11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The New York Jets finally decided to bench quarterback Mark Sanchez after a five-turnover performance on Monday night. Despite the fact that Tim Tebow had been Sanchez’s back-up all season long, the team decided to promote third-stringer Greg McElroy to starter, leapfrogging Tebow and breaking a promise the team made to him when they traded for him in the offseason. When Denver was shopping Tebow and had equal offers from New York and Jacksonville, the player evaluated the situation to determine which would be his best destination. Sources close to the player told me at the time that Tebow chose the Jets for two reasons. New York told him that they would utilize him in a number of roles right away and that he would also get a legitimate chance to start for the Jets should Sanchez either be injured or benched. While the team did put him in occasionally as Wildcat quarterback and as a punt protector, he was barely used in the offense and never correctly. He was inactive the first time New York replaced Sanchez during a game and has now been jumped over by McElroy for the starting job this week.

» Sports Illustrated’s Peter King summed up the situation well Wednesday on Twitter: “I think what happened w/ Jets is they saw Tebow have some bad practices, then he wasn’t electric on early touches, and they gave up on him.” Putting it another way was ESPN’s Ed Werder, who tweeted: “Jets traded 2 draft choices, paid Broncos part of Tebow’s signing bonus, ignored Bronco performances, never gave him chance” With all of that being true, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian O’Connor went off on the franchise in his latest column. “The Jets used Tebow, and then abused him,” he wrote. “They used him to sell tickets and PSLs and steal a few more headlines from the local big-boy franchise that had just won another Super Bowl title. They abused him Tuesday by declaring that a seventh-round pick who has been inactive for 13 out of 14 games gives the Jets a better chance to do something they fail to do: win.” O’Connor also looked to Tebow’s record, noting that he was 8-4 last season before falling to New England in the playoffs and is 9-7 in 16 career starts, which included three with an interim coach and did not include last year’s victory in Miami when he came in for Kyle Orton. “How is he less qualified to face San Diego than McElroy, who has one moderately successful relief appearance behind him and who has eternal backup written all over him?”

Check out NINE more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20

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Florida Gators announce 2013 signees Hill, Walker

The Florida Gators officially announced Wednesday that two of the top high school basketball players in the country – five-stars point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) and power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) – have signed and submitted their National Letters of Intent to play for Florida beginning in the 2013-14 season.

Hill and Walker, each ranked in the top-10 nationally by all of the major recruiting services, are a huge 1-2 punch for the Gators as they look to replace at least three players who are set to leave following the 2012-13 campaign. The players are close friends and have been AAU teammates over the last few years.

“How they rank to the rest of the country, doesn’t really matter to me because there are so many things they bring to the table,” head coach Billy Donovan told Florida’s website. “Being in-state guys, I’ve had a chance to watch them grow over a three-year period and I understand what we’ll be getting. They’re athletic, with speed and quickness and competiveness. They both have a chance to have tremendous careers here.”

Walker is the first big man the Gators have signed out of high school since Florida added a trio of players, including center Patric Young, as part of its 2010 class.

“The best frontcourt players to come through here — the Horfords, Haslems, Bonners, Noahs — they could all really run,” assistant coach Matt McCall said. “And Chris Walker can really run.”

Donovan, a former point guard, is equally excited at what Hill (a former teammate of freshman guard Michael Frazier II at Montverde Academy) brings to the table as the highest-rated floor general signed by the Gators since Anthony Roberson in 2002.

“He’s just a presence on the floor. Great vision,” he said of Hill.

Most exciting for Florida fans is that Donovan and his staff are not done just yet. Though the Gators will not add another player as part of the early signing period, Florida is in the running for a trio of uncommitted five-star players including forward Jabari Parker (Chicago, IL), PF Julius Randle (Plano, TX) and C Dakari Johnson (Montverde, FL). The second National Signing Day is set for April 17, 2013.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, recruiting, Chaney, Wambach

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, with his team up six and the clock ticking down, took a three-pointer during a game Tuesday in an effort to eclipse 100 points and earn the fans in attendance a free Big Mac. Though his team was up a comfortable margin when he took the shot, Noah received a stern talking to from head coach Tom Thibodeau and said Wednesday that he regretted the move. “You have to respect the game because you never know what can happen in a game,” he said, according to ESPNChicago.com. “I just got caught up in the moment and I was trying to get the people a Big Mac. They really wanted a Big Mac [judging by how loud the crowd was getting] and I felt like, not only did I take the shot and miss the shot, we didn’t even get the Big Mac. Next time, I won’t take that three-pointer.”

2 » The Florida Gators’ 2013 basketball recruiting class is already filled with talent – two five-stars and top-10 players to be exact – but the Gators may very well add at least one more big piece before all is said and done. UF is very much involved with four of best players left in the class in five-star forward Julius Randle (Plano, TX), five-star F Jabari Parker (Chicago, IL), five-star center Dakari Johnson (Montverde, FL) and four-star C Joel Embiid (Gainesville, FL). In fact, as far as Parker, Johnson and Embiid are concerned, Florida seems to be in a very good spot for each. Parker visited the Gators over the weekend, Johnson reclassified to the 2013 class this week and has Florida in his top five, and Embiid on Wednesday night cut his list to three with UF making the cut.

Embiid is the closest to making a decision and will do so shortly. The Gators being the local team is certainly a bonus as is the fact that Florida has junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin on the roster and is recruiting his brother 2014 PG Mitchell Wilbekin. (Both are also from The Rock School, where Embiid is attending.) UF also has a connection with Parker, who head coach Billy Donovan coached and won a gold medal with over the summer, and Johnson, who is set to play for Monteverde Academy this season, which is where five-star PG commit Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) is currently attending.

Read the two more BITS (and an extra BIT) in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Noah, recruiting, Chaney, Wambach

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FOUR BITS: Tennessee, Parker, Sumlin, NFL

1 » As any team should heading into a big game, the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers are planning on defeating the No. 17/18 Florida Gators on Saturday. However, after hearing through the grapevine that fans are considering rushing the field should Tennessee break its seven-year losing streak against Florida, Knoxville, TN police have issued a pre-emptive warning. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which had a conversation with KPD spokesman Darrel DeBusk, fans caught rushing the field will be arrested and charged with aggravated criminical trespassing. Additionally, the school’s judicial affairs office will be notified of all arrests in a move “which could impact [students’] future with UT and their ability to attend any future special events and sporting events at the university.” What the school has decided to do in the event of a celebration – again, this is all being planned in advance – is to “bring the players to the fans” in the stands.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is not done with his 2013 recruiting class despite already receiving commitments from three players including two five-star recruits (and top-10 ranked players nationally). As I first reported on the InsidetheGators.com message board a few weeks ago, Donovan has his sights set on a handful of top players in the country and the Gators feel like they are in position to nab another big name. According to ESPNChicago.com, Donovan took the next step towards that goal on Tuesday when he met with five-star small forward Jabari Parker (Chicago, IL), the unanimous top-ranked player in the nation. UF is in Parker’s top 10 but is not necessarily considered a favorite for his services at this time.

3 » While Florida is getting prepared a new opponent this week, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin took what could be considered a shot at his opponent from last weekend. Looking ahead to his next game, Sumlin was asked during a press conference how he thought his team held up condition-wise against the Gators. “It wasn’t our team flopping around on the field in the second half,” he replied. Houston Chronicle beat writer Brent Zwerneman then asked Sumlin if Florida was “flopping around” due to poor conditioning or another reason to which he replied with an ambiguous “You were there.” The Gators saw 10 players go down throughout the course of the game with injures. While a few were serious and resulted in players leaving the game and not returning, the majority appeared to be cramps, which was odd considering the team practices in high heat and humidity in Gainesville, FL. Some (not necessarily Sumlin) have accused UF players of going to the ground to slow down A&M’s offense.

4 » In the first of two quick NFL notes, the Baltimore Ravens decided Tuesday following their stellar season-opening performance on Monday night to award undrafted free agent wide receiver Deonte Thomspon the starting kick returner job going forward. Thompson will be the second former Gators player to take over that job this season (Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey) and will be the third overall (Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin) who will be heavily relied on his team to find some success in the return game. Additionally, the Steelers announced Tuesday that right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who went down with an injury on Sunday and did not return to the game, hyperextended his left knee but is expected to be able to return to the gridiron for this week’s contest.

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FOUR BITS: Lochte, Bell, Parker, football on TV

1 » The 2012 London Olympics are just two weeks away and more than two dozen current and former Florida Gators student-athletes and coaches will be participating in the games. Swimmer Ryan Lochte, who will have multiple opportunities to bring home gold medals for the United States, recently participated in an ESPN The Magazine story about the “real games” that take place in the Olympic Village. Lochte estimates that 70-75 percent of Olympians have sex with fellow Olympians in the Village: “Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.” He also said he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities presented by living in the Olympic Village this time around (he had a steady girlfriend in 2008 and was faithful to her while in Beijing, China). “Now I’m single, so London should be really good. I’m excited,” he said.

2 » Three-star defensive back Tre Bell, who committed to play for Florida in April, put on a show at a camp held by Nike in Oregon last week. As you can see below in the video from FOXSports.com, he was all over the field making plays and even threw in a few Gator Chomps for good measure. Bell is not listed on either the Rivals250 or ESPN 300 as of press time but that may change soon if he continues to play at a high level.

3 » A five-star forward and the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation for 2013, Jabari Parker (Chicago, IL) recently released his top 10 on Twitter and included Florida in that list though he did mention that it was in no particular order. Also in his top 10 are Brigham Young, DePaul, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Stanford. Landing Parker will be difficult for the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan though it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Florida’s primary target continues to be five-star power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), the No. 6 player in the 2013 class, who the Gators hope to team up with five-star point guard commit Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL).

4 » Florida announced Friday that “an exclusive off-season special” on Gators football (featuring an interview with head coach Will Muschamp and “exclusive all-access footage from spring practice) will air Sunday, July 15 at 9:30 a.m. on Sun Sports. Also on television Sunday (at 3 p.m. – check your local listings) will be an episode of Havoline Football Saturdays in the South featuring former Florida wide receiver Chris Doering. Replays for the Gators football offseason special are as follows: July 16 at 4 p.m., July 18 at 10:30 a.m., July 19 at 6 p.m., July 25 at 5 p.m., July 29 at noon, Aug. 2 at 10:30 a.m., Aug. 16 at 11 a.m., Aug. 26 at 9:30 a.m. (all on Sun Sports).

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