SIX BITS: Tebow, Cooper, Jenkins, Angus

1 » The exploits of some of his former Florida Gators have kept New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow off the front page, but the spotlight is back on Tebow now that training camp has begun and some practices are open to the media. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King was at Patriots practice recently, saw Tebow play first hand and offered this opinion on his weekly MMQB column.

Take this for what it’s worth: Tim Tebow made three beautiful downfield throws that I saw, completions thrown 25 yards or more hitting receivers in stride. Tebow was also the personal protector on punts (kudos to you, Mike Westhoff, for getting him started on that last summer) and ran down on punts with energy. I bet the Patriots keep three quarterbacks, knowing they’re able to use Tebow as a utility player. Not necessarily a guy they’d have active every week, but a guy they could use in certain matchup situations against some teams.

2 » Former New England signal caller Doug Flutie spoke out about Tebow, telling ESPNBoston.com that he believes Tebow is in a good situation but hopes he gets an opportunity to contribute. “If he’s just going to be the No. 3 quarterback and run the scout team, you want a guy who is going to be giving his heart and soul in every practice and running scout team to the fullest, hoping he can get better and doing everything he can,” Flutie said. “I think legitimately, Bill [Belichick] brought him in to be a quarterback, a No. 3 guy, that if they get down to their No. 3 they can be competitive with Tebow on the field, running a specified style of offense that is going to cater to his skills. A lot of teams can’t say that if they are down to their No. 3. I see that as a developmental thing for Tebow.”

3 » Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to practice on Tuesday after missing a couple of days while undergoing team-sponsored counseling following the release of a video that shows him uttering one of the ugliest words in the English language. Also in King’s MMQB column, he takes a look at Eagles head coach Chip Keilly and why, following the reinstatement and rejuvenation of Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount, he is more apt to give Cooper a second chance than some others in the league. “Chip could have kicked Blount to the curb. He chose to believe in him. And it worked out,” former NFL head coach Tony Dungy told King. “With Riley Cooper, this kid made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. The big issue, too, is the alcohol. That has to be dealt with. But Chip will make the right decision. He doesn’t care what the popular opinion. He cares about what’s right.”

Read three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Cooper, Jenkins, Angus

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Miller, Graham, Beal

1 » Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been added to the Gator Boosters, Inc. board of directors, according to the University of Florida. Tebow, on the board for a one-year stint, joins some notable Gators including Alex Brown, Lomas Brown, and his own father Bob Tebow on the 60-member board presided over President Bill Heavener and soon President-Elect Rex Farrior III. As explained on their website, Gator Boosters is dedicated to “educate our student-athletes” through scholarship funding and “constantly building, or improving our athletic facilities for Gator student-athltes to be given the opportunity to compete in the finest facilities.”

2 » Former Florida guard Mike Miller spoke with ESPN Radio‘s Ric Bucher immediately following his fantastic performance in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals on Thursday. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

3 » Former Gators running back Earnest Graham has spent his entire NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2004. But with just six weeks until training camp, Graham remains unsigned and told the News-Press that he is mentally prepared for retirement should a team not pick him up soon. “Right now, honestly, I’m going to focus on being a free agent, but I definitely understand that it is likely that I may have already played my last game,” he said. Unfortunately for Graham, he did not even get to complete the 2011 season as he tore his Achilles and only wound up seeing action in seven games. Though that is not the way he wants to go out, Graham said he has his health back and would be able to perform like he has been the last few years if given an opportunity. “I feel fine,” he said. “I’m running around well. If training camp started today, I’d be able to do it.” Graham has run for 2,047 yards and 15 touchdowns while also catching 129 passes for 904 yards and one additional score over his eight-year playing career. His standout season came in 2007 when he rushed for career-highs of 898 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 49 passes for 324 yards as the starting tailback for Tampa Bay.

4 » Gators freshman G Bradley Beal appeared on ROME on CBS Sports Network on Thursday to discuss the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft and his decision to leave Florida.

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Reggie Nelson, Rex Grossman re-sign with teams

A pair of former Florida Gators football players followed in the footsteps of Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey and re-signed over the weekend with the teams they played for in 2011.

Safety Reggie Nelson turned down overtures from the New York Jets to return to the Cincinnati Bengals on a four-year contract worth $18 million including $6.5 million in the first season, and quarterback Rex Grossman agreed to rejoin the Washington Redskins for one year with the knowledge that he will not be the team’s starter.

Nelson had a career year for Cincinnati in 2011, registering 85 combined tackles, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 12 pass defenses and a pair of sacks. It was the best he had played since his rookie year in Jacksonville, and the team obviously expected his resurgence to continue in 2012 and beyond.

Grossman started off hot for Washington but reverted to his mean as the season went on. He completed a career-high 57.9 percent of his passes for 3,151 yards with 16 touchdowns and 20 interceptions and went 5-8 as the Redskins’ starter. With Washington trading a boatload of draft picks for the opportunity to select Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft, Grossman will be relegated to backup duty in 2012.

Though three Gators are now off the market, 11 other notable former Florida players are currently listed as free agents including: wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Cincinnati), linebacker Channing Crowder (DNP/retirement), LB Andra Davis (Buffalo), running back Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay), defensive end Derrick Harvey (Denver), DE Jarvis Moss (Oakland), LB Mike Peterson (Atlanta), cornerback Lito Sheppard (Oakland), offensive tackle Max Starks, defensive tackle Marcus Thomas (Denver) and DT Gerard Warren (New England).

Photo Credits: Rich Lipski/Associated Press, Cincinnati Enquirer

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp speaks, NFL free agency

1 » Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp sat down with Sporting News recently for a question-and-answer session about his first season in Gainesville, FL. Below are a few choice selections from the piece, which can be read in full here.

SN: On a scale of 1-10, what’s your excitement level going into spring practice?
MUSCHAMP: An 11. I’m more excited now than the day I was hired. We’re not building a team, we’re building a program. We recruited well last year, and we’re recruiting well again this year. We’re building our roster back as far as the line of scrimmage. This is a line of scrimmage league. If you don’t have quality depth, you’re going to struggle

SN: You were at 66 scholarship players at one point last fall. How could a program like Florida get to the point where it is nearly 20 scholarships from the NCAA minimum?
MUSCHAMP: We were short on numbers to begin with, and there have been 12 guys who left the program since we took over. We signed 19 players (in 2011), and instead of going out and signing guys just to sign the maximum, we banked them and said we’ll take it in the shorts this year. In the SEC, recruiting is different than anywhere else in the country. If you’re not on for one year, you’ve got no chance.

SN: Your best day at Florida in the last 14 months?
MUSCHAMP: Signing Day this year—Signing Day and the bowl game. They’re together. You springboard into offseason with some momentum, and then we had a great year recruiting.

SN: How hard is it for you to admit you were a soft team?
MUSCHAMP: It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever said. But you go back and look at it, and we didn’t consistently stop the run and we weren’t able to run the ball. You can attribute it to multiple factors. We’ve tried to address that with our strength program, recruiting and overall numbers at multiple positions.

2 » NFL free agency is set to begin Tuesday at 4 p.m., but the Cincinnati Bengals met with safety Reggie Nelson anyway on Sunday to gauge his potential interest in resigning with the team. Nelson’s career had a resurgence in 2011 under Cincinnati defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins. With Miami also expected to be looking for a safety in the offseason, Nelson may have an opportunity to reunite with Coyle in South Florida. The Bengals have more cap space than any team in the league but are not necessarily to be a front-runner for a player who is considered the No. 2 free agent available at his position.

3 » Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey also had a breakout season in 2011, setting career-highs in tackles, sacks and forced fumbles. Like Nelson, Mincey and Jacksonville have not been engaged in serious talks and he is also expected to hit the free agent market at 4 p.m. The Buffalo Bills are one team that is expected to pursue him when the floodgates open on Tuesday.

4 » There are 12 other notable former Gators players set to reach free agency: wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Cincinnati), linebacker Channing Crowder (DNP), LB Andra Davis (Buffalo), running back Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay), quarterback Rex Grossman (Washington), defensive end Derrick Harvey (Denver), DE Jarvis Moss (Oakland), LB Mike Peterson (Atlanta), cornerback Lito Sheppard (Oakland), offensive tackle Max Starks (Pittsburgh), defensive tackle Marcus Thomas (Denver) and DT Gerard Warren (New England). It will be particulary interesting to find out where four of the players wind up if they decide to continue their careers. Crowder missed the entire 2011 season by taking a mini “retirement” after the birth of his child and release by Miami; Graham tore his Achilles and missed the final eight games of the season; Harvey was inactive for 13 of Denver’s 18 games; Peterson barely played as a reserve for Atlanta; and Starks tore his ACL in a playoff loss and was set to miss up to nine months.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 7

With the 2011 NFL season underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 7 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 seventh week of the 2011 campaign.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos: 13/27 for 161 yards, two touchdowns (QB rating: 91.7), two-point conversion [game-tying], eight rushes for 65 yards (long: 21)

Story (with four videos): Tim Tebow keys Broncos victory on Gator Day

THE REST

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Played as a reserve
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Bye week
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Bye week
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Bye week
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Bye week
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Bye week
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Five tackles (four solo, one for loss), pass defense
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Two solo tackles
DE JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Three solo tackles (two for loss), sack
C MIKE POUNCEY*, Miami Dolphins: Played as a starter
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings Two receptions for 15 yards (targets: 3, long: 9), two rushes for eight yards (long: 6), two kickoff returns for 55 yards (long: 28)
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Bye week
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Bye week
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Bye week
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Bye week
G COOPER CARLISLE, Oakland Raiders: Played as a starter
DE JARVIS MOSS, Oakland Raiders: Two solo tackles
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Four targets, solo tackle
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Bye week
P CHAS HENRY*, Philadelphia Eagles: Bye week
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
OT MARCUS GILBERT*, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
OT MAX STARKS, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Bye week
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two carries for 13 yards (long: 9), reception for -2 yards
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Washington Redskins: Four receptions for 68 yards (targets: 8, long: 32), fumble
OG MAURICE HURT*, Washington Redskins: Active

INJURED / INACTIVE
S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Hip
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Denver Broncos: Inactive
LB BRANDON SILER, Kansas City Chiefs: Torn Achilles (season)
QB REX GROSSMAN, Washington Redskins: Pneumonia

NOTES
– Harvin missed most of the game after reinjuring his sore ribs.
– Graham ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles.
– Hurt was signed from the practice squad and active for the first time this year.

PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYERS
DE Justin Trattou* (New York Giants), SS Ahmad Black* (Tampa Bay)

NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
DE Alex Brown, DE Bobby McCray, CB Lito Sheppard

* Rookie

2011 WEEK: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Tebow, Graham, JUCO

1 » Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach, who served as captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team that competed for the 2011 World Cup this summer in Germany, was named Sportswoman of the Year this week by the Women’s Sports Foundation. Wambach scored four goals for the United States in the World Cup and led the Americans all the way to the final match where they eventually lost to Japan on penalty kicks. She was awarded the Silver Ball and Bronze Boot awards by FIFA for her efforts over the course of the event.

2 » With the immense amount of coverage Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has received this week, some appear to believe that he will be starting his first career NFL game on Sunday. That would be incorrect. Tebow actually started the final three games of the 2010 season and led Denver to a 1-2 record including a come-from-behind victory and near come-from-behind win in the final two contests. Stepping on the field against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Tebow will actually be making his fourth career start, though this one is without a coaching change and with the season still very young.

3 » The hype may be surrounding Tebow on Sunday, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham is probably the bigger story. Graham, who has not rushed for 100 yards in a season since 2008, accomplished that feat last week filling in as the team’s starter for the injured LeGarrette Blount. After serving as a reserve rusher for Tampa Bay from 2004-06, Graham became the team’s primary starter from 2007-08 when he ran the ball a combined 354 times for 1,461 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has returned to a backup role since but continued to be productive carrying the ball; this year he’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry – the best mark of his career.

4 » Florida is looking to the junior college ranks for some help up front, targeting three linemen from the state of Mississippi according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays. Their primary target, he reports, is East Mississippi Community College defensive tackle Brandon Moore, though they are also looking at DT Damien Jacobs and Northwest Mississippi Community College offensive tackleDonald Dawkins. With the other two players already committed to Tennessee and Oklahoma State, respectively, Moore is undecided and is looking to make his choice after this season is over. “I’ve had interest in Florida since high school,” Moore told the Sentinel. “Right now I’m just focused on getting my schoolwork right and this football season. We’re 7-0 and we want to keep that going.”

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 6

With the 2011 NFL season underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 6 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 sixth week of the 2011 campaign.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Eight receptions [team-high] for 68 yards (targets: 14, long: 16), touchdown [game-winner], fumble

THE REST

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Tackle
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Played as a starter
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Four receptions for 62 yards [team-high] (targets: 6, long: 32)
FS MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Four tackles (three solo)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Four receptions for 32 yards (long: 14)
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Tackle, QB hit, fumble recovery, touchdown
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Seven tackles (four solo, one for loss) [team-high]
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Denver Broncos: Bye week
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos: Bye week
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Bye week
DE JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Eight tackles (three solo, one for loss)
C MIKE POUNCEY*, Miami Dolphins: Will play as a starter [Monday night]
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings Seven receptions for 78 yards [team-highs] (targets: 9, long: 20), rush for five yards, three kick returns for 71 yards (long: 25)
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Played as a reserve
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Eight tackles (six solo, one for loss), QB hit
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Two solo tackles (one for loss)
G COOPER CARLISLE, Oakland Raiders: Played as a starter
DE JARVIS MOSS, Oakland Raiders: Tackle
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Target
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Solo tackle
P CHAS HENRY*, Philadelphia Eagles: Three punts for 131 yards (long: 50)
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
OT MARCUS GILBERT*, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
OT MAX STARKS, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Two tackles (one solo), 0.5 sack, two pass defenses, QB hit
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 17 carries for 109 yards [team-highs] (long: 34), two receptions for 22 yards (long: 19)
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Washington Redskins: Two receptions for 55 yards (targets: 10, long: 55)
QB REX GROSSMAN, Washington Redskins: 9/22 for 143 yards, four interceptions (QB Rating: 23.7)

INJURED / INACTIVE
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Knee
LB BRANDON SILER, Kansas City Chiefs: Torn achilles (season)

NOTES
– Wright started for Chicago.
– Murphy played for the first time this season (sports hernia, groin).

PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYERS
DE Justin Trattou* (New York Giants), SS Ahmad Black* (Tampa Bay), OG Maurice Hurt* (Washington)

NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
DE Alex Brown, DE Bobby McCray, CB Lito Sheppard

* Rookie

2011 WEEK: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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4 BITS: Larson avoids jail, Pouncey gets fined

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson will not serve any jail time in South Dakota even though his 120-day suspended sentence was revoked earlier this week by Minnehaha County Judge John Schlimgen due to Larson’s arrest in Florida on April 10. According to KSFY ABC, Judge Schlimgen re-invoked Larson’s suspended sentence due and gave him two more years of probation. Larson’s jail sentence will remain suspended as long as he stays out of trouble and follows a number of terms and conditions set forth by the Minnehaha County State Attorney’s Office. If he violates his probation again, chances are the judge will not be as lenient next time. Larson remains indefinitely suspended from the Gators basketball team because his legal status had not yet been decided until Friday. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely reinstate him soon, as he did with junior F Erik Murphy after his case was settled.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was fined $7,500 by the NFL on Friday due to an unnecessary roughness call he got Sunday against Houston. Pouncey was fined for what the NFL determined was a late hit, though Pouncey said he did not hear the whistle and will not let the fine affect him. “I’m not changing how I play,” he said.

3 » Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was praised by Pro Football Focus as the second-highest rated player at his position in the league. Dunlap does not have a sack yet this season after registering 9.5 in 2010 (including 8.5 in the final six games). He does, however lead Cincinnati with eight quarterback pressures, which is a great sign for the player. “Once you get one usually you get on a roll. Right now though the first one is the toughest,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’m getting quarterback hits and pressures. Eventually they are going to turn into sacks.”

4 » On the injury front, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (sprained MCL) returned to practice for the first time on Thursday since getting hurt in Week 2. He is considered “on track” to play. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy, who has yet to play this year due to a sports hernia/groin injury, resumed practicing this week but was limited. Murphy, a starter in 2010 who was looking like Oakland’s most promising receiver, has fallen on the depth chart due to his absence and will have to work his way back up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham was injured during practice on Thursday. Graham hurt his hamstring and is questionable to play on Saturday. Though he may not be raking in the scores, he has been an integral part of Tampa Bay’s offense up to this point.

Updating the item above, Hernandez is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report, Murphy will miss one more week, and Pittsburgh’s new left tackle Max Starks has earned the starting role for Sunday’s game.

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