Sophomore CB Hargreaves focused on leadership

Hauling in a pair of interceptions in the first two games of his career, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III raised his already-high expectations basically the very moment he stepped on the field as a freshman for the Florida Gators.

A five-star recruit, he may have started that first game had Florida not had three NFL-caliber corners returning, but he basically outplayed each of them as the season went on and wound up as a first-stringer for the final 10 games of the campaign.

His 11 pass breakups tied Janoris Jenkins for most by a freshman in school history, and his lockdown defense made him a national name in no time at all.

As a result, Hargreaves was named a third-team Associated Press All-American, first-team Freshman All-American by a number of organizations and got chosen unanimously to the first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman teams.

To him though, it was all a blur.

“My first year was kind of fast. It went fast. I had to learn quick cause they told me I was going to play early. But I enjoyed it, it was fun. Had a lot of great guys behind me showing me the ropes. I enjoyed it,” he said.

“All that [award] stuff, it was good. I guess I was proud of myself for it, but I’d much rather win games than have all of that stuff for myself.”

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SIX BITS: Whitson, Dickey, Wilbekin, Maye

1 » Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, who concluded his freshman campaign with an 8-1 record, 2.40 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings, was named a first-team Freshman All-American by Baseball America on Wednesday. Starting 19 games for Florida, Whitson was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft and snubbed the San Diego Padres contract offer of nearly $2 million to spend what he hopes are three successful years in college.

2 » Former Gators quarterback and outfielder Gavin Dickey is making strides playing baseball and recently found out that he is on a record hitting streak for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the non-MLB affiliated American Association baseball league. Now on a 21-game hitting streak, Dickey learned of his achievement via a Facebook message from a fan, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. Dickey, who hit .268 as a minor leaguer for the Seattle Mariners (which selected him in the 12th round of the 2006 MLB Draft), signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason but only lasted with the team for a month. “It’s still about going out and having fun, competing and winning,” he said.

3 » Impressed with what sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin accomplished with the Florida basketball team as a 17-year-old true freshman last season? If his brother has his way, the Gators may see a similar output from a number member of the clan in two years. A sophomore at The Rock high school in Gainesville, FL, Mitchell Wilbekin told The Gainesville Sun that he is 100 percent dedicated to playing for Florida…if head coach Billy Donovan offers him a scholarship. “I’d love to be a Gator,” the younger Wilbekin told the paper. “If they offered me, I’d definitely go there.” The Sun describes him as “on track to be the highest-rated Gainesville-area basketball recruit in more than a decade” and notes that the 2014 recruit recently drained six treys and scored 21 points in only three quarters of shooting at a recent showcase.

4 » Four-star safety Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL) confirmed once again this week that the Gators are his leader, telling ESPNU’s Corey Long that they are above two of Florida’s rivals – Florida State and Alabama. “The fact that I’ve been up there numerous times and have a great relationship with the coaches is what puts them out front,” he said. “I’m excited about the upcoming future of the program and I feel like they are going to have a pretty good year. Being part of the SEC is something I’ve always wanted to do and I think UF is a great place for me to take my next step and that’s the reason it’s the top school on my list. It’s a place where I feel comfortable at.” Maye still wants to take official visits to FSU and UA and will not commit until he has seen more schools.

5 » In a recent poll of 848 Floridians conducted by Public Policy Polling, the Gators received 30 percent of the vote when the respondents were asked to pick their favorite in-state college football program. Behind them, in order, were Florida State (19 percent), Central Florida (11 percent), Miami (nine percent) and South Florida (six percent).

6 » Four Florida football players – senior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt seniors RB Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and sophomore RB Trey Burton were announced as part of the offensive watch list for the 2011 College Football Performance Awards. The CFPAs are handed out based on objective scientific analysis rather than voting.

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FOUR BITS: Whitson, Calipari, Pittman, Schintzius

1 » The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday announced that Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson has been named a first-team Freshman All-American. One of 16 standouts to earn the distinction, Whitson is also in line for the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, which will be announced Tuesday. With an 8-0 record, 2.45 ERA and 83 strikeouts on the season, he the only player on the first team representing the Southeastern Conference.

2 » Remember when the Kentucky Wildcats and head basketball coach John Calipari defeated Florida in Lexington, KY and the school held a mini 500th victory celebration? Well, according to the NCAA, that should never have happened, and the organization is now taking steps to ensure that Kentucky does what they can to make that information public. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader

Earlier this month, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions sent University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. a letter asking the school to publicly acknowledge it was wrong to recognize John Calipari’s 500th coaching victory this past season. Chairman Dennis E. Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also told Todd that the wording of UK’s statement “must be approved by the office of the Committee on Infractions prior to its release.”

Because the NCAA forced Massachusetts and Memphis to vacate a total of 42 victories achieved under Calipari due to a variety of transgressions, the governing body insists that his victory total was only 458 on that day and now stands at 467 for his career. For more on the matter, click here.

3 » Speaking with The Gainesville Sun after a recent visit to Gainesville, FL for a football camp, Gators four-star 2012 wide receiver commit LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) discussed his experience. “It felt great just getting out there, getting a feel for Coach [Aubrey] Hill, how he coaches and how he sees me,” he said. “As far as hands-on and doing drills, that was the first time I really got to see how he would coach me.” Pittman, Florida’s first commit of the 2012 cycle, plans to return for Friday Night Lights.

4 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators C Dwayne Schintzius made his first major public appearance during a Florida basketball game on Feb. 24 and was in great spirits. Last week he attended a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission with the belief that he would be supporting his father, Ken, who was going to be handed an award from the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s alumni association. Schintzius was instead surprised to learn that he was being honored with a special award for courage. “He wouldn’t have wanted to come to the dinner but after I told him the award was for me, he said he’d come,” Ken told Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune. “It worked. We got him. We played it right to the hilt.” Though he has been praised extensively for his strength in fighting his disease, Schintzius wanted the praise to go where it belongs. “People are giving me an award, I guess, for fighting for my life,” he said. “I don’t deserve the award. The people at Moffitt [Cancer Center] are the ones who are the true heroes. They saved my life.” Click here to read more about Schintzius’s battle and the events of the night.

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