As expected, Janoris Jenkins to enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has decided to forgo his final season of NCAA eligibility and will declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, a source “close to the decision” told ESPN’s Joe Schad on Thursday.

Jenkins, arguably Florida’s best defensive player in 2010, totaled 106 tackles, eight interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), two sacks and two forced fumbles in three seasons with the Gators. He earned All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press (first team) and coaches (second team) this year.

Only the second true freshman in school history to start at cornerback on opening day (Joe Haden), Jenkins was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2008 helped Florida win the 2009 BCS National Championship by registering five tackles in the game. He was equally effective in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, recording five solo tackles (one for loss) and a pass break-up in the Gators’ victory.

As a junior in 2010, Jenkins registered 43 tackles, three interceptions and one sack while playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He had surgery after the regular season to correct the injury and missed Florida’s 37-24 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Projected to be a top junior NFL prospect before the season began, Jenkins is considered the third-best cornerback and No. 11 overall player according to ESPN.

Fellow junior, safety Will Hill, has also decided to declare for the draft. The University of Florida will release statements when each player makes his intention to pursue a professional football career official.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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Brantley to meet with Weis before deciding

Before he makes a final decision on whether or not he will remain with the Florida Gators for his redshirt senior season, quarterback John Brantley will meet with new offensive coordinator/QB coach Charlie Weis and then consult with his family, according to two reports released Wednesday.

“We hadn’t talked and probably won’t talk until Charlie Weis is here. I hadn’t even talked to him,” his father John Brantley III said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “We want to meet Coach Weis before John does anything. That may not be for a while,” Brantley III related to The Gainesville Sun.

Brantley struggled in his first season Florida’s starter, throwing for only 2,061 yards and nine touchdowns. He also gave up 10 interceptions and appeared to lack the confidence to toss the ball down the field. In a chance to redeem himself in the post-season, Brantley threw a pick on UF’s first offensive play of the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Even though the Gators held a team meeting on Wednesday, Weis was not in attendance as he is still fulfilling his current duties as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City will face Baltimore on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.

Known for his proficient offenses and ability to develop quarterbacks, Weis may be just what Brantley needs to turn his career around at Florida.

The Sun reports that Brantley is enrolled in spring classes and attended the meeting. Juniors cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Will Hill, both of whom have decided to but have not officially declared for the 2011 NFL Draft, were not in attendance.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
 

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Will Hill to forgo senior season, enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators junior safety Will Hill has decided to forgo his final season of NCAA eligibility and plans to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, a source close to the team and a separate source close to the player confirmed to OGGOA on Wednesday.

Hill – a five-star recruit and PARADE All-American who was a consensus top-five high school football player in the country in 2007 – totaled 132 tackles, four interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack in three seasons at Florida.

He was chosen to the SEC All-Freshmen Team in 2008 after leading the Gators with 22 special team tackles including three in the 2009 BCS National Championship. Hill made five starts at safety in 2009 and once again led UF in special teams tackles (13).

As a junior in 2010, Hill caught two interceptions against Georgia including one in overtime that helped lead Florida to victory. (He also grabbed another on a two-point conversion attempt in the same contest.) He was suspended for the first two games of the season (disciplinary reasons) and sat out the beginning of the 2011 Outback Bowl.

OGGOA first reported following the bowl game that Hill left the field immediately after the final whistle and did not celebrate with his teammates or outgoing coaches. Most around the program did not expect him to remain with the team in 2011.

Projected to be a top junior NFL prospect before the season began, Hill was named to the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list but failed to live up to the expectations of both draft analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below teammate and senior S Ahmad Black (76). His rating could improve significantly with a nice showing at the combine.

Fellow junior, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, is also expected to declare for the draft. The University of Florida will release statements when each player makes his intention to pursue a professional football career official.

UPDATE (1/10/11 at 5 p.m.): Since we first reported this story, Jenkins has decided to remain at UF and will not be entering the draft.

Photo Credit: Stephen Morton/Associated Press

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Review – Tim Tebow: Everything in Between

It is not often we get the chance to do entertainment reviews, though we always appreciate the opportunity. So when I found out that ESPN had chosen to send me a rough cut of Tim Tebow: Everything in Between (debuting on the network on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.), I was psyched to view it before the general public and review it for you.

With a four-minute trailer for the then-unsold film released in September by Fiction and XV Enterprises, I knew going into my viewing that the movie began after the conclusion of the 2010 Sugar Bowl and lasted until Tebow had his name called with the No. 25 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft just over three months later.

What I did not anticipate, however, was how comprehensive, expertly produced and well-edited the film would be. Two things I look for in any production – documentaries especially – are their ability to capture my attention and then whether or not they can hold that attention for their duration. Chase Heavener gives the viewer a brief yet broad behind-the-scenes look at the process Tebow went through to make the transition from Florida Gators legend to legitimate NFL prospect.

The viewer has the opportunity to see Tebow do everything from participating in interviews with Sports Illustrated and ESPN to conducting one of his own with his future agent Jimmy Sexton in a board room at the University of Florida.

“All this looks really good and is really fancy and is really nice. And ya’ll speak really well. But a lot of people around the country either believe in me or don’t believe in me. Or they say I can do this and I can’t do this,” Tebow says while fidgeting with a packet of information after listening to Sexton’s best sales pitch. “If you want to draft me then draft me. If you want to recruit me or you think I can be a quarterback, then I will be. If not, then don’t talk to me because I want somebody that wants me. And I want an agent that wants me and believes that I am going to be a quarterback and believes that I am going to be good at what I do. And why do you think I will be?”

From there the documentary takes you to D1 Sports Training in Nashville, TN, where Tebow threw so many passes while working on adjusting his mechanics that the gloves he was wearing were literally torn apart. The viewer observes as he struggles mightily at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and is pummeled with criticism from analysts including ESPN’s Todd McShay, who is portrayed throughout the film as the antagonist for Tebow’s protagonist.

Both his physical and mental toughness are tested continuously throughout his journey. Tebow trucks on through an infection during the Senior Bowl even finding humor when a doctor feeding a tube down his nose asks if it has even been broken. “Who knows? Probably,” he quips. The level of exertion he puts in to each and every workout – he says – is not matched by any other college football player in the country.

Tebow shows the ability to block out detractors by ignoring McShay, who he hears doubting his ability to play at the next level on a blasting television in the background while he signs dozens of autographs and is surrounded by friends, family and business associates. He also defends his decision to participate in the controversial Focus on the Family Super Bowl commercial alongside his mother.

“Whoever you are, you can at least respect that I have an opinion on [abortion] and that I believe in something and that I’m going to stand up for what I believe,” he says. “That’s something that I’m taking pride in, that I’m standing up or what I believe in, and I’m showing conviction about something. For me, that’s big.”

With the hard work and dedication complete, Tebow’s largest looming decision – one that garnered much media attention – was where he would actually watch the draft that would decide his professional future. Contrary to popular belief that delaying his decision was a publicity stunt, Tebow’s indecision less than 48 hours before the draft is put at the forefront as Sexton pleads for him to make a choice.

Sexton himself proves to be a pivotal figure in Tebow’s tale, especially in the film’s final scenes. He tells the family exactly how he has projected the draft, is met with trepidation when things do not go as smooth as planned, and then is as excited as a school boy when his original prediction – “My bet is Denver from 22 to 30.” – comes to fruition.

Whether you are a fan of Tebow’s or someone who feels a strong sense of disdain for him, the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time National Champion ends up in the role of the underdog by the documentary’s end. Being exposed to Tebow’s character on a more personal basis puts the viewer in a position where one would have to be stone cold inside not to be genuinely happy for him when he receives a phone call from the 303 area code as the story nears its end.

As comprehensive as Heavener’s film is, its short run time of 50 minutes (due to television programming restrictions) does his work an injustice. With three months of film collected there is bound to be at least another 20 minutes of compelling material that unfortunately must have hit the cutting room floor. It is worth holding out hope that an extended edition will be available in some form at a later date.

Tim Tebow: Everything in Between is the first in a series of shows set to be a part of ESPN’s Year of the Quarterback programming initiative, a year-long examination into the lives and careers of quarterbacks from high school to the pros.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Cowart
 

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2011 Outback Bowl post-game news and notes

With the 2011 Outback Bowl now in the books and the Florida Gators set to undergo a major shake-up on the coaching staff and within the program, this is as good of a time as any to share some news and notes that OGGOA picked up over the past weekend.

SENIOR BOWL PARTICIPANTS

A source close to the players told OGGOA on Saturday that senior safety Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl.

UPDATE: When rosters were officially announced on Sunday, punter/kicker Chas Henry has also accepted an invitation to play on Jan. 29.

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow – the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper both participated in the game last year.

JUNIORS DECLARING FOR THE DRAFT

Though nothing has been officially confirmed, most close to the program believe junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will indeed declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Jenkins, considered to be one of the top three defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) available, is projected as a first round pick even though he is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder (an injury he played with most of the season).

Also expected to declare is junior S Will Hill, who was projected to be a high pick before the season but has failed to live up to the expectations of both analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill out as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below Black (76) and 24 under Jenkins (92). In addition to his on-the-field problems, Hill is believed to have a poor attitude off the field and has been disciplined numerous times this past season. People he has spoken with personally have been told he will not be returning to Florida for his senior year.

WALKING OFF THE FIELD BEFORE CELEBRATING

Though a number of the Gators’ injured players – including those who were hurt during the game – remained on the field to celebrate after Florida’s 37-24 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions, a few healthy players ran directly into the locker room instead. Hill, redshirt senior wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams and redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose all hurried off the field. Though Hill is likely to declare for the draft and both Moore and Williams are leaving/graduating, Debose’s departure was curious.

Checking in on Debose, OGGOA has learned that he has been quite disappointed with his time at UF thus far, a feeling that is not surprising considering he missed his first season due to injury and was only used sparingly in 2010 as a kick returner even though he showed explosive ability and the Gators struggled offensively. A source close to the team told us that Debose does not practice nearly as hard as the other young receivers and truly does not have a full grasp of the playbook, something head coach Urban Meyer noted early in the season. Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill – Debose simply could have been exhausted or sick or feeling down after being benched due to muffing two kickoffs – his exit from the field so suddenly is worth noting.

With a new coaching staff coming in and the ability to get a fresh start with an offensive coordinator and position coach, Debose may be getting exactly what he needs.

TWO OTHER CURRENT COACHES ARE GONE

In addition to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin moving on, the Palm Beach Post has confirmed that co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater (surprisingly) and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni (not surprisingly) will not be retained. “I will not be back next year,” Heater told the paper. With reports that Florida has hired former player Aubrey Hill as their new WR coach, Azzanni’s departure is not as much of a shock as Heater’s.

QUARTERBACKING YOUR 2011 GATORS IS…

Perhaps the most important position on the field – quarterback – is the Gators biggest question from a personnel perspective going into next season. Though redshirt freshman QB Jordan Reed said he was perfectly fine with moving to tight end to start the season, he has showed some ability behind center and may hope to get that opportunity in a spread offense elsewhere. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley, who has publicly acknowledged he is considering transferring, will have a pro-style offense in place at Florida should he choose to stay. Their decisions could be independent or related depending what Muschamp has to say and what Brantley’s family helps him decide.

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Graham’s award, Nelson’s journey

1 » Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Earnest Graham was honored by his teammates with the Ed Block Courage Award this year. Coming back this season after tearing a ligament in his toe in 2009, Graham has dealt with a lot in 2010 including the loss of his mother and his brother recently being released from prison. A fan favorite, Graham recently started the charity Earnest Giving in support of early childhood development.

2 » ESPN’s AFC East blogger Tim Graham published an interesting story about undrafted Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson last week. Nelson, who took some time to develop while with the Florida Gators, performed admirably in his final two seasons but was not selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was picked up right after the draft by the Bills and fulfilled his dream of making the NFL even though talk show host Regis Philbin – a Notre Dame supporter – once said live on air that he was made a bad decision. “”Big mistake for you kid!” Philbin said live on his show when Nelson decided to switch his commitment from Notre Dame to Florida. “You start to think ‘What might have been? Maybe Regis was right,’” Nelson said on his early struggles at UF. “Looking back now, it’s easy to see I made the right decision.” Nelson has 31 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns already this season.

3 » Let’s just say Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons is not having the type of season anyone – including himself – expected. He has struggled shooting from beyond the arc and at the free throw line even though he continues to put in optimum effort each night. Nevertheless, he is not discouraged. “We can’t get down. I can’t get down because I was 0-for-3, 0-for-4 from the three-point line,” Parsons told The Gainesville Sun. “I’m going to keep trying to get to the foul line even though I’m not shooting the ball well from there. It’s all about confidence, getting good shots. I’m going to keep trying to get to the free throw line. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m not going to get down. It’s my senior year. I’ve been through slumps before so it’s nothing I haven’t experienced.” Head coach Billy Donovan and his teammates are certainly behind him. “We need Chandler and he needs us,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “So we’re going to be there for him. I’ve got confidence in him and if he’s got an open shot I want him taking it.”

4 » Coming off a win in the Gator Holiday Classic, Florida women’s basketball was hoping to keep the magic going with an upset win over the No. 23/25 Florida State Seminoles. Unfortunately they fell just short with the Seminoles (10-3) squeaking out a back-and-forth 74-72 win over the Gators (10-4) on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida shot 48.4 percent from the field (compared to 44.4 percent for Florida State) and out-rebounded their opponent 39-31 but still fell. Guards redshirt junior Jordan Jones and freshman Jaterra Bonds combined for 25 points and 11 assists.

Photo Credit: Daniel Wallace/St. Petersburg Times

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12/28: Meyer and Paterno Outback Bowl presser

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from head coaches Urban Meyer and Joe Paterno, who held a combined media availability on Tuesday.

STEPPING DOWN IS SACRIFICING FOR HIS FAMILY

Since announcing his decision to resign, Meyer has cited the primary reason as the ability to spend more quality time with his family. Tuesday he said that his family’s commitment to him over the past few years has allowed him the opportunity show dedication back to them.

“I have a great family, as close as you can imagine, and we asked them… at one point in a five-year period we lived in four different states bouncing kids in and out of school, not by choice but just with that in mind that we’re going to go as hard as we can and then at some point pull away,” he said. “They’ve sacrificed for us now we’re going to sacrifice for those kids. It’s kind of a humbling feeling to do that. Not many people have that opportunity to step away and give back to the people that have given so much to us. The people are those kids. They deserve to have their dad go watch the games and be around. I think last December was kind of a frontal blow and let’s evaluate this whole thing for a minute, and we did.”

STATE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL COULD BE IMPROVED

Asked about the college football landscape, Meyer was quite critical about how things have changed since he first got into the profession decades ago.

“College football, I don’t know if this is the appropriate time, I’m very concerned about it,” he said. “I can’t speak for Coach Paterno. I got into coaching 25 years ago for guys like Joe Paterno, Bo Schembechler, the Earle Bruces of the world, the unselfishness, the teamwork, the struggle. […] I’m concerned, but I’m sure I’m not the only one, and it’s part of life right now. I hope to see it come back to the way it was, and that was a team sport that a bunch of good guys doing it the right way and guys getting education, graduating from college and looking at their college experience as the greatest experience they’ve ever had. That’s what I love college football for.”

Citing Paterno in particular, Meyer heaped praise on one of his idols in the profession. “I’ve known Coach Paterno longer than he’s known me. I was one of those guys that knew I wanted to be a football coach,” he said. “Obviously, whenever you know that, you pick your idols and pick the guys you want to pattern, you like to do it their way. Obviously Coach Paterno is at the top of the list.”

Paterno shared some warm thoughts about Meyer as well. “I have said this privately and publicly, and that’s why I hate to see him go, I think that Urban has been one of the innovators with some of the things they’ve done on the field,” he said. “I haven’t been to his practices, but some of my coaches have had some experience with him. My son, Jay, worships the guy. I keep telling him, ‘Your old man’s a head coach too you know.’”

JENKINS’s INJURY HAS BEEN SEASON-LONG

Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, arguably Florida’s most consistent and talented defender this season, played basically the entire year with a torn ligament in his right shoulder. Jenkins played quite well through the injury but will be missing the Outback Bowl after undergoing surgery to repair it after the Florida State game.

“He had a labrum tear in I want to say the second week or third week of the year,” Meyer said. “He was strapped down all year. He fought through it. He’s a competitor. He never missed practice, he never missed anything, and it got really bad near the end. He’s doing great and he’s a great competitor. Obviously you saw the way he played. He played like an all-conference player.”

Meyer admitted that he had not yet spoken to Jenkins about playing professionally and does not know if he plans to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.

DEFENSIVE REPLACEMENTS

With Jenkins and and redshirt senior defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders all out for the game, Meyer went over who would replace each player on defense. Redshirt sophomore CB Jeremy Brown will start in place of Jenkins with redshirt junior CB Moses Jenkins and freshman CB Cody Riggs splitting time on the other side. Redshirt sophomore Omar Hunter will play on the punt team and is slated to start inside along with redshirt junior Jaye Howard for Marsh and Sanders. Also getting playing time will be freshmen DTs Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley as well as redshirt senior DT Brandon Antwine.

ESPN CERTAINLY AN OPTION FOR MEYER

Meyer has worked as a college football analyst on two occasions: in 2007 during FOX’s broadcast of the BCS Championship game and last week during ESPN’s broadcast of the Las Vegas Bowl. Though some have criticized him as being a bit dry and fidgety during his appearances, Meyer looks relatively comfortable as a commentator and would likely fill such a role nicely. He admitted Tuesday that he may actually have a future with ESPN.

“They called and said, ‘Why don’t you drive up for the day?’” Meyer said of contact he had from the network while he was on vacation in New York. “So I brought my son and he loved it. What I found out is… What a place. Great people.”

Meyer said he will not think about working in television until after the bowl game on Saturday but that it is certainly an option. “Some guys are really good at that,” Paterno said of doing TV work. “Urban’s going to be great at it. […] I hope he never becomes ‘Dr. Urban.’ We can only have one doctor at a time.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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