FOUR BITS: SEC titles, Harvin, Tebow, Zunino

1 » Florida Gators swimmers brought home four league titles on Thursday during the third night of the 2013 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships, which are being held for the first time in College Station, TX. Junior Elizabeth Beisel started off the title wins by capturing the SEC Championship in the women’s 400-meter individual medley for the third-straight year. She broke the four-minute mark at 3:59.53, which is also a personal record and the best time in the nation this season. Also winning a title for the women’s team was freshman Natalie Hinds, who swam the 100-meter butterfly in 51.70 (also the top time in the country this season) to win her first SEC Championship. Junior Marcin Cieslak matched Beisel with his third-straight SEC title in a single event by winning the men’s 100-meter butterfly in 46.02, a season-best mark. Duplicating Hinds’s accomplishment for the men was freshman Pawel Werner, who swam the men’s 200-meter freestyle in 1:33.82 to win the SEC Championship.

At the close of action on Thursday, Florida (748.0 points) led 16-time defending champion Auburn (630.5) by 117.5 points. The Gators men’s team has won the most SEC team championships in league history (33) but has not brought home the top spot since 1993. On the women’s side, Florida (676.0) trails Georgia (790.0) by 114 points. UF’s women’s team has also won the most SEC team titles in league history (17) but has not come in first since 2009; UGA is looking to win its fourth-straight championship. Two days of competition remain with the event concluding Saturday night.

2 » Tracked down by a St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter at his home in Fleming Island, FL, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin refused comment about his situation with the team. “I’ve got nothing to say about any of that,” he said. At the 2013 NFL Combine on Thursday, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman reiterated that he has no plans to get rid of Harvin and expects him to be in training camp on time. “We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin,” he said. “Anything related to his contract … will all be kept internally.” This story continues to be interesting.

3 » The New York Jets contingent spoke with the media on Thursday and of course one of the highlights of their media availabilities was everyone tip-toeing around the subject of quarterback Tim Tebow. Head coach Rex Ryan noted that Tebow is “under contract to be a New York Jet, so we’ll see how things go in the offseason. But Tim is under contract.” New general manager John Idzik, who inherited Tebow on his roster, praised the player’s work ethic but did not speak in specifics about whether or not he would be with the team to compete going forward. “My view on Tim Tebow is he is a highly competitive athlete. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been a highly competitive athlete,” he said. “And what we do, we’re going to provide as much competition as we can on a daily basis, at every position, quarterback included, and we’ll see how that rolls out. I would think Tim would be game for that. He’s a competitor.”

4 » New Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, has been competing with his future teammates in Peoria, AZ over the last few days and is looking every bit the player the Mariners hoped. Larry Stone of The Seattle Times caught up with Zunino this week and wrote that the player is quickly winning over other players and manager Eric Wedge. “He’s a complete player, very comfortable in his own skin for a young man,” Wedge said. “You can tell already he has a great respect for the game. You can tell already he’s a student of the game. I’m very impressed with the way he handles himself catching bullpens, just handling a pitching staff early on. Fundamentally, he’s been very impressive both from the offensive and defensive side.” To his credit, Zunino says he is in no rush to get to the majors. But if he continues to play the way he has over his last two college seasons, he will be there soon enough. “I’m going to do the best I can, put my work in every day, and try to be the best player I can be, and the best teammate I can be,” he said. “Eventually, wherever the chips may fall, that’s when I’ll make that next jump.”

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FOUR BITS: Harris, Beisel, Zunino, Parsons, Hill

1 » Florida Gators junior center Damontre Harris was arrested early Wednesday morning after he failed to appear at an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 16, 2012. Harris, who was cited by a member of the University Police Department on July 16 for driving without a valid in-state license, was supposed to take care of the necessary paperwork and pay the fines associated with his infraction but never did as instructed. He was served a delinquency notice after failing to pay his original fine within 30 days and assessed an additional $32 in fines between Aug. 21 and Sept. 28.

2 » Florida announced Wednesday that junior swimmer Elizabeth Beisel (swimming) and former catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named winners of the 2012 Ben Hill Griffin Award. The honor, given to the top male and female student-athletes each season, “is based primarily on athletic achievement” with “academic achievement and extra-curricular involvement” also a consideration, according to UF. Zunino, who received the award for the second-straight year, won every major collegiate baseball award at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Beisel, the 2012 SEC Female Swimmer of the Year, also earned an individual national title in the 200-meter backstroke.

3 » NBA Hall of Fame C Hakeem Olajuwon taped an Egraph message to current Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons recently. Listen to it here.

4 » Stemming from the NCAA’s investigation of the Miami Hurricanes and his time as wide receivers coach with the team, former Gators assistant Aubrey Hill has been hit with an ethical-conduct charge (NCAA Rule 10.1). According to the Associated Press, which obtained information regarding the notice of allegations sent to Miami, Hill and at least one other assistant “provided meals, transportation and lodging to either recruits, current players, or both in either 2008 or 2009. Both were interviewed by the NCAA during the course of its probe and allegedly denied providing those extra benefits, statements the NCAA said were contradicted in each case by what players told them separately.” Though forthcoming punishments have not yet been levied against Hill, it can be expected that he will be out of coaching for the foreseeable future. He resigned from his post with Florida before the beginning of the 2012 season.

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Olympics, Brissett, Tebow, Harvin

1 » The Florida Gators official announced on Thursday something that has been long rumored – the team will honor current and former University of Florida student-athletes that participated in the 2012 London Olympics at halftime of the team’s home game against the LSU Tigers on Saturday. Featured at the event will be swimming medalists Ryan Lochte and junior Elizabeth Beisel as well as track & field medalists Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who make up just four of the more than 20 athletes and coaches being honored at halftime.

2 » Could sophomore quarterback Jacoby Brissett be on his way out the door? It’s possible, says Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels, who recently spoke with the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter. In a series of tweets sent out Thursday, Porter notes that “Brissett is all-in this season [and has] no plans to transfer” yet also notes that West Virginia and South Florida are potential destinations. “He’s making the most of a situation he’s not happy with, but he knows that’s his team right now,” Daniels told Porter. “If he doesn’t get his chance, I’m pretty sure he’s leaving.” Brissett getting “his chance” would probably only occur if starter and classmate Jeff Driskel went down with some sort of injury or pulled a 180 and began regressing dramatically.

3 » Despite quarterback Mark Sanchez playing horribly through the first four games of the season, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is not planning to insert Tim Tebow as his starter any time soon and said as much during media availabilities this week. But while Ryan may not be ready to make a chance, team owner Woody Johnson could insist on it, especially if the Jets continue playing this poorly. NFL.com reporter Jeff Darlington wrote this week that New York must embrace the inevitability of Tebow starting, a move that could very well turn the team’s season around. Also interesting about Darlington’s piece is the opening two paragraphs, which detail the lack of support Tebow had with the Denver Broncos from the get-go.

They marched one by one through the second floor of the Denver Broncos’ training facility, each quarterback stopping first in offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s office to hear the same message that would then be echoed like a corporate line from coach John Fox.

“Stay ready,” McCoy told Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, a story relayed by one team source and corroborated by another. “We’re not sure how long this is going to last.”

4 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has already done some amazing things in his young NFL career but still managed to add another honor this week when he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September. Harvin, whose franchise-record 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week undoubtedly fueled his receiving of the award, did not receive any honors last year after racking up the awards during his rookie campaign in 2009. He is currently averaging 74.75 yards on 7.5 receptions per game this season but has yet to find the end zone as a receiver or rusher.

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Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics concluded on Sunday with the Florida Gators bringing home 16 event medals including four gold, six silver and six bronze over the course of 19 days worth of action across the pond.

In an effort to highlight the Gators’ praiseworthy accomplishments while simultaneously recapping over two weeks worth of athletic action, OGGOA presents this wrap up of the presence that Florida’s athletes made at the Olympics. Below you will find facts, figures and highlights of what the Gators accomplished from July 25 through Aug. 12.

You can check out the Olympic results as they happened as well as the official Gator Nation vs. The World medal count and plenty of other information by checking out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

FACTS AND FIGURES

» If Gator Nation was its own country, it would have been ranked 17th overall in the final Olympic medal both in weighted and grand total calculations. The Gators won as many gold medals (four) as Jamaica and Czech Republic and captured one more than Spain, Brazil and South Africa (among others).

» Twelve Florida athletes won a grand total of 18 individual medals (16 event medals) for three countries. Fourteen of the 16 medals won were captured for the United States.

» 35.3 percent of the Gators that competed in the Olympics (12-of-34) won at least one medal. 50 percent (17-of-34) at least reached a final or competed for a medal.

» Ryan Lochte (swimming, United States) led the way with five medals including two golds (one shared in a relay with Conor Dwyer), two silvers and a bronze. Following Lochte with two each were Elizabeth Beisel (swimming, United States) and Will Claye (athletics, United States), who both brought home a silver and a bronze.

» Three other Florida athletes won gold including Christian Taylor (athletics, United States), Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts (football, United States). The rest of the medals included a silver each from Tony McQuay and Jeff Demps (athletics, United States) as well as a bronze each from Lisa Raymond (tennis, United States), Melanie Booth (football, Canada) and Novlene Williams-Mills (athletics, Jamaica).

» Beisel is the only current UF student-athlete that medaled in the Olympics. She will be entering her junior year in 2012.

» Seventeen countries were represented by Gators including the United States (11), Great Britain (6), Cayman Islands and Iceland (two each) and Australia, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain and Tunisia (one each). Florida athletes also competed in five sports categories including swimming (19), athletics (10), football (three), basketball and tennis (one each).

Read the rest of “Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics” after the break…

Continue Reading » Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

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Beisel, Claye add bronze medals to Florida’s haul

Junior swimmer Elizabeth Beisel ended her journey at the 2012 London Olympics with a bang, and former Florida Gators jumper Will Claye started his in the same fashion as the duo each reeled in a bronze medal for the United States over the weekend.

Beisel, who previously captured a silver medal in the Women’s 400 Meter Individual Medley on July 28, became the second-winningest Gators athlete of these Olympics so far (Ryan Lochte) with a bronze in the Women’s 200 Meter Backstroke on Friday.

One of the favorites in the event, Beisel was treading water in fourth place most of the race but fought hard over the final 50 meters to sneak into third and capture the bronze with a time of 2:06.55 (+2.49).

On the second day of athletics action, Claye found himself in a battle for a medal in the Men’s Long Jump. In second after his second jump (8.07m), Claye quickly got bumped down to fifth but was given three more jumps as he was still in the top eight.

He used the first of his new set of jumps to register a mark of 8.12m, which put him back in line for a silver medal. However, Australia’s Mitchell Watt was dynamic on his final two jumps and first took then increased his lead on Claye, hitting 8.13m on his fifth try and 8.16m on his sixth to claim the silver for himself.

Claye, who captured the first field medal in Gators history and the first Men’s Long Jump medal for the Americans since 2004, will be one of three former Florida student-athletes competing in the Men’s Triple Jump, which begins on Tuesday at 5:45 a.m.

For recaps of their performances, a full schedule (including updated events for Monday), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

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OGGOA Week(end) in Review: July 26-29

Considering so much has gone on over the last few days in regards to the Florida Gators, the OGGOA Week In Review returns for its third edition. (Yes, it is just covering a four-day period, but let’s just all agree to ignore that.) Be sure to check out all of the posts in case you happened to miss a thing or two.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING / FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
» The day before Friday Night Lights was set to commence, Florida received a commitment from 2013 defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), who vaulted the program five spots from 10th to 5th in the Rivals team recruiting rankings and immediately became the Gators’ highest-rated player of the cycle.

» Florida doubled up on commitments before FNL even began as three-star defensive end Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA) chose UF over Georgia and committed even though he could not make it to campus for the event.

» There were rumblings all week that the Gators would receive a commitment from another highly-rated defensive prospect, but FNL came and went without him announcing his pledge. Four-star DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) remained in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, however, and made his verbal commitment public.

» Florida received its fourth commitment in as many days on Sunday when 2014 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, FL), expected to be one of the top players at his position when recruiting rankings are released for his class, ended his recruitment early and decided that he wanted to play for the Gators, too.

» More rumblings on Sunday indicated that Florida could go five-for-five in commitments and bring in a talented but underrated offensive playmaker on Monday though it remains to be seen if head coach Will Muschamp will give him a commitable offer and the opportunity to join the Gators.

2012 LONDON OLYMPICS
OGGOA has been offering full coverage of the Olympics all event long on this dedicated page, which includes a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, daily schedule and direct LIVE streaming links to each event as it takes place. Below are some notes in case you have not visited it yet and want a quick refresher.

» Ryan Lochte (United States) won two medals over the weekend including a gold in the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the fourth such medal of his Olympic career. Lochte also swam the final leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay but got caught from behind over the final 50 meters; the team finished with a silver. He will compete in the Men’s 200 Meter Freestyle finals on Monday afternoon.

» Junior Elizabeth Beisel (United States) took silver in the Women’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the first Olympic medal of her young career. She nearly won the gold but was bested over the last 150 meters.

» Thirteen other Gators (as well as one incoming freshman) competed in Olympic action over the four-day span though none of them were able to join Lochte and Beisel in bringing home medals as of yet. Striker Abby Wambach was dominant once again in soccer and got a black eye in her match on Saturday, though she scored a goal in retaliation and mocked her assailant during her celebration.

» “Gator Nation” is currently eighth in the Olympic medal standings with one gold and two silver. You can view the full medal breakdown on OGGOA‘s dedicated Olympics page.

FORMER PLAYERS SPEAK OUT
» Florida quarterback Shane Matthews praised Muschamp and the current Gators coaching staff while noting that he was frustrated with the way former head coach Urban Meyer and his staff developed play callers and recruited in his waning years.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he definitely had more fun at Florida than QB Tim Tebow did and provided an interesting answer when he was asked how much class he attended during his junior season when he was helping the Gators win the second of their back-to-back basketball national championships.

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Lochte takes gold, Beisel silver in 400 Meter I.M.

Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte (United States) made an immediate impact on the 2012 London Olympics on Saturday, winning the first swimming gold medal of the games with a blazing 4:05.18 time in the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley. He was joined on the medal stand just minutes later by current Florida junior Elizabeth Beisel (United States), who captured silver in the Women’s 400 Meter Individual Medley.

The gold is the fourth of Lochte’s Olympic career as well as his seventh overall medal in the Games. He won the Men’s 200 Meter Backstroke in 2008 Beijing and was a member of the Men’s 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay team in 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens.

Lochte won a Bronze medal in the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley in 2008 Beijing. He also captured a Bronze in the Men’s 200 Meter Individual Medley that year and won Silver in the Men’s 200 Meter Individual Medley in 2004 Athens.

His gold medal time of 4:05.18 on Saturday beat the next-fastest competitor, Brazilian silver medalist Thiago Pereira (4:08.86), by 3.68 seconds marking the largest margin of victory in the event’s history.

Beisel was back in eighth place after the first 100 meters but found herself leading the pack through 250 meters. Unfortunately for her China’s Shiwen Ye exploded over the last 150 meters and won the gold while setting a world record (4:28.43) in the process.

The silver medal is the first of Beisel’s Olympic career. She had previously won gold in the same event at the 2011 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, China.

Also competing in a medal event and representing the Americans on Saturday afternoon was former Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer. Dwyer finished fifth in the Men’s 400 Meter Freestyle with a time of 3:46.24 (+6.25); a member of the Gator Swim Club for the last two years (and Michigan graduate Peter Vanderkaay) took Bronze in the event.

Be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

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