12 Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 21

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The three Florida Gators participating in the 2014 Senior Bowl arrived over the weekend and got measured on Monday. Guard Jon Halapio checked in at 6’3-1/2” and 320 pounds, wide receiver Solomon Patton was the smallest player measured at 5’8-1/2” and 179 pounds, and cornerback Jaylen Watkins was listed at 5’11-3/8” and 194 pounds. Watkins will be updating OnlyGators.com on his status this Wednesday as he and his teammates prepare for the game on Saturday at 4 p.m. on NFL Network.

» Patton, a native of Mobile, AL, was not initially invited to the all-star game played in his hometown but rather received the opportunity to participate in the Senior Bowl last Tuesday after winning an MVP award at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl. He is not the only one excited. “It’s going to be great,” his father Solomon Patton, Sr., told AL.com. “It’s something we’ve dreamed about since he started playing football. It’s always been a dream of ours and his for him to make it back here [to play].” Patton also spoke about proving to scouts and team executives that he can play despite his relatively diminutive stature. “I might be small, but I can make big-time plays regardless of my size,” he said. “I’m just going to go in relaxed and od what I’ve been doing all year.”

» Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Monday said wide receiver Percy Harvin should be cleared to return to practice by Wednesday and ultimately compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. Harvin was held out of Sunday’s NFC Championship game due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered two weekends ago. He has only played 39 total snaps in two games this season.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!

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14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Rather than doubling down on disappointment while stuck playing in the state North Carolina, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (4-1) came from behind on Monday to pick up a huge victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC, which took over for UF as the No. 1 team in the country last week, held a 2-0 advantage over its visitors after winning the doubles point and a singles match to start the contest. The Gators answered by rallying with four consecutive singles match victories to pick up the 4-2 win. First, junior Olivia Janowicz took down No. 79 Tessa Lyons 6-2, 6-1. Freshman Brianna Morgan then picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 122 Lauren McHale, leaving the match in the hands of Florida’s two best players. No. 4 senior Lauren Embree came through in the clutch once again with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory against No. 7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti, and No. 9 junior Sofie Oyen fought hard on court two to defeat No. 30 Zoe De Bruycker 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. UF’s loss on Sunday at No. 4 Duke was its first in over a year’s time. By taking down the Tar Heels on Monday, the Gators avoided falling in consecutive matches for the first time in three years.

» Former Florida guard Matt Walsh, who signed a deal with Spirou Charleroi of Belgium in August 2012, told OGGOA on Monday that his contract has been purchased by Brose Baskets of Bamberg, Germany. The three-time defending German champions play in the Euroleague and are hoping Walsh helps push them to a fourth-straight title.

» Despite multiple reports pointing to the contrary, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Friday said he has “no intent” of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Harvin raised concerns about Minnesota’s offense (and how he was not utilized much) prior to the 2012 season and reportedly got into an explosive verbal argument with head coach Leslie Frazier during the season. While it does look like he and the Vikings will split ways, multiple players have come out in his defense and expressed their desire to see him return to the team. The latest to do so is quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he “obviously” wants Harvin to return because “he’s a tremendous player” and “a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general.” Ponder told KFAN in Minneapolis, MN that he and Harvin have a good relationship and “spent some extra time together” working on their on-field chemistry during the last offseason.

Read 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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SIX BITS: NBA All-Stars, Dunker’s legal status, Brissett, Quinn, Hilliard, players drafted

1 » Final balloting for the fan vote for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game was released on Thursday evening and none of the players initially selected for the game were former Florida Gators. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (230,796 votes) finished seventh in Eastern Conference frontcourt balloting. Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (165,875) checked in 10th in Western Conference frontcourt balloting with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (144,697) finishing 15th. The top three frontcourt players from each conference automatically became starters for their respective teams. The 30 NBA head coaches will vote for a total of 14 players – seven in each conference – to fill out the benches. Those reserves will be announced on Jan. 24 with Noah and Lee both expected to be chosen. Noah is averaging career-highs in points (12.4), assists (4.1), blocks (2.0), steals (1.3), minutes (38.4) and free throw shooting (.800) while also registering 10.7 rebounds per game. Lee is averaging 19.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists while playing a career-high 37.5 minutes.

2 » Arrested on Wednesday for third-degree felony grand theft of a motor vehicle and second-degree misdemeanor driving with a suspended license, Florida freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker entered an Alachua County Court on Thursday morning and was eventually released on his own recognizance. Dunker, via his attorney Huntley Johnson, denied stealing the scooter that was reported stolen. “His position is he paid $600 for the scooter and I’m prepared to represent him on that basis,” Johnson told the judge, according to The Gainesville Sun. The State Attorney’s Office has yet to file formal charges against Dunker as it is still reviewing the case. He remains on the Gators football team as of press time, but head coach Will Muschamp is expected to address the player’s status on Friday at noon.

Read four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NBA All-Stars, Dunker’s legal status, Brissett, Quinn, Hilliard, players drafted

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Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

Growing up watching his father play professional football, Ran Carthon found a passion for the game and knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s profession but blaze his own path to glory. So when his family moved from Osceola, AR to Key West, FL and he began playing high school football, Carthon hoped to be recognized for his efforts on the field rather than his father’s famous last name.

He received that recognition from the Florida Gators and committed to wear orange and blue throughout his college career. After working hard to earn time on the field and being given a second chance to shine under head coach Ron Zook, Carthon led Florida in rushing in 2003 with 595 yards and six touchdowns (he also caught 21 balls for 185 yards and another score).

He played in 48 games with 11 starts over his career, running for over 1,300 yards on 270 carries and scoring 12 total touchdowns.

Now a professional scout with the Atlanta Falcons, “The Mayor” (a nickname he was given in college for knowing everyone in Gainesville, FL) is not only still involved in football but also constantly working on ways to give back to the community.

Carthon sat down with OGGOA last week for a 45-minute exclusive interview that touches on his life growing up, advice for recent Gators commits, time at Florida, playing in the NFL and the newest charitable venture he is involved in, the Florida Players Network.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it like playing high school football in Key West? Did you find it was hard to get recognized?
RAN CARTHON: “Living in Key West was awesome and amazing; we had a lot of community support. Kind of like most football stories you hear, it was a small town community that really rallies around their high school sports. In terms of being recognized, honestly it was something we never thought about. We played a lot of Miami schools – and those schools had talented players – so we knew if we wanted to get on scholarship that we had to dominate those guys in order to get our recognition.”

AS: Did you feel any added pressure either living your life as the son of a well-known NFL player (New York Giants and Super Bowl-winning fullback Maurice Carthon)?
RC: “For me it was always like I wanted to create my own identity. Earlier on I fought against everything you read about – ‘son of former Giants player’ – and I wanted to establish myself and let people know that I can play this game. That was the initial thing. As I got older, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. My dad is who he is and my talents would be recognized because of him because of the gene pool. After a few years, I gave up on that fight.”

AS: Florida has Bryan Cox, Jr. committed for 2012 and just earned a verbal pledge from Kelvin Taylor. Do you have any advice for those guys on how to live and play in the “shadow” of their respective fathers?
RC: “I would just say be who you are. The player that you are has gotten you to this point, gotten you recognized by elite schools. I’ve been following Kelvin since his eighth grade year as a senior at Glades Day. I’m very familiar with him and that’s just more so because of how much of a fan I was of Fred [Taylor]. Fred and Terry Jackson were probably two of the main reasons why I selected to go to UF. I thought under [Steve] Spurrier they were allowed to show everything they could do as backs. I had offers from schools that were predominately running the ball, but I felt like I was more versatile than that. For those guys – Bryan Cox, Jr. and Kelvin Taylor – those guys need to embrace who their father is but at the same time continue to do what got them to where they are.”

Read the rest of our interview with Ran Carthon…after the break!
Continue Reading » Ran Carthon: “I never run away from competition.”

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FOUR BITS: Drayton, Hilliard, Dwyer, O’Day

1 » Florida Gators running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton, a native of Cleveland, OH, will leave the team to take the wide receivers coach job with the Ohio State Buckeyes as early as next week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has confirmed. One of three assistants retained by new head coach Will Muschamp when he took over the program in early January, Drayton has almost exclusively coached running backs since 1993 and spent four years with the Gators (2005-07, 2010). He will likely coordinate the Buckeyes’ recruiting for the state of Florida, a job held by the team’s preceding wide receivers coach. Drayton was on Florida’s staff when they defeated Ohio State and captured the National Championship in 2006.

UPDATE: UF has released the following statement on Drayton’s status: “Coach Muschamp is on the road recruiting and our coaching staff remains intact at this time.”

2 » Former Gators wide receiver Ike Hilliard, a 12-year NFL veteran who officially retired last July by signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants, will join the Miami Dolphins as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach. The No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Hilliard racked up 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns over his professional career. He has coached receivers for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL since 2009. Hilliard was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and consensus first-team All-American in 1996, the year the Gators won their first title. He was only at the University Florida for three seasons, declaring for the draft as a junior after collecting 126 receptions for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns. His 2,214 career yards are good for seventh-most in team history, while his 29 career scores rank him second overall. Hilliard also holds the UF record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game (four vs. Tennessee in 1995).

3 » Though it is looking more and more like four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) will eventually head elsewhere, he is still considering traveling to Florida for his last official visit (his other choice would be Miami). Either way, Dwyer High School head football coach Jack Daniels isn’t sure Brissett, or four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) – who the Gators are also recruiting heavily – will announce their commitments on or before National Signing Day. “I think at best it’s 50-50,” Daniels told ESPN’s Jamie Newberg. “We are going to sit down [Wednesday], have lunch and talk about it. I don’t think they will be ready. We need to talk about it and try and get a feel for where they are both at.”

Brissett and Maggitt both have Florida and Wisconsin in common as schools they are considering; the former is also weighing offers from Miami and Washington, while the latter has Tennessee vying for his services as well. The goal is for both players to commit on or before Feb. 2, if possible. “I am not going to make them do it if they are not ready but it’s not looking that good,” Daniels said. “When they get back for this weekend’s visits we need to sit down and work it out if we can.”

4 » Former Gators pitcher Darren O’Day has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Texas Rangers. O’Day, a reliever for Texas during their World Series run, posted a 6-2 record with a 2.03 ERA in 2010 and has been with the club since 2009.

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WR Ike Hilliard signs with Giants, retires

Former Florida Gators star and 12-year NFL veteran wide receiver Ike Hilliard will retire from football Friday after signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants.

The No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Hilliard racked up 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns over his professional career while playing eight seasons for the Giants and four for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He last stepped on the NFL gridiron in 2008 and has since been working as a wide receivers coach with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL.

At Florida, Hilliard was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and consensus first-team All-American in 1996, the year the Gators won their first National Championship. He was only at the University Florida for three seasons, declaring for the draft as a junior after collecting 126 receptions for 2,214 yards and 29 touchdowns.

His 2,214 career yards are good for seventh-most in team history, while his 29 career scores rank him second overall. Hilliard also holds the UF record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game (four vs. Tennessee in 1995).

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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TWO BITS: Ingram’s return, Rivers’ planned visits

1 » Last week, former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram opened up to the Philadelphia Enquirer about his recovery from a second ACL surgery and ambition about returning to the practice field for the Philadelphia Eagles. Thursday, he spoke with the Associated Press about the same subject. “Any time you get hurt, suffer a major injury, it’s going to be tough,” Ingram said. “When it’s the same injury, the same part of your body, it’s tougher. [It was] terrible, just terrible. But what could I do, except rehab, and work hard to get back.” Ingram now says he is 100 percent healthy and is practicing at full speed. “It feels great,” he said. “Mentally, you have to get that confidence back; you have to learn to trust your knee. It’s scary, because it’s always in the back of your mind, especially when it’s happened twice. But right now I have the confidence. I’m ready to go. I couldn’t wait to get back on the field here. Now, I can’t wait to get to training camp.”

2 » In his latest Dime Magazine hoop diary, five-star 2011 guard recruit and former Gators commitment Austin Rivers once again discusses his recruitment. “I still keep in touch with Coach K at Duke and Coach [Billy] Donovan at Florida,” Rivers said in the middle of the piece. “I only get five official visits so I want to definitely go back to Duke. I’ve got to go to UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida, too.” Previously, Rivers had not mentioned taking an official visit to Florida, seemingly because he knew the program so well. Apparently that has changed.

Extra Bit » Former Gators and NFL star Ike Hilliard has been named the wide receivers coach of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers according to a press release from the league. He was a volunteer assistant coach on the team last season and was recently hired to a full-time position by new Tuskers head coach Jay Gruden.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wilcox/The Gainesville Sun

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