NOT Top 14 for 2014: Moments Gators can forget

At the conclusion of each year, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. For the second-straight year, which will go down as another difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 14 for 2014 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 14 for 2014 (COMING THURSDAY) to begin 2015 on a positive note!

14 » SEE YA NEVER

Over the final two months of 2014, the Gators football program saw three seniors decide – whether through purposeful actions or team rules violations – to end their careers early. Learning he would not be starting at Vanderbilt, redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr argued with then head coach Will Muschamp and was sent home on a bus before the game; he later tried to explain his side of the story. On the final day of the year, redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (mutual decision) and senior DT Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) were ruled out for the bowl game. Debose had an up-and-down hear overall, suffering a defenestration in the spring and barely playing on offense during the season; he was excellent as Florida’s all-purpose returner, however, and ends his career tied for the SEC record in kick return touchdowns (four).

13 » CHARACTER CONCERNS

Maurkice and Mike Pouncey kept their noses clean when they were with the Gators and continue to be fan favorite from their time at Florida. However, since becoming professional football players, some character questions have been raised – stemming in large part from the brothers wearing “Free Hernandez” hats last year – and those continued in 2014. Pouncey was one of the main players named in bullying allegations levied by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and both Pounceys were accused of serious assault during a night club incident in Miami. The brothers were not ultimately charged with assault from that evening’s incident but all of the allegations continued to paint UF in a bad light.

12 » UNEXPECTEDLY UNDRAFTED

It started in the 2014 NFL Draft when a pair of Gators junior cornerbacks that declared early – Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Robersonwere not selected. Purifoy had a drug incident in the offseason that contributed to him not being drafted – and both players dealt with character concerns – but it was nevertheless a surprise. (Purifoy and Roberson, respectively, signed undrafted free agent deals with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams. Both saw limited action this season with Purifoy getting cut by the Colts, dropped by the Seattle Seahawks after a waiver claim [failed a physical] and ultimately suspended four games by the NFL for an undisclosed reason.)

There was even more of an expectation that center Patric Young would be picked in the 2014 NBA Draft with many believing he could go as high as the lower portion of the first round. Instead, Young fell out of the first and did not even get picked in the second as many NBA teams chose to select international players that they could stash and not sign to contracts. Young ultimately signed with the New Orleans Pelicans but was later cut by the franchise and is now playing in Turkey. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather also went undrafted, and though Wilbekin performed well in NBA Summer League action, he did not get an opportunity in the league either.

11 » BAD OMENS

Though there was some positive momentum for the football program as the 2014 season approached, with the roster looking healthy and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper expected to turn things around for Florida, a number of bad omens cast doom over the Gators’ campaign. It started with the Orange & Blue Debut spring game, which ended in a tie. Though there was no reason to continue the game per se, fans in attendance hoped to see a little bit of extra Florida football action and left disappointed.

The ominous offseason continued with wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips resigning from his position in June after Miami staffers reported him for a recruiting violation. Muschamp named former Gators quarterback and team graduate assistant Chris Leak as the replacement receivers coach, giving UF four different coaches at that position in as many seasons. The last omen was even more obvious than the first two with lightning storms cancelling Florida’s season opener against Idaho. Though options were considered to play the game at a later date in the season, it was ultimately decided to take the contest off both teams’ schedules with the Gators and Vandals only playing 11 contests in 2014.

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FOUR BITS: Bostic, Prather, hidden ball trick

1 » Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic did not have the easiest rookie season as he was thrust into a starting role before he was truly ready for it due to an injury suffered by veteran D.J. Williams. Bostic showed his inexperience (on the NFL level) at middle linebacker and struggled at times during the season, so much so that with Williams set to return, Bostic was moved to strong side linebacker where he was set to compete for the starting gig this offseason. However, according to John Mullin of CSN Chicago, Bostic has been splitting time with Williams as the first-team middle linebacker during organized team activities and is “making a strong impression” in the early going. “Bostic has significantly raised the stakes [of the starting competition] despite training camp not starting until late July,” wrote Mullin. “Bostic is generally considered to have the most pure explosive, sudden speed of all the linebackers [on the roster].”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Bostic, Prather, hidden ball trick

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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

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Florida baseball swept out of Gainesville Regional

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

There is plenty of baseball left to be played in the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium – and for that matter the entire 2014 NCAA Tournament – but none of it will include the Florida Gators.

The top seed in its regional and No. 2 overall team in the event, Florida (40-23) was eliminated from postseason competition by the regional third seed North Carolina Tar Heels (35-26) on Saturday, dropping the contest by a score of 5-2.

The Gators likely felt like they were experiencing déjà vu in Saturday’s game as, for the second-straight day, UF dealt with a rain delay in excess of three hours.

This time, the game was halted in the third inning with junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 2 K) on the mound. Poyner did not return after the delay, leaving freshman lefty Kirby Snead (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) with two on and no outs.

Just like Friday night, Florida’s opponent returned from the delay with gusto and a major offensive output. North Carolina teed off on Snead for four hits, taking a 5-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

Florida chipped away at North Carolina’s lead late in the game but failed to put together a multi-run inning to give it a legitimate fighting chance.

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Florida upset in Gainesville Regional opener

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After waiting more than three hours for the first pitch on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators baseball saw the game’s deciding run cross the plate before the first out was even recorded.

The No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional, the Gators (40-22) dropped their first game of the event, falling 3-2 to the regional No. 4 seed College of Charleston Cougars (42-17).

A 195-minute weather delay forced the proceedings to begin late, but Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan nevertheless stuck with his ace, freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore, as the team’s starter.

College of Charleston rallied to push three runs across the plate before Shore retired his first batter. In total, he coughed up seven hits in the opening frame, and the three-run advantage he spotted the Cougars proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

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Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 5 Florida Gators softball (48-11) is one step closer to making its sixth Women’s College World Series appearance in seven years after closing out a sweep of the Gainesville Regional with a victory on Sunday.

Breezing through its first two opponents at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, UF shut out the Central Florida Knights (43-18) in the regional final on Sunday, winning 7-0 and advancing to the Super Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in an eight-year span.

Gators junior right-hander Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 K) tossed a five-hit shutout in Sunday’s finale to pick up her 10th win of the season and drop her ERA to a team-best 1.57. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first, Haeger calmed down and retired the next 11 batters, only scatting five singles in the contest.

But her contribution to Florida’s win extended much further than the pitcher’s circle. Haeger (1/5, HR, 3 RBI, R) blasted her team-leading 19th home run of the season — a one out, two-run shot in the first inning — which was also her third homer in as many games during the Gainesville Regional.

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Florida Gators softball (3-0) wins Gainesville Regional, advances to Super Regional play

No. 2 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to Super Regional play for the sixth time in the last seven seasons after defeating the South Florida Bulls 2-0 in the finals of the Gainesville Regional round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Despite serving as hosts for the regionals, Florida was the road team in Sunday’s final game. The Gators (55-7) went hitless for 6.1 innings at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL, but made Bulls pitcher Sara Nevins work hard in the fourth inning. Florida scored two runs on four walks and a hit by pitch.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, 5 K) earned the victory, her second of the weekend against USF, by tossing a complete game shutout on Sunday. Rogers (5.0 IP, H, R, 4 BB, 6 K) also helped UF pick up a dominant 11-1 win on Saturday in a five-inning run-ruled affair.

Sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (2/2, HR, 7 RBI, R) led the way for the Gators on Saturday, tying the school’s single-game RBI record in the process.

Sophomore righty Alyssa Bache (7.0 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 4 K) took the mound for Friday’s regional opener against the Hampton Pirates and looked strong despite giving up a run in the top of the first. She had plenty of support from Florida’s hitters with Haeger (2/3, 2 RBI, BB) and senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) each plating two runs. The Gators easily won 7-1.

As the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida the will host UAB in the best-of-three Super Regional in Gainesville beginning on May 23. The Gators return to Super Regional action for the first time since 2011 after being upset during the 2012 Gainesville Regional by the Bulls.

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FOUR BITS: track, tennis, lacrosse, softball

1 » Neither the top-ranked men nor the third-ranked women were able to bring home a team title in the 2013 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championship for the Florida Gators, but the track & field program did conclude the four-day event with five individual titles. Sophomore Kyle Strawn started things off on Thursday by winning the SEC title in the men’s hammer throw; his championship toss went 66.90m/219-6 and also marked a personal best. Florida added a second individual SEC crown on Friday when redshirt freshman Jimmy Clark gutted out a tough 10,000 meters in 29:44.54 to win the Gators’ first title in the event since 1987. Though Florida went title-less on Saturday, the Gators added three on Sunday to close the event. UF swept the triple jump with senior Omar Craddock (16.46m/54-0) and sophomore Ciarra Brewer (13.85m/45-5.25) defending their 2012 titles by winning the men’s and women’s championships, respectively. Freshman Marija Vucenovic also got in on the fun by winning the women’s javelin with a throw of 51.30m/168-4.

The Florida men (123.00) finished second to Arkansas (152.50), while the UF women (106.00) placed fourth. The Gators were hoping to win the athletic program’s ninth SEC team title of the season but must instead settle for a school record-tying eight as the league’s 2012-13 season has officially come to a close.

2 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis began competing in the 2013 NCAA Tournament over the weekend and swept both of its opponents, defeating the Marist Red Foxes and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 4-0 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Gators ran through the Red Foxes without dropping a single game, winning both doubles matches 8-0 and all three singles contests 6-0, 6-0. Georgia Tech was a tougher out for Florida but still went down rather easily as UF won the doubles point with 8-6 and 8-2 victories and took singles in short order. No. 1 senior Lauren Embree beat No. 98 Elizabeth Kilborn 6-0, 6-0 in her last home match, and No. 116 senior Caroline Hitimana led 6-1, 3-3 in her match but did not finish; both players were involved in victories that led to the doubles point. Embree received a standing ovation after he victory; she and Hitimana leave UF never having lost a team match (55-0) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. Action continues for Florida on Friday when it takes on Duke in a round of 16 match in Urbania, IL.

Read two more Gators news BITS (with an extra)…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: track, tennis, lacrosse, softball

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