TWO BITS: Hamilton’s commitment, Tebow out

1 » One of two schools vying for the services of five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton (Ramsey, NJ), the Florida Gators were thought to be behind the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in contention for his commitment. The New Jersey boy was expected to stay in-state and play for Rutgers but his thoughts may be in the process of changing when it was reported Thursday morning that the Scarlet Knights’ head coach, Greg Schiano, is on his way to take the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hamilton has said that Florida and Rutgers were his final two and planned to make an announcement sometime before National Signing Day on Feb. 1. He was supposed to meet with Schiano on Wednesday, but it is unknown if that visit took place.

Should the Gators miss out on Hamilton and/or five-star athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, GA), Florida could offer a scholarship to three-star DE Junior Gnonkonde (Lakeland, GA). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UF has been calling about the former Georgia Tech commitment but will only have room for him in their class if they miss out on one or both of Hamilton and Harvey-Clemons.

2 » Originally scheduled to participate in the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been forced to withdraw from the event due to the multiple injuries he suffered against the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Though Tebow does not need surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, he will not be able to participate in the event from Feb. 9-12. An avid golfer, Tebow was undoubtedly looking forward to the event, and the tournament’s directors were certainly hoping he would be able to play as well.

Extra BIT » No. 5 Florida lacrosse will begin its 2012 campaign with an exhibition match Thursday against England at 6:30 p.m. The Gators are looking to build on consecutive impressive years and hope to win their first national championship in the program’s third season of existence.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, PGA, Caldwell

1 » In his season-ending meeting with the media, Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway gave quarterback Tim Tebow his biggest endorsement thus far even if it was not completely what Tebow’s fans may have wanted. “Tim is the starting quarterback going into training camp,” Elway said Monday, according to the Denver Post, failing to go further than that designation. “He made great strides. He has earned the right to be the starter going into training camp next year.” Elway also admitted, as expected, that Denver will look to add some competition for Tebow at the quarterback position because the Broncos’ “passing game was not where we want it to be.” As he mentioned during the season, Elway plans to work with Tebow in a number of areas including in the film room and on his footwork, drops and timing with receivers. He expands on these comments in the video below:

2 » Continuing his stellar play this year Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons had yet another solid game Monday, again earning the start and scoring eight points (on 4-of-7 shooting) with eight boards (three offensive), four assists and two blocks in 29 minutes. He also had two impressive plays in the game including one put-back slam and another dunk over Washington’s 7’0″ center JaVale McGee, which you can see below:

In related NBA news, center Marreese Speights had his best performance with his brand new team the Memphis Grizzlies, registering a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. Speights went head-to-head with Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah, who has been struggling with a hand problem this season and had just two points and five rebounds. Memphis beat Chicago 102-86 on Monday.

3 » Former Gators golfer Matt Every, who led the 2012 Sony Open for two days, wound up finishing tied for sixth in the event…with fellow former Florida golfer Brian Gay and two other players. Every and Gay (-10) each ended the tournament three strokes back of the leader (Johnson Wagner, -13) and were two of three former Gators in the top-13 with Chris DiMarco finishing -8 over four rounds. As OGGOA mentioned over the weekend, Every recently opened up about a marijuana arrest. This video provides more on that and includes a discussion he had while leading after the second round.

4 » According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it is not likely that former Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell will be back with the Cincinnati Bengals next season. Caldwell, who brought in 37 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns last season, is now a free agent and is unlikely to be retained by the team. Caldwell himself is probably looking for a better opportunity as well and may find that with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Bengals’ former offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, has taken that same position with the Jaguars.

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FOUR BITS: Every, Tebow, Dickerson, Petrick

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every, back on the PGA Tour after recovering from a broken finger and being reinstated following a three-month suspension received for being arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge (marijuana), took a two shot lead at the 2012 Sony Open on Friday thanks to him finishing his round with a 6-under 64. Every said that a “perfect storm” of bad luck led to his arrest and that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He told the Associated Press that though he did not smoke marijuana that night and still does not now, he will not stop hanging out with his friends because of one unfortunate incident. “I have great friends, man. If one of my friends likes to smoke marijuana every now and then, I’m not going to say, `Well, you can’t be my friend anymore,’” Every said. “Honestly, man, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don’t smoke marijuana. I know that’s probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it’s the truth.” He added that he “feels like a rookie” playing this year and hopes to add to his lead when he tees off at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

2 » Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame caught up with longtime NFL scout and executive Ken Herock, which the website describes as “the one NFL scout who believed in Tim Tebow,” to discuss the Denver Broncos quarterback and how he has performed so far in the first 15 starts of his career. “I spent five hours with him,” Herock said, “and I knew he was special.” He continued, “He’s just like a coach. He can see things. He’s not particularly fast. He’s not particularly quick. He has good vision when he runs. He sees the holes when he runs. He’s got a special gift for seeing things on the field. He has a sixth-sense vision. [...] There are so many things you can do with him. There are things you can do with him that they did years ago. When Len Dawson was the quarterback at Kansas City they had the moving pocket. They could so something like that with Tebow.” Herock also said that Tebow’s arm strength is not an issue and even though his throwing motion is a concern for some, it can be worked on and tweaked.

3 » The Nationwide Tour, the developmental arm of the PGA, recently published a list of the top 20 players to watch in 2012 and one former Florida golfer, Bubba Dickerson found his way on the list at No. 17. Dickerson jumped 68 spots on the Nationwide money list from 2010 to 2011 and finished 46th last year while posting three top 10 showings in his first six tournaments. However, “he missed 11 of 12 cuts [at the end of the year] to take himself out of a position to get a PGA Tour card for 2012,” according to tour. “I’m looking forward to being able to plan my schedule because last year I started out with conditional status so in that respect I think things should go a little better for me,” he said. “I just need to be more consistent on my chipping and putting.”

4 » Former Gators runner Sara Petrick, who has continued competing since leaving Florida, has qualified for the women’s trails for the 2012 London Olympics but must shave 23 minutes off of her marathon time in order to earn a spot on the team. Though she knows the chances are slim, Petrick is just happy to be “competing against the best” runners in the country. Petrick is looking to run the marathon on Saturday in a total time of 2:45.28, which is just over six minutes per mile. “To give you an idea of how fast that pace is, you have to turn the speed on a treadmill to 9.7 and run 26 miles at that speed to reach that time,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. Petirck considers herself “just a novice when it comes to marathon running” but that does not mean she’s not happy with what she’s been able to accomplish up to this point. “One of my proudest moments was knowing I had a qualifying time to compete in the trails,” Petrick said.

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4 Tebow BITS: Tebowie, Tebowing, comics, golf

1 » Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the which airs weeknights at 12:35 a.m. on NBC, may very well be the best late night talk show going these days. Fallon, known for his pitch-perfect impressions and solid comedic timing, created a new character Thursday night/Friday morning named “Tebowie,” a combination of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and singer-songwriter David Bowie. In the clip below, Fallon (as Tebowie) performs a remixed version of Bowie’s hit song “Space Oddity.”

2 » While there have been Tebowing pictures floating around the internet featuring a seemingly never-ending number of individuals, from fans and teammates to celebrities and politicians, being able to find one with a cat mimicking Tebow’s now-famous pose is…well…just a little extra special.

Look we all know the cat is probably just scratching the top of its head with its paw but honestly who really cares at this point. This is a cat Tebowing. The picture is courtesy of Anna Chan, who sent it in to the NBC Sports blog Off the Bench.

3 » Two Tebow comics were sent in by readers over the last two days, each dealing with fans and pundits who seem to dislike the former Broncos’ signal caller. Check them out.

4 » Golfer Tiger Woods announced on Monday that he plans to participate in the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a charity golf tournament that takes place Feb. 9-12. According to GlobalGolfPost.com, “a highly placed source” at the event said they are “strongly considering” inviting Tebow to play in the tournament with hopes of pairing him with Woods. While the event has a ways to go in order to make this happen, Tebow is an avid golfer who can drive the ball far, enjoys playing and likes charitable causes. All he would have to do is agree to play and the tournament would have to work on convincing Woods to accept the pairing.

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FOUR BITS: Dunlap qualifies, Cosby on Tebow, Donovan’s adjustments, Reynolds commits

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Scott Dunlap earned his PGA Tour card on Monday by finishing Qualifying School tied for 18th with a final score of -10 (422). Dunlap, 48, has earned $2.7 million playing in 184 events in his PGA career. He’s made 96 cuts, finished in the top 25 a total of 33 times, finished in the top 10 on 13 occasions and has never finished an event higher than third place (three times).

2 » Comedian Billy Cosby, who will be in Denver, CO for a comedy show on New Year’s Eve, released a YouTube message Monday promoting the event while complementing the Denver Broncos and quarterback Tim Tebow. You can check it out below:

3 » Florida basketball is getting it done from long range so far this season, and junior guard Kenny Boynton is leading the way. However, according to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner, the Gators may not be able to continue with this philosophy throughout the remainder of the season. “Gone, too, appears to be the offensive approach from last season, where Florida took almost 70 percent of its field goal attempts from two-point range,” he writes. “Now with five shooters in their primary seven-man rotation, the Gators have thus far been one of the nation’s most three-point-dependent teams, taking 43.5 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Of their top six shot-takers, only [Patric] Young has taken fewer threes than twos. Everyone else is letting it fly.”

He continues, “Seven games into a campaign is far too early to draw any concrete conclusions about a team and its style of play, but what Florida has served up thus far — whether against Stetson or Syracuse — seems like a short-term salve rather than season-long salvation. The Gators certainly have the talent to make it to New Orleans, but they’re probably going to have to find a slightly different route by which to get there.”

4 » Florida track and field added another dynamic athlete this week as sprinter Robin Reynolds has committed to play for the Gators beginning next season. Reynolds, who hopes to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, currently runs for Miami Jackson Senior High School and “owns the most state championships of any Miami-Dade County female track and field athlete [of] all-time,” the Miami Herald reports. Both of Reynolds’s parents went to Florida, and she chose to follow in their footsteps. “I wanted to go somewhere close enough to them, but still far enough to go away to school,” she said. “I grew up a Gator fan, and I bleed orange and blue. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to develop at the next level and I felt [Florida] gave me the best chance of doing that.”

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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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