SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

1 » Former Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino earned his first career MLB start on Wednesday for the Seattle Mariners, opening the game behind the plate and batting sixth. Zunino went 1/4 with a strikeout in the game, registering his first big-league hit during his second at-bat. Had Nick Franklin not held up at third base, Zunino also would have registered his first career RBI.

2 » Billy Horschel is the only former Gators golfer competing in the 2013 U.S. Open this weekend and plans to make a statement with his attire. Should Horschel make it to Sunday, which is likely considering he is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings at this time, he will don a dark pair of pants featuring octopi. Really. See here.

3 » Though no further information was provided, U.S. Women’s National Team star striker Abby Wambach on Wednesday tweeted out this picture of her hanging out with New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. “Hey @BrandonSpikes55 nice chillin’ with you. Gators nation forever. No doubt! #newpatsfan,” she wrote on Twitter.

Check out three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

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SIX BITS: Ogbueze, Donovan, Elam, Beal, Banks

1 » While sophomore guard/forward DeVon Walker changed his mind about his decision to transfer and returned to the Florida Gators basketball program, sophomore point guard Braxton Ogbueze remained steadfast in his desire to leave and officially transferred this week. Ogbeuze, who committed to Florida out of Charlotte, NC, decided to return to his local community and play for the Charlotte 49ers. He will sit out the 2013-14 season due to NCAA transfer rules but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2014-15.

2 » Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan sat down for a wide-ranging interview with former long-time NBA coach Brendan Suhr on his Coaching U LIVE podcast. The interview, which is reminiscent of a conversation with Inside the Actors Studio’s James Lipton, covers a variety of topics including why Donovan is a coach, how he describes himself as a coach, if he would play for a coach like himself and how college basketball players have changed over the years.

3 » Baltimore Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam met and spoke with Dwyer High School’s current football players recently, telling the members of his former team that using life’s difficulties to propel them on the football field can benefit their lives in the long run. “I feel like with me going [in the draft], it was a big motivation for the kids because they come from the same neighborhoods, the same program,” Elam told the Palm Beach Post. “I got the chance, and I took advantage of the chance. That makes the kids feel like they’ve got the chance. That’s what it’s all about.”

4 » It was announced on Wednesday that guard Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, will represent his team at the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery set for Tuesday, May 21. Washington has won the draft lottery twice (2001, 2010) and has a 2.8 percent chance (eighth-best out of the field) of once again receiving the No. 1 overall selection.

5 » Florida’s director of on-campus recruiting, Brendan Donovan, has left the program to accept a position with the Cleveland Browns as the team’s college scouting administrator. Donovan has done a fine job with the Gators’ recruiting as of late but obviously saw an opportunity he could not pass up on the NFL level. 24/7 Sports first reported Donovan’s departure from the program.

6 » Those not tuned-in to Florida’s golf program may not know about sophomore Eric Banks and his brave return from a four-hour heart surgery that was performed to treat a congenital hole in his heart called an atrial spetal defect. Check out this feature from GatorZone.com’s Scott Carter, which goes in-depth on Banks’s heart scare and looks at how he is trying to help the Gators in the 2013 NCAA South Regional Tournament.

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SIX BITS: Masters, Brissett, Booth, Tebow, PIT

1 » Only one of the two Florida Gators golfers competing in the 2013 Masters moved on to weekend play. After hitting an even 72 in the opening round on Thursday, Brian Gay shot a +2 (74) on Friday and is currently tied for 37th, three strokes above the cut line. Senior T.J. Vogel, who earned a spot in the major as an amateur event winner, was not as fortunate. He shot a +5 (77) on Thursday but was able to bring his score down with a +3 (75) on Friday. Vogel missed the cut by four strokes, ending his special weekend earlier than he would hoped. “I just had a good time,” he said Thursday after his first round. “This experience, I can’t even explain even in words. I’m just having such a great time playing in front of so many people and it’s just a really cool feeling when you know you hita great shot and you got people cheering for you. And I’m not used to that yet. It’s just really cool.”

2 » Former Florida QB Jacoby Brissett sounds more than slightly perturbed that he lost the starting job to Jeff Driskel last season. In a feature penned by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, Brissett indicates that he did not receive a fair shot to start for the Gators before throwing a barb at Driskel for his performance in the last game of the season. “It wasn’t right,” he said of the competition. “In the saying that God don’t like ugly, it came up to us in the Sugar Bowl when we couldn’t throw to save our life.” He then took a second shot at Driskel, basically questioning his former teammate’s work ethic while explaining why it was Brissett who should have started at Florida. “Just my competitiveness, I don’t think it was matched with that other guy,” he said. “The willingness to put in that extra work to win.”

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Masters, Zunino, baseball, Elam, Horford

1 » A pair of Florida Gators will be competing at the 2013 Masters this week at Augusta National Golf Club, one of whom is a current University of Florida student and a member of the school’s golf team. Senior T.J. Vogel, a 22-year old amateur, will be playing in his first ever major and has decided to properly take in the moment. Over the weekend, he and his caddie arranged his schedule so he could “bump” into Tiger Woods during an early-morning tee time. “I basically ran into him and we talked for a few minutes,” he said according to the Orlando Sentinel. Vogel has been playing at Augusta as much as possible in preparation for the Masters and will get his big opportunity starting on Thursday. He will be joined in Augusta by former Gators golfer Brian Gay, who has played as a professional since 1994 and has four PGA Tour wins but has never finished better than 20th in a major (2008 PGA Championship).

2 » Former Florida catcher Mike Zunino, the highest-drafted baseball player in school history (No. 3 in the 2012 MLB Draft), is breaking out in a major way while playing minor league baseball for the Seattle Mariners. Currently assigned to the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A), Zunino is simply crushing the ball. On Tuesday night, Zunino smacked a grand slam and has now hit a homer in three-straight games. He has hit four home runs in five games and boasts a MiLB-high 16 RBI while batting .429 and slugging an absurd 1.238 with an on-base percentage of 1.696.

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Masters, Zunino, baseball, Elam, Horford

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FOUR BITS: New uniforms?, Floyd, Doering, PGA

1 » Three-star Florida Gators offensive lineman commit Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL) updated the avatar on his Twitter account recently with the picture below (left), which appears to who a modified version of the football uniform with thicker numbers in a different font. As can be seen by the comparison picture next to it (right), the different font is significantly thicker and the design appears adjusted so that there is a thinner outline in both blue and orange around the numbers. To each their own as far as design tastes go, but this number change looks to go along with Florida’s total transition to a new font for the entire sports program. Uniform changes across college football are mostly headed in a modern and streamlined direction; UF looks to be going for the opposite if this big block style has indeed been adopted for the uniforms, too.

UPDATE – Jan. 29: OGGOA has confirmed with a source close to the program and an incoming player that these are indeed the new uniforms for 2013 and are being shown to recruits and players as what they will be wearing next season. The jersey, which appear to feature a sweatbox under the numbers similar to what is used on NFL jerseys, is also made of a lighter more breathable material that Nike uses in its shoes. There are no changes being made to the pants or helmet at this time.

2 » Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is quickly rocketing up the ranks as more and more scouts get a chance to watch his film. Floyd, who was originally thought to be a low first-round pick when he declared early, now has an opportunity to go in the top 15 of the 2013 NFL Draft in April. Former general manager Scott Pioli told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King recently that Floyd is one of the juniors available at this time. King then went on to list him as the third-best overall because of his “position and scheme flexibility,” competitiveness, toughness and ability to be “consistently disruptive in the pass rush” as well as “the type of player who makes those around him better by making the offense concentrate so much on stopping him.”

3 » The Gainesville Sun on Monday published a feature by Robbie Andreu about future Florida preferred walk-on wide receiver Case Harrison and how former Gators walk-on WR Chris Doering, a family friend, is serving as a mentor as he gets prepared to join the team. “Obviously there are a lot of similarities between the two of us,” Doering said. “[Walking on] is a difficult process. There are not a whole lot of walk-ons that are given an opportunity. I think I can certainly tell him some of the valuable things I learned along the way at Florida to be a successful walk-on. I can give him some insight that would allow him to compete immediately. I can help him with advice off the field and tips on the field.” Like Doering was when he joined the Gators, Harrison is a life-long fan and local product. “When you’re talking about guys like me and Case, you’re talking about guys that are already fully invested in Florida football before they even get there.”

4 » Saturday at the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open was University Day with golfers dressing up in school colors before teeing off. Though play was mostly suspended due to rain and fog, former Florida golfers Billy Horschel (who began the day in second place just a few shots behind Tiger Woods) and Camilo Villegas donned orange and blue. Villegas also competed in the University Challenge – which consisted of four players hitting “shots from the North No. 4 tee box at a square grid 40 yards away that included 20 glass panes,” according to The San Diego Union-Tribune – and wound up winning $10,000 for the school as a Gators pane was the only one left remaining at the end of the competition. Horschel posted a third-round 76 on Sunday which dropped him far down the leaderboard as Woods’s advantage grew over the course of the day.

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FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

1 » No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball has been getting a lot of love since dismantling Missouri on Saturday. Florida has plowed through the first four games of its Southeastern Conference schedule and is starting to look like one of the most dominant teams in the country. Enter John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus (via ESPN Insider [$]), who contended over the weekend that the Gators are “the real No. 1” team in the country at this point. As he wrote on Jan. 20, Florida is putting forward “an unheard-of 0.42 points per possession [differential]” statistic during SEC play, which is double what some former national title teams have been able to achieve. Despite the Gators playing against some talent-poor teams in the early going, Gasaway notes that “we’ve never seen a number as silly as 0.42 after 254 possessions of conference play.” In other words, when all is said and done, UF may have found the offense necessary to go along with its impressive defense, a combination that could send it blasting its way through the SEC and into a top seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. KenPom.com certainly thinks so, as it has the team as at least a seven-point favorite in every game for the remainder of the regular season.

2 » Former Florida golfer Brian Gay qualified for the 2013 Masters on Sunday when he won the 2013 Humana Challenge by registering a birdie on the second playoff hole. The victory was his fourth on the PGA Tour and at 41-years-old, he will be back at Augusta National for just the second time in his long career. He finished with a nine-under 63 but struggled through his final round. Gay birdied nine of the first 13 holes before registering par on holes 14-18. He had a chance to win on 18 but missed a birdie putt; luckily, Gay’s two playoff hole birdies made up for the miss.

Read the rest of this post…including two BITS and two VIDEOS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

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Grossman, Mitts, Pearson, Fogg headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Rex Grossman (football), Heather Mitts (soccer), Mike Pearson (football) and Josh Fogg (baseball) – and one honorary letterwinner will be inducted as the UF Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2013 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that the honors will be bestowed upon these former players at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 5, 2013 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2013 class includes Gator Greats Jeff Davis (wrestling), Riko Higashio (women’s golf) and Chrissy Van Fleet (gymnastics) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Morris (football) and Honorary Letterwinner Ernestine Russell Weaver (gymnastics).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments…
Continue Reading » Grossman, Mitts, Pearson, Fogg headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013 inductees

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FOUR BITS: Georgetown, Tucker, Wambach

1 » Making an appearance on 1010 XL radio on Tuesday, executive director of sports and entertainment for the City of Jacksonville Alan Verlander confirmed that tickets for the Navy/Marines Corps Classic will be bundled with the Jacksonville Jaguars-Indianapolis Colts game and will begin at $1,000. That package would include two tickets to watch the Florida Gators take on the Georgetown Hoyas on an aircraft carrier and two more to see Jacksonville-Indianapolis on that Thursday. Verlander also noted on the program that a well-known artist will hold a concert before the Florida-Georgetown game. A press release is supposed to be available Thursday with tickets going on sale Monday. OGGOA reached out to Verlander late Tuesday and is currently awaiting his reply.

2 » The University of Florida has chosen former Gators outfielder Preston Tucker to represent the school when the men’s athletic program accepts the 2012 Capital One Cup at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday. It is the second-straight year that Florida’s men’s program has won the award; forward Chandler Parsons was in L.A. to accept the award one year ago.

3 » Former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach is a part of the latest edition of ESPN Magazine – “The Body Issue.” In it, Wambach and a number of other big-name athletes bare all in carefully chosen poses that show plenty of skin but hide their private parts. Check out the picture of Wambach in the magazine, an extensive interview with her about the process and a video of her discussing the experience (below).

4 » The Gators announced the hirings of two more coaches over the last few days as Janice Olivencia was added to the women’s golf team as an assistant on Friday and Nic Peterson was named an assistant track coach (jumps) on Monday. Olivencia, who played for Texas, served as an assistant for South Florida last season after spending seven years playing professionally. UF notes that “she was the first Puerto Rican woman to have ever qualified to play on the Ladies European Tour.” Peterson comes to Florida after a successful career as an assistant at Texas Christian by way of Nebraska, where he competed and served as a volunteer coach.

Extra BIT » Though she did not confirm it directly, new FOX sports reporter/host Erin Andrews did not dismiss the fact that she interviewed for a hosting gig on X Factor, a story first reported by SPORTSbyBROOKS and more recently by Entertainment Weekly. EW (and E! Online) noted on Monday that Andrews has some stiff competition for the gig going up against names like Stacy Kiebler, Mario Lopez and Rocsi Diaz (among others). “Sources emphasize that prospective hosts are still being interviewed and actual testing for the gig is not expected for several more weeks,” EW reports.

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