of the way. Off the ledge, people. Like I’ve said a million times, nobody suffers winning like Gator fans.”

2 » Facing a top-15 opponent for the third time in their first five matches of the 2010 season, No. 4/6 Florida volleyball (5-0) defeated the No. 13/15 Colorado State Rams (5-1) in four sets – 25-22, 25-19, 25-27, 25-21. The victory, which won the Gators the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational emanating from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, featured another brilliant performance from junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy. She, along with senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe, recorded 13 of Florida’s 10 kills. One day prior, in matches that took place earlier in the invitational, volleyball swept the both the Bowling Green Falcons (25-12, 25-11, 25-16) and Albany Great Danes (25-8, 25-21, 25-14) in three sets.

The Gators will host another tournament, the Nike Big Four Classic, beginning Friday. The other three teams participating in the event are No. 1 Penn State, Texas and Stanford, and all game information is available via OGGOA’s Upcoming Schedule table at the top right of your screen.

3 » Also running through the competition this year is No. 7 Florida soccer (5-0), which had six different players score while shutting out the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-3) 6-0 on Friday at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior forward Lindsay Thompson (27’), junior F/midfielder Tahnai Annis (30’), freshman F/MF Maggie Rodgers (45’), redshirt sophomore MF McKenzie Barney (50’), freshman defender Mary-Ann Krlin (80’) and sophomore F/MF Natalia Torosian (90’) all punched goals through. As a team, Florida had 30 shots on Jacksonville, 14 of which were on goal. UF is set to face Florida State next on the road Friday at 7 p.m.

4 » Though he missed most of training camp grieving two deaths and suffering from another severe bout of migraine headaches, former Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin says he is “ready to play ball” for the Minnesota Vikings beginning Thursday night in the NFL’s 2010-11 season opener against the New Orleans Saints (including former Florida defensive end Alex Brown and running back DeShawn Wynn). Harvin, who will be on of quarterback Brett Favre’s primary pass catchers along with the team’s kick returner, believes he is finally getting his migraines under control with the help of numerous doctors. “There’s no miracle solution for them,” he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “The people I talked to had them for 40-plus years. My mom had them for 35 years and is just now growing out of them. It’s just something you got to hope to maintain. [...] I think we have a great plan.”

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CHOMPING: Why 2010 will not be a repeat of 2007

The 2007 season was arguably the worst the Florida Gators have played since head coach Urban Meyer took over the program in 2005. That is often what happens when a team’s starting quarterback (Chris Leak) graduates, it loses the majority of its defensive starters to the NFL Draft (defensive linemen Jarvis Moss, Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas and Joe Cohen, safeties Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith, linebacker Brandon Siler) and a few other key pieces leave as well (wide receiver Dallas Baker, running back DeShawn Wynn).

Considering the departures following the 2009 season (QB Tim Tebow, WR Riley Cooper, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey, cornerback Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Major Wright, LBs Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham) appear eerily similar (if not greater) to those that occurred before 2007 got underway, many might expect the Gators to experience a similar downfall. Perhaps they will go from back-to-back one-loss seasons to a similar 9-4 record, 5-3 performance in the Southeastern Conference and maybe even a bowl game loss?

Here is why those that think the sky is falling may be too reactionary…
Continue Reading » CHOMPING: Why 2010 will not be a repeat of 2007

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