FOUR BITS: Tebow, Brantley, volleyball, Herring

1 » Writing for ESPN Insider, columnist Chris Sprow makes a case for why Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will indeed be a successful NFL signal caller – whether or not that ends up happening in Mile High. In the piece, Sprow cites quotes from 1986 that were said about Steve Young but are just as applicable to Tebow and uses ESPN‘s advanced metric “QBR” to point out how effective he is each game.

Ultimately, Young struggled and was traded away from Tampa in frustration; he was viewed as a bust. He didn’t become a starter, then a star, for years. Perhaps Tebow also will be traded at some point, a wasted pick, a project for another coach. But there’s also good reason to think that Tebow can be a very good NFL quarterback because, in the same way Tampa once miscalculated on Young, there’s reason to think we haven’t done a good job of accurately deciphering what a quarterback like Tebow can do. [...]

The bottom line is this: If you want to evaluate Tebow as a quarterback, you have to understand that what he lacks as a passer can be made up for by what he brings with his legs. This isn’t a new argument, but it now has additional context. [...]

Orton is a much better passer but a statue in the pocket, costing the Broncos points with sacks — and Tebow’s 82.1 passer rating in 2010 would have been the best among rookies if it had stretched for 16 games. [...] Tebow, were he to start in Week 1, would continue to be as raw a passer as you can find in the NFL. But this unrefined product is a lot better than some believe, and he might even be more valuable than Denver’s other option.

2 » ESPN also takes a look at Florida Gators redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and in what ways he needs to improve under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis this season. Specifically, he points to Brantley’s first down completion percentage and touch with balls thrown more than 20 yards down the field. Brantley completed passes on first down with a 110.8 efficiency in 2010 (113th in the nation), 28 points lower than the FBS average (138.8). On deep balls, Brantley only completed 20.8 percent of his passes (5-of-24) including only two against Southeastern Conference opponents. It is also noted that 41.7 percent of Brantley’s deep passes were overthrown.

3 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players, outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and setter/right-side Kelly Murphy, were named to the 2011 Preseason All-SEC Team on Tuesday. The first volleyball players in league history to be named to the preseason All-SEC Team (2009-11, All-SEC First or Second Team (2009, 2010) and SEC All-Freshman Team (2008), the duo hopes to lead their team to another conference championship this season. The Gators are ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason poll and begin competition at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Aug. 26 against Boston College.

4 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has officially lost his fourth staffer this offseason. Following the departure of three assistants in the late spring, Donovan’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring has decided to leave the Gators to take the director of athletic performance job with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. With Florida for both national championships, Herring is excited about his new opportunity. “I really hadn’t thought about it until San Antonio came calling,’’ Herring told UF senior writer Scott Carter. “The main reason why we even considered it is one, it’s a great organization and we certainly follow them, and then the draw to get closer to family and see my little girl get a chance to get closer to her grandparents and foster those relationships. It was just a tremendous opportunity for us on a personal level. The University of Florida is a fantastic place to be and Coach Donovan and the administration certainly tried to encourage me to stay here, but at the end of the day, they can’t move Gainesville to Texas, and that was the biggest draw.’’

Extra BIT » Incoming freshman golfer J.D. Tomlinson has a unique opportunity next week as he will be competing to win a U.S. Amateur event at the age of 18. Only four former Gators have accomplished this feat thus far, but Tomlinson plans to give it a go before even taking a swing in an Orange & Blue polo shirt.

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TWO BITS: Pouncey’s progress, Taylor’s honor

1 » Just like his brother one year ago, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is quickly finding out that he will be able to compete quite well as a rookie in the NFL. Going up against massive defensive tackle Paul Soliai during the first few days of training camp, Pouncey stood his ground and pushed right back. “He was aggressive,” Soliai told the Sun-Sentinel. “He’s pretty tough. He wasn’t scared; he wasn’t afraid.” Head coach Tony Sparano, a former offensive line coach, also heaped praise on Pouncey’s performance during his first few professional practices. “There are so many natural things that he did … that made him stand out,” Sparano said. “Some things that he did in the run game. Some things that he did in the protection drills, one-on-one, those types of things. This guy – there was some awareness out there.”

2 » One of the top track & field athletes during the 2010-11 season, Florida Gators junior jumper Christian Taylor is now one of three male finalists for The Bowerman – the track & field equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Though a committee will be voting for the winner, The Bowerman also allows the fans to choose who they think deserves the award; the athlete with the largest margin receives one extra vote. To lend your support to Taylor and Florida, click here.

Extra BIT » Former Gators assistant golf coach Steve Bradley was named the head coach for the Mercer Bears on Tuesday. During his three years at Florida, Bradley helped the Gators reach the NCAA Tournament thrice and saw the team capture the 2010 SEC Championship, too.

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FOUR BITS: baseball deals, tennis, Ball, Mudd

1 » A trio of now former Florida Gators baseball players signed professional contracts this week. Seniors second baseman Josh Adams and right-handed pitcher Matt Campbell agreed to their deals, and junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde gave up his final year of eligibility by choosing to play professionally in 2011. Adams, the No. 403 overall pick in the 13th round by the Florida Marlins, will begin his career with the Class A Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League). The No. 751 overall pick in the 24th round, Matt Campbell signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and will report to the rookie league Gulf Coast League Phillies. Maronde was picked the highest out of all his teammates as the Los Angeles Angels selected him with the No. 104 overall pick in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He will head over to the Pioneer League’s Orem Owlz and try to work his way up the ranks.

2 » The 2011 USTA Collegiate Team was announced on Thursday and two Gators made the cut. Juniors No. 4 Lauren Embree and No. 9 Allie Will were selected for the team, which is funded by the USTA and administered in conjunction with the ITA. Players will have the chance to train and develop as they compete on the USTA Pro Circuit. Joining the duo, on the men’s side, is junior Sekou Bangoura, Jr..

3 » Florida sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball, still recovering from an arteriovenous malformation found in his brain in Feb., is expected to sit out the 2011 season as he continues to recover. The Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George spoke this week with Ball’s brother-in-law, who told her that the player underwent “radial surgery” that was performed with the hope “that the malformation withers up and dies over time.” Having not practiced since the spring and unable to work out with the team, Ball would not be in shape to play in 2011 even if completely cleared by doctors. His brother-in-law confirmed this to the Sentinel but also provided good news about his overall heath. “He’s healthy. He’s fine,” he said. “He’s probably going to miss next season. […] We’re all appreciative to Coach [Will] Muschamp, the doctors, the staff, everybody.”

4 » Former Florida All-American golfer Jessie Mudd has turned in his orange for white after being named assistant men’s golf coach for the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday. Mudd helped propel the Gators to three top-10 NCAA finishes and won multiple awards including notably being named co-SEC Freshman of the Year.

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FOUR BITS: Directors’ Cup, USA, Young, Brewer

1 » The University of Florida athletic program finished no. 4 in the nation in the 2010-11 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Thirteen Florida Gators programs finished in the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), baseball (No. 2), softball (No. 2), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), men’s swimming & diving (No. 5), lacrosse (No. 5), gymnastics (No. 7), women’s swimming & diving (No. 7), men’s tennis (No. 9), volleyball (No. 9), women’s golf (No. 10). It is the third-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four in the Cup’s final rankings.

2 » Competing with the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team, Florida center Patric Young had some difficulties in the preliminary round of the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships against Egypt. Though Team USA won 115-60, Young only went 2-of-4 from the field for five points with eight rebounds in 14 minutes. Young played much better on Friday, posting 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting with seven boards in 18:30 as Team USA came back to top Serbia 80-78.

3 » Speaking of Young, he and head coach Billy Donovan mentioned a few times last season that he had to overcome some attitude issues during the first half off the year; once doing so, he felt much better about himself and his spot on the team. Young opened up even more about this to ESPN’s Diamond Leung, who spoke with him recently. “When you hear it over and over … if 500 people came in and told you you’re the best writer in the world, you’re going to start believing it, right?” he said. “You’re going to be the next best thing. You’re going to be one-and-done. You should be starting over Vernon Macklin. You should play 30-35 minutes a game. People say stuff like that. I was so mentally blocked that I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong and how it was hurting my team, and coaches had to sit me down and break that down for me, and I understood from that point on forward.”

4 » Dallas Mavericks guard Corey Brewer will be making his triumphant return to Gainesville, FL…for at least three days this summer. Brewer, a member of the Gators’ back-to-back men’s basketball NCAA National Championship teams, will host The Back 2 Back Youth Basketball Camp powered by Five Star Basketball in Gainesville, FL, from July 26-28. Brewer will donate all proceeds to Shands Children’s Hospital at UF and the “Corey Brewer Fight Diabetes Fund,” both benefiting the school’s medical center. “I had a great time with the kids last year. I am so fortunate to have played basketball at the University of Florida. I always like going back to give back to the community that has given me so much,” he told The Gainesville Sun.

Times: August 1-3 from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Participants: Boys and girls ages 9-18
Activities: Basketball drills, five-on-five games, contests, educational sessions, player evaluations, lectures and much more
Extras: Lunch, T-shirt, photo with Brewer, awards, certificate, etc.
Cost: $150 per camper
More information: http://www.CoreyBrewer.com

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Florida sweeps SEC All-Sports awards…again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2010-11 school year was put to rest Sunday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports champion by the New York Times Regional Media Group for the third-straight season. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida160.51610.03
No. 2 Georgia139168.69
No. 3 Tennessee123.5158.23

Team (MEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida 71.5710.21
No. 2 Georgia6178.71
No. 3 Alabama5377.57

Team (WOMEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida8999.89
No. 2 Tennessee75.589.44
No. 3 Georgia7898.67

Florida is the only school to sweep all three titles in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 11th time, fourth in the last five years and third-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10). All 16 of UF’s sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender.

The Gators won eight SEC titles over this period: baseball, men’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s track & field, women’s cross country, soccer, women’s tennis and volleyball. It is the fourth time UF has won seven or more SEC titles in a single season.

Florida has been victorious in 21 of the last 24 All-Sports awards with the men’s program winning its 15th and women’s program winning its 18th respective individual titles.

The Gators lead the SEC with 201 all-time team titles.

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Florida golf: men advance with NCAA regional win; women tie for 10th in NCAA Championship

By Nicole Boyett – OGGOA Special Contributor

No. 3 Florida Gators men’s golf earned a six-stroke victory in the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional at Golden Ocala by finishing 18-under par. Florida’s win sends them to the 2011 NCAA Championship in Stillwater, OK beginning May 31.

Senior Andres Echavarria led the Gators with three rounds under par, finishing 9-under and in fourth place to complete his fourth top-five performance the season.

Florida had to overcome a four-shot deficit Saturday after a 13-under performance from Augusta State on Friday earned them the overall lead. The Gators covered more than four shots, posting an 11-under total Saturday while Augusta State fell flat to finish 1-under for the day. Senior Bank Vongvanij tied for sixth place at 7-under with sophomore Phillip Choi not far behind (-4, T-12). Sophomore Tommy Mou completed Florida’s lineup at +2.

The top five finishers in each of the six regionals advance to the championship. Moving on from the Southeast Regional were Florida (-18), Augusta State (-12), Kennesaw State (-11), North Carolina State (-9) and Arkansas (-8). Four other Southeastern Conference teams have also advanced: Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee.

The No. 24 women’s golf team finished 44-over par and tied for 10th with Vanderbilt at the 2011 NCAA Championship at Traditions Club in Bryan, TX. After a rain delay and eventual postponement due to darkness on Friday, golfers had to finish their third round before beginning the fourth and final round Saturday.

Junior Andrea Watts was the top-performing Gator, finishing tied for 15th at +5. After two rounds, sophomore Mia Piccio was 2-under par. By carding two 4-over rounds, Piccio finished T-19 at 6-over. Junior Evan Jensen totaled 13-over, and sophomore Isabelle Lendl struggled with her swing changes and finished a rough 29-over. Senior Jessica Yadloczky completed her final tournament in the orange and blue at +28.

UCLA (+21) wound up capturing the NCAA Championship in women’s golf. Defending champion Purdue (+25) finished in second place followed by LSU (+29), Virginia (+34) and top-ranked Southern California (+38).

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Gators rack up five titles over the weekend

The weekend of April 15-17, 2011 was a good one for the Florida Gators as University of Florida student-athletes brought home five separate titles for the school.

No. 3/5 Gators men’s golf won the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, leading after every single round of the event. Florida finished with a combined 848 (+8), five strokes ahead of second-place Alabama to win the school’s 200th all-time SEC title.

Competing for the Gators in the event, redshirt senior golfer Andres Echavarria also won the 2011 SEC Men’s Individual Championship with a three-round total of 209 (-1).

With No. 7 Florida gymnastics failing to advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Six, the team had three student-athletes competing individually. One came through as sophomore Marissa King claimed the 2011 NCAA Championship in the vault on Sunday. King scored a 9.8750 in the vault and became UF’s first NCAA event winner since 1998.

Two other Gators teams clinched outright conference titles over the weekend.

No. 5/6 Florida lacrosse (14-1, 5-0 ALC) defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-7, 1-4 ALC) 8-7 Sunday to continue a 14-game winning streak and take sole possession of the regular season 2011 ALC Championship. No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-1, 11-0 SEC) followed suit, shutting out the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-9, 4-7 SEC) 7-0 on Saturday to go undefeated in conference play and capture the 2011 SEC title.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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FOUR BITS: FSU wins, awards, Sloan, Brombacher

1 » Competing in their fourth and final game of the season, No. 8 Florida State Seminoles baseball (24-9) once again took it to the No. 4 Florida Gators (26-8), turning miscues into runs to prevail 3-1 on Tuesday night in Tallahassee, FL in front of a sold out crowd of 6,357 fans. Florida State improved to 3-1 against Florida with the win; the Gators’ only victory came via a hard-fought 5-4 win in extra innings. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (2-1) picked up the loss for UF but only gave up one earned run while striking out five in 5.0 innings. In for relief, junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson only allowed two hits but threw a pair of wild pitches that allowed the Seminoles to tack on two runs. Florida was held scorless through the first eight innings on the game before sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, RBI) knocked home junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, R, BB) in the ninth.

2 » The Second Annual Florida Letterman Awards were held on Monday with a number of UF’s student-athletes bringing home honors. The list of award recipients and their respective sports is below:

- Mr. & Ms. Orange & Blue: Christian Taylor (track and field), Megan Bush (softball)
- Team of the Year: women’s swimming and diving, men’s indoor track and field
- Athlete of the Year: Conor Dwyer (swimming) and Christian Taylor (track and field), Mariam Kevkhishvili (track & field)
- Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Max Lang (track and field); Rebekah Zaiser (gymnastics)
- Performance of the Year: Conor Dwyer (NCAA swimming meet) and Gray Horn (SEC decathlon), Charlotte Browning (NCAA track meet)
- Academic Teams of Year: men’s golf, women’s gymnastics
- Play of the Year: Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Terrell Wilks and Jeremy Hall (4X100 relay 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships); Shara Stafford and Gemma Spofforth (200-meter freestyle at 2010 NCAA Championships)
- Rookie of the Year: Austin Maddox (baseball), Ashanee Dickerson (gymnastics)
- Comeback Athlete of the Year: Tommy Toledo (baseball), McKenzie Barney (soccer)
- Character Award: Bobby Walsh (swimming), Daisy Glasser (track and field)
- Goodwill Gator: Max Lang (track and field), Stephanie Brombacher (softball)

3 » Gators gymnastics got great news Wednesday as Bridget Sloan, the all-around champion at the 2009 World Championships and an Olympian for the United States in 2008, signed a letter of intent to join the University of Florida. Sloan will not enroll at UF for more than a year as she will first pursue participation in the 2012 London Olympics. “Making this decision was by far one of the hardest of my life, and I took a long time and put a lot of thought into it, but it came down to where I felt the most comfortable,” Sloan said according to a Florida release. “Florida seemed like the best place for me academically and for gymnastics, and I’m excited to be a Gator.”

4 » Gators softball’s senior ace RHP, Brombacher may see the mound for the first time in more than a month on Wednesday against Florida International. She has been out of action with a number of lingering arm injuries, most recently having problems with her bicep. However, according to the Independent Florida Alligator, Brombacher “threw almost every day last week” and could be back on the diamond Wednesday either as the starter or in a limited role.

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