Bears safety Major Wright set to “make my mark”

Former Florida Gators safety Major Wright is on the cusp of beginning his rookie campaign with the Chicago Bears. Selected by Chicago in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Wright has been preparing each day since being picked to take the field for training camp and show both his coaches and Bears fans that he is capable of making an impact right away. OGGOA caught up with Wright before a scheduled appearance he had signing autographs in West Palm Beach, FL. He spoke with us about a variety of topics including his time at Florida, the future of the Gators program and what he hopes to accomplish right away as a professional in the NFL.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What kind of advice would you give to a high school recruit about to make a college decision, perhaps one considering Florida?
MAJOR WRIGHT: “At Florida, you know, they recruit the best athletes. So, if they recruit you, you’re obviously one of the best athletes out there. Stay focused, maintain what you are doing and always work hard and things are going to happen for you. Especially at the University of Florida – the best talent, the best coaching, the best facilities. That’s where kids want to be at these days.”

AS: How hard was it for you to make the adjustment from high school to college?
MW: “It was pretty hard. Being that you’re coming from high school to college. With me, I went to St. Thomas Aquinas – a well-known program that has great coaching. With my coaching and the speed of the game, it’s a lot different from high school to college. It’s a hard [transition], but I made it and went on with it.”

AS: Ahmad Black and Will Hill are still left, trying to hold down the back end of the secondary. How do you think they are going to play next year?
MW: “They’re going to be great. Me playing with them, those are definitely some focused guys. They know what they’re doing. Ahmad Black and Will Hill [are] definitely [going to] be like one of the two best tandems in college football.”

Read the rest of our interview with Major Wright…after the break!
Continue Reading » Bears safety Major Wright set to “make my mark”

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FOUR BITS: Softball advances, Seattle liked Tebow, ex-CB Rickerson arrested – again, 2011

1 » No. 5/5 Florida Gators softball (43-7, 20-7 SEC) defeated the Auburn Tigers (31-5, 11-18 SEC) 9-1 in the first round of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday. Junior Stephanie Brombacher (29-5) took home the win, allowing two hits in five innings while striking out six. Junior shortstop Megan Bush and freshman Kelsey Horton each hit home runs in the game, and the Gators put together an eight-run fifth inning to put the game away. No. 2-seed Florida advanced with the win and will face No. 3-seed LSU on Friday at 3 p.m. in tournament semifinal action.

2 » Speaking with podcaster Matt Minkus, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider said that had former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow been available in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, his team likely would have had a high level of interest in selecting him. “Yeah, we definitely would have considered Tim,” Schneider said Wednesday. “I think he’s the type of player that – the quarterback position begin the most important position on the field – he’s the type of player that just has a natural way about him with his leadership skills and his charisma. I think that we definitely would have considered him. People have made a big deal about his release, and he really has improved that over the last month of two. He was making a lot of progress, so sure, he definitely would have been a guy we would have considered.”

3 » Former Florida cornerback Jacques Rickerson, who was kicked off the team in November 2008 after an arrest for domestic battery, was arrested yet again Thursday afternoon and charged with cyberstalking and domestic battery by strangulation., according to The Gainesville Sun. Rickerson, a former four-star recruit, is currently being held in Alachua County jail on $45,000 bond.

4 » Taking a (really) early look ahead at the 2011 NFL Draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper went ahead and ranked his top five players available by position. Only two Gators made the list – senior center Mike Pouncey and junior safety Will Hill. Pouncey is ranked as the No. 3 center available even though he has yet to play the position for Florida; Hill is listed as the No. 2 safety and is expected to have an “official coming-out party” next year.

Extra Bit » OGGOA sponsor Palm Beach Autographs will be holding a signing on Saturday, May 15 with two more former Gators. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and Chicago Bears safety Major Wright will be on hand signing autographs, taking pictures and talking to fans throughout the event. For more information, click their banner on the right or visit http://www.palmbeachautographs.com

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2011 PG recruit Scottie Wilbekin to join Gators

Florida Gators basketball has added the final piece to its 2010 recruiting class, one which will give the team and head coach Billy Donovan a drastically different look next season. Confirming a story OGGOA first posted on April 21, the Orlando Sentinel and The Gainesville Sun are reporting that three-star 2011 point guard recruit Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL) has committed and will officially sign with the University of Florida next week.

Though Wilbekin is only a high school junior, he has excellent grades and enough credits to graduate early in order to be eligible for admission to UF as a member of the basketball team’s 2010 recruiting class. He has already completed his standardized tests, is set to receive clearance from the NCAA and plans to sign his National Letter of Intent at The Rock School on Tuesday.

“At first I was hesitant to give up my senior year,” Wilbekin told Florida Today. “[My coaches and parents] reassured me and I’m looking forward to being a Gator next year.”

Now the sixth scholarship player brought in for 2010, Wilbekin will join four-star forwards Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) and Casey Prather (Jackson, TN), three-stars Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD) and Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL) and Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ), who will not be eligible to play until 2011-12.

In order to sign six recruits to scholarships, further changes must be made inside the Florida program – especially after junior forward Alex Tyus removed his name from the 2010 NBA Draft and decided to return to school for his senior season.

Jim McKenzie, The Rock’s vice president, told the Sentinel that UF has already set aside a scholarship for Wilbekin, meaning the future of two players has already been decided.

Sophomore guard Ray Shipman has chosen to transfer, but the Gators still must clear two more scholarships to get them to the NCAA-mandated maximum of 13. The most likely candidates to be taken off scholarship are freshman point guard Rod Tisman (who would remain in Irasel or transfer) and redshirt sophomore forward Adam Allen (who would retire and be granted a medical hardship or transfer).

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Florida basketball really a top 10 team in 2010-11?

All five starters are returning for the first time since the Florida Gators back-to-back National Championship seasons, head coach Billy Donovan has a much-needed deep and talented recruiting class coming in and not a single player declared for the NBA Draft for the first time in years. With all of these factors taken into consideration, three college basketball analysts have already declared Florida basketball to be a top 10 team going into the 2010-11 season.

ESPN‘s Andy Katz and Pat Forde and CBS SportsGary Parrish have given the Gators this distinction. But the question is: Do they deserve the love?

See what the experts and OGGOA have to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida basketball really a top 10 team in 2010-11?

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FOUR BITS: Dunlap, Tyus & Donovan, Pierre-Louis

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap has decided to make it his mission to silence his doubters and do whatever it takes to help his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals, improve on defense this year. “My plan is to help contribute in the pass-rushing game,” Dunlap told the Dayton Daily News. “That’s one of the things I heard coach [Marvin Lewis] say the team lacked last year. Although I feel rushing the passer is one of the things I do well, it’s certainly not my best attribute. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get on the field and help the team win games. […] I want to go after defensive rookie of the year honors. People’s negative comments help motivate me. They say I should have been a first-rounder but I’m not. So all I can do now is make everyone who passed on me pay.”

2 » Though Dunlap is confident in what he can do this year, his team’s owner, Mike Brown, may see his selection with the No. 54 overall pick in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft as just another risky decision by Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. As Cincinnati was in the process cleaning up its image as a franchise accepting of bad behavior, they have recently signed or drafted players charged with drug possession (wide receiver Matt Jones), DUI (Dunlap and WR Chris Davis) and numerous arrests (defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones). How Dunlap turns out – and whether or not he gets into further trouble – could be a strong indictment on Lewis’ job security.

3 » Florida junior forward Alex Tyus, who has kept relatively quiet throughout the entire process of deciding to return to school, has accepted that he will not start at small forward for the Gators, according to his fiancée Alli Cecchini. “He understands Chandler [Parsons] has won that position,” she told the Orlando Sentinel. “He hasn’t proven himself to be a 3 here. His chance to show he can play the 3 is at the professional level, but for now he respects where the team is coming from.” Cecchini also said that, contrary to what some may believe, Tyus remains close with head coach Billy Donovan. “We have a great relationship with Donovan, we talk to him all the time,” she added. “It’s not like a strained relationship at all.”

4 » Though some are discounting any chance he might have in making a team, former Gators cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis has already worked out for his second in a week, visiting the Baltimore Ravens after being dismissed by the New York Giants a few days ago. Pro Football Talk reports that Pierre-Louis “will be sent packing by the Ravens,” but The News-Press believes Baltimore has legitimate interest in him for a special teams position. “It’s not really that much different [than college],” Pierre-Louis said. “It’s a little bit faster because everybody knows what to do and where to go.”

Extra Bit » Florida junior Alexandre Lacroix and redshirt senior Antoine Benneteau have each been named to the 2010 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I Men’s All-American Team, according to a release from the University of Florida. Lacroix, who posted a 32-9 record this season as a singles competitor, earned recognition in both categories (singles and doubles); Benneteau, however, only earned the doubles honor (Lacroix is his teammate and the duo holds a 17-5 record).

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FOUR BITS: Peterson, Orton vs. Tebow, FSU wins

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson – now a veteran with the Atlanta Falcons, has taken on the roll of mentor with the team’s first-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft, Sean Weatherspoon. Now 34, Peterson had a solid 2009-10 season (140 tackles) and hopes to continue to help both on the field and in the locker room. “I understand the business,” he said. “I want to help the team out. That’s what I’m all about. I didn’t come here to try and play 2,000 plays. I came here to try to win the Super Bowl. Whatever my role will be, I’m ready for it.”

2 » The Denver Post is apparently the “Kyle Orton needs to get out of here on way or another” angle now that former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has joined the Denver Broncos. Columnist Woody Paige insists the team needs to pull the trigger on a trade involving Orton because he is “not a short-term fix or a long-range fit for the Broncos,” noting that he is “an average quarterback who couldn’t start for 21 other teams in the league.” Better to see what they have in former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn and first-round pick Tebow, Page believes. Paper-mate mark Kiszla takes a similar angle on the topic, noting that Orton needs to get himself out of Denver as fast as possible. “[He] would have rocks for brains to start another game as quarterback of the Broncos,” Kiszla wrote. “He would be playing the fool for Denver coach Josh McDaniels. If Orton owns a penny’s worth of common sense, he has already quietly, politely and firmly asked for a trade to grant his freedom.”

3 » EA SportsNCAA Football 11, which will feature Tebow as its cover athlete, is undergoing more changes than just deciding to use one former player on its cover instead of many. According to Jon Robinson of ESPN, the gaming company has decided to further embed ESPN branding into the game, letting each contest play like it is a live network broadcast. Read more about some of the game’s brand new features.

4 » Speaking of ESPN, the worldwide leader has decided to create a bracket system in order to devise which college program has been the best pipeline for the NFL over the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, No. 13-seed Florida lost its opening-round match-up. Unfortunately for some fans, it was to the No. 4-seed Florida State Seminoles. Though writer Matt Williamson noted that the recent influx of Gators gives the team a chance to claim the title in the future, the past’s top five notable players (Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Walter Jones, Rohn Stark, LeRoy Butler VS. Emmitt Smith, Lomas Brown, Cris Collinsworth, Wilber Marshall, Neal Anderson) allows FSU to earn the edge. Check out the entire head-to-head match-up at the link above including summaries by Heather Dinich and Mark Schlabach.

Photo Credit: Jon Robinson/ESPN

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Alex Tyus withdraws name from 2010 NBA Draft, sticks with Florida Gators for senior season

Likely against the wishes of much of his family who had been outspoken about his future, Florida Gators junior forward Alex Tyus has decided to remain with the team for his senior season, withdrawing his name from the 2010 NBA Draft.

After being evaluated by experts and working out for NBA teams (including the Portland Trailblazers on Friday), Tyus chose to stick around the University of Florida for one more season in an attempt to hone his skills and improve his stock before entering next year’s draft.

“When I began this process it was with the intent of gathering information to see what I needed to work on to one day compete at the next level, and I believe I have been successful in doing just that,” Tyus said. “I have withdrawn my name from the NBA Draft and look forward to completing my senior year at the University of Florida. We made tremendous strides as a team a year ago that I look forward to continuing to build upon.

NBA analysts projected Tyus to go undrafted this year should he have kept his name in the draft and hired and agent. Nevertheless, that is the path his father and uncle hoped he would take; both criticized head coach Billy Donovan for incorrectly utilizing Tyus, claiming he could be an “unbelievable small forward.”

Tyus will begin next season as the Gators’ starting power forward. Fellow senior Chandler Parsons will hold down the small forward job. The Florida basketball team will be returning all five starters for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

“I will be returning to Gator Nation! Let’s get ready to make a run boys!” he wrote on his personal Twitter account.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandin/Associated Press

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TWO BITS: LaPorta struggling, Harrison caught

1 » Former Florida Gators baseball star Matt LaPorta, now a starter with the Cleveland Indians, is struggling mightily in his first full season in MLB. The two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (2005, 2007) batted .254 with seven home runs and 21 RBI in 52 games his rookie season (2009) but is not coming close to that pace this year. In 20 appearances, LaPorta is hitting .214 with no homers and only a single RBI to his name. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft was expected to be a source of power in the major leagues but has yet to live up to the expectations he had garnered. Cleveland acquired LaPorta as part of the trade that sent now-New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers two years ago.

2 » Fellow former Florida baseball player Ben Harrison is also struggling, but he is facing a very different type of conflict. On Friday, Harrison – who is currently a free agent in the minor leagues – was suspended 100 games for violating MiLB’s drug program. He was caught buying and using amphetamines, which were outlawed in MLB beginning in 2006. During his University of Florida career, Harrison hit 40 home runs and 192 RBI, ranking him second all-time in both categories behind arguably the best player in school history, the now-retired Brad Wilkerson.

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