Gators at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine – Part 1

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will be covering the seven former Florida Gators players who have been officially invited to participate in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium each day.

Five Florida Gators – center/guard Mike Pouncey, tackle Marcus Gilbert, guard Carl Johnson, guard Maurice Hurt and punter Chas Henry – have already been measured, completed exams, met with the media, been interviewed by teams, undergone psychological tests and completed their full combine workout. The quintet was on the same schedule throughout the week; they arrived Wednesday and departed Saturday. Below is how each player measured in and performed at the NFL Combine.

Center/guard Mike Pouncey (Group 02, OL39)
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 303 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 ¼ in.
Hand Size: 9 ¾ in.

40-Yard Dash: 5.12 seconds
Bench Press: DNP
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.64 seconds
Broad Jump: 8’0”
Vertical Jump: 25.0
3-Cone Drill: 7.66 seconds

Overview: The consensus top interior offensive lineman in the draft, Pouncey has been touted for his outstanding footwork, hand speed and overall football IQ. His work ethic is unquestionable and many teams look at his brother’s early success as an indicator of his future ceiling. Pouncey is determined to be selected earlier.
Strengths: Size, quickness, experience, awareness, discipline
Weaknesses: Shotgun snap issues, can improve run blocking

Tackle Marcus Gilbert (Group 02, OL27)
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 330 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 ½ in.
Hand Size: 9 ¾ in.

40-Yard Dash: 5.46 seconds
Bench Press: 30 reps
20-Yard Shuttle / Broad Jump / Vertical Jump / 3-Cone Drill: DNP

Overview: The measurables are all there for Gilbert, and he has shown proficiency both in pass and run blocking. Not the most explosive offensive lineman, Gilbert is projected as an NFL starter down the road.
Strengths: Size, length, athleticism, mobility, instinctive
Weaknesses: Quickness, tenacity, awareness

Quote: “I just want to show that I’m one of the best tackles out there. Come out here and compete and have fun. Just showcase my skills and try to elevate, show them that my game is higher than what most people realize.”

Check out how the other five Gators performed in Indianapolis…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gators at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine – Part 1

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Gators sweep Bulls; Fontana and Whitson shine

Topping the South Florida Bulls 7-2 in their season opener on Friday, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball put together back-to-back wins on Saturday and Sunday to sweep the season opening series at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (3-0) took down USF (0-3) 4-1 on Saturday and 5-0 Sunday, outscoring their opponent by a 16-3 margin over the three-game stretch.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) took the mound for the Gators on Saturday, giving up only one run on seven hits in six innings. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (1-0), the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, provided the most impressive performance of the weekend Sunday, striking out nine batters while only allowing one hit and registering one walk in five scoreless innings.

SATURDAY: Down one after the opening frame, Florida quickly evened things up in the bottom of the first when sophomore infielder Austin Maddox (2-4, RBI) scored sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, run) from third base on a fielder’s choice.

The Gators jumped ahead two innings later when junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI, run), who ended up on third after hitting a lead-off double, scored on a double play ball to give UF a 2-1 lead. Held scoreless the next three innings, Florida added single runs in the seventh and eighth.

With junior designated hitter Ben McMahan (1-3, run) on second due to a passed ball in the seventh, Pigott singled past the shortstop to give his team a 3-1 advantage. In the eighth, senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, run) scored from third when sophomore first baseman Brian Johnson (RBI) reached base on a fielder’s choice.

Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone came in to relieve Randall after the first six innings but was pulled for junior closer Tommy Toledo (S1), who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season.

SUNDAY: Fontana (2-3, 2 runs), leading off with a hit for the second-straight game, was also the first run to cross the plate Sunday. After doubling down the left field line, he reached home when junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, RBI) singled up the middle. The Gators piled on more two runs in the fourth when sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR) hit a lead-off homer to left and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-4, run) scored on a single through the left side by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI). Fontana scored again via a sacrifice fly by Maddox (RBI, BB) in the sixth, and McMahan (run, BB) crossed the plate in the eighth on another single by Pigott.

Completing Whitson’s stellar pitching performance was the trio of junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, who each gave up a hit but combined for four strikeouts.

Fontana posted a stunning .750 average (9-for-12) over the weekend, got on base at a .786 clip and scored five runs in three games.

Florida had 14,003 fans walk through the turnstiles over the weekend, the highest opening weekend and second-largest three-game series attendance in school history. UF’s three defeats of USF extended their winning streak to 11 against the in-state rival.

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Horford earns second-straight NBA All-Star nod

Former Florida Gators forward/center Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks has been named a reserve for the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.

His second-straight All-Star selection, Horford also played in the 2010 game along with then-New York Knicks F/C David Lee. He scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and accounted for four rebounds in 12 minutes of action in the game.

“It’s a real honor to be nominated to that game,” he told OGGOA in an exclusive interview last year. “The coaches really have a lot of weight into that decision, and I felt really special that they picked me over a lot of other guys.”

Horford continues to improve each year and is currently riding career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (9.9), assists (3.6) field goal percentage (56.7) and free throw percentage (81.3). He has 24 double-doubles on the season and is fifth in his conference in field goal percentage.

The No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, he was named a team captain this season and signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension in November 2010.

Al Horford for ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive

Photo Credit: Unknown

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Muschamp shakes up staff with TE coach hire

With running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton departing for the Ohio State Buckeyes last week, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday during his National Signing Day press conference that some changes have been made to his first coaching staff.

Muschamp hired Derek Lewis to coach tight ends and shifted former TE coach Brian White‘s responsibilities to coaching running backs. Additionally, wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill will take over Drayton’s recruiting coordinator duties.

Lewis, Minnesota’s tight ends and assistant special teams coach since 2007, was a graduate assistant with the Texas Longhorns from 2005-06. He had a solid career as a four-year letterman at Texas from 1995-98 and spent two seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams (1999-2000), with whom he earned a Super Bowl ring.

“A lot of Gator fans will remember him,’’ Muschamp said of Lewis. “He caught the pass against Nebraska [in 1996] that won Texas the Big 12 Championship and vaulted Florida into the national championship game. He has helped the Gators in the past.”

A running backs coach from 1991-92 with UNLV and 1995-2006 with Wisconsin (where he was also offensive coordinator from 1999-2006), White takes over a job he has plenty of experience doing. Some of the players White has seen succeed under his tutelage as RB coach include Ron Dayne, Michael Bennett, Anthony Davis and Brian Calhoun – all four of whom were selected in the NFL Draft. He also produced eight 1,000-yard rushers in his first eight seasons with Wisconsin.

As projected by OGGOA on Jan. 27, Hill steps into the recruiting coordinator role after holding the position for the Miami Hurricanes in 2010.

“I’m really pleased with the job he did recruiting and what he brings to the staff, especially as a former Gator,” Muschamp said of his decision to give Hill the added responsibilities.

Position20102011
Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator. Muschamp has not named an assistant (or associate) head coach as of press time.

Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

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Seven Gators invited to 2011 NFL Combine

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive has learned that seven former Florida Gators players have been officially invited to participate in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The event, which is held for six days from Feb. 23 to March 1, consists of more than 300 players being put through a series of drills, tests and interviews while more than 600 NFL personnel in attendance including coaching staffs, executives, player personnel and medical staff look on and evaluate each of them. It amounts to the final job interview these athletes will participate in before the 2011 NFL Draft commences on April 28.

The seven former Gators student-athletes participating in the combine include:

Strong safety Ahmad Black – Group: 10; Camp: DB3
Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert – Group: 02; Camp: OL27
Kicker Chas Henry – Group: 01; Camp: PK7
Free safety Will Hill – Group: 10; Camp: DB22
Guard Maurice Hurt – Group: 02; Camp: OL24
Guard Carl Johnson – Group: 01; Camp: OL16
Center/guard Mike Pouncey – Group: 02; Camp: OL39

Read about each player’s day-to-day schedule in Indianapolis after the jump!
Continue Reading » Seven Gators invited to 2011 NFL Combine

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DT Terron Sanders: “It was a dream come true”

Former Florida Gators defensive tackle Terron Sanders has taken a bumpy road filled with injuries and setbacks to get to this point in his playing career. A redshirt senior, Sanders remains in Gainesville, FL rehabbing with trainer Marty Huegel in order to heal a torn right labrum he had surgery on after the Florida State game.

Sanders, who signed with Craig Schaeffer and Glen Lansky of Elite Sports Agency, plans to head to Sarasota, FL after his rehab is complete so he can begin training for Florida’s Pro Day in April. He spent some time over the weekend with OGGOA recounting his collegiate career and looking ahead to the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start at the beginning. I read you were a fan of the Gators growing up but obviously had plenty of other schools vying for your services out of high school. What was it like to receive a scholarship over from Florida and how long did it take you to jump on it?
TERRON SANDERS: “It was kind of a dream come true for me, actually. Coach [Greg] Mattison and Coach [Steve] Addazio told me that Coach [Urban] Meyer wouldn’t consider offering until I came up for a camp. So I came up for the camp, did whatever I could do, and when they called me in the office after the camp and told me that I really impressed them and they were really interested in me. That made me feel good. A week later I got a call with them offering me the scholarship. It felt surreal almost. I felt like I was kind of dreaming. It wasn’t something that I really expected because I didn’t know how well I did at the camp. It took me five minutes – if that – to call them back and tell them that I was going to be a Gator. Coach Addazio called, offered me the scholarship. [I asked for] a week to think about it, got off the phone with him and told my dad they offered me a scholarship. My dad asked me what I was waiting for, so I turned around, called Coach Addazio right back and told him that I’d come. There was no question about it; it was what I wanted to do.”

AS: Between your senior year of high school and the 2008 season, you tore your meniscus in your left knee twice, the one in the right knee once and suffered a high ankle sprain. Coming back from injury so many times, what were you going through mentally and how did you prepare physically to come back the next season?
TS: “I wasn’t doing what I needed to do when I first got here. I wasn’t accomplishing my goals. I was kind of disappointed in myself. I had the motivation for myself to get better and do what I needed to do.”

AS: After going through all of that you ended up starting 12 games in 2008 including the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship. How special was it getting to play that season and seeing the end result?
TS: “That was another one of those surreal moments. You kind of had to pinch yourself afterward. To sit back, look at the turnaround I made, it felt good to know that I did everything I could to become a part of that. I knew how important it was to be a part of that. And I knew that, if I hadn’t pushed myself, and I didn’t have the people around me – the family members, the support group that I had – it wouldn’t have been possible. After it happened, I went back to my hotel room, spent some time with my family and just embraced the moment. It was something that was an amazing feeling. A lot of people say it’s an once-in-a-lifetime feeling to experience two National Championships. The second one I was a part of, and I feel like I added my contribution. It was an incredible feeling.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Terron Sanders…after the break!
Continue Reading » DT Terron Sanders: “It was a dream come true”

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FOUR BITS: Drayton, Hilliard, Dwyer, O’Day

1 » Florida Gators running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, a native of Cleveland, OH, will leave the team to take the wide receivers coach job with the Ohio State Buckeyes as early as next week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has confirmed. One of three assistants retained by new head coach Will Muschamp when he took over the program in early January, Drayton has almost exclusively coached running backs since 1993 and spent four years with the Gators (2005-07, 2010). He will likely coordinate the Buckeyes’ recruiting for the state of Florida, a job held by the team’s preceding wide receivers coach. Drayton was on Florida’s staff when they defeated Ohio State and captured the National Championship in 2006.

UPDATE: UF has released the following statement on Drayton’s status: “Coach Muschamp is on the road recruiting and our coaching staff remains intact at this time.”

2 » Former Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard, a 12-year NFL veteran who officially retired last July by signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants, will join the Miami Dolphins as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach. The No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Hilliard racked up 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns over his professional career. He has coached receivers for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL since 2009. Hilliard was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and consensus first-team All-American in 1996, the year the Gators won their first title. He was only at the University Florida for three seasons, declaring for the draft as a junior after collecting 126 receptions for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 2,214 career yards are good for seventh-most in team history, while his 29 career scores rank him second overall. Hilliard also holds the UF record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game (four vs. Tennessee in 1995).

3 » Though it is looking more and more like four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) will eventually head elsewhere, he is still considering traveling to Florida for his last official visit (his other choice would be Miami). Either way, Dwyer High School head football coach Jack Daniels isn’t sure Brissett, or four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) – who the Gators are also recruiting heavily – will announce their commitments on or before National Signing Day. “I think at best it’s 50-50,” Daniels told ESPN’s Jamie Newberg. “We are going to sit down [Wednesday], have lunch and talk about it. I don’t think they will be ready. We need to talk about it and try and get a feel for where they are both at.”

Brissett and Maggitt both have Florida and Wisconsin in common as schools they are considering; the former is also weighing offers from Miami and Washington, while the latter has Tennessee vying for his services as well. The goal is for both players to commit on or before Feb. 2, if possible. “I am not going to make them do it if they are not ready but it’s not looking that good,” Daniels said. “When they get back for this weekend’s visits we need to sit down and work it out if we can.”

4 » Former Gators pitcher Darren O’Day has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Texas Rangers. O’Day, a reliever for Texas during their World Series run, posted a 6-2 record with a 2.03 ERA in 2010 and has been with the club since 2009.

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Three Gators practicing for 2011 Senior Bowl

Though center/guard Mike Pouncey ended up choosing not to attend, three players representing the Florida Gators arrived in Mobile, AL to begin practice for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl. Weigh-ins and the first day of practice took place on Monday with little news coming out of Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Safety Ahmad Black, named by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock over the weekend as his No. 2 safety in the country, checked in at 5’9 3/8” and 183 lbs. with 9 5/8 in. hands, 29 1/2 in. arm length and a 73 1/4 in. wingspan. As expected, Black’s size was a topic of conversation amongst scouts who otherwise were impressed with his ability and tenacity.

He has signed with Joel Segal of Lagardere Unlimited, the agency that also represents both Pouncey twins and NFLers including Gerard Warren (New England), Alex Brown (New Orleans), Percy Harvin (Minnesota), Channing Crowder (Miami) and Riley Cooper (Philadelphia).

Without Pouncey in attendance, Marcus Gilbert was the sole representative of Florida’s offensive line. He came in at 6’6 1/2” and 329 lbs. with 9 7/8 in. hands, 34 in. arm length and an 81 1/8 in. wingspan. It is rumored that Gilbert, who is receiving a second-day projection, has signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Punter/kicker Chas Henry, a first-team All-American and 2010 Ray Guy Award winner, is the third former Gators player on the South team. Though Henry’s representation is currently unknown, he will likely be selected during the second day of the 2011 NFL Draft even though most punters are signed as undrafted free agents or picked toward the end of the third day. At 6’3 3/8” and 220 lbs. with 9 3/8 in. hands, 33 in. arms and a 77 1/8 in. wingspan, scouts believe his talent is worth an early selection.

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