FOUR BITS: Walk, Elam, Driskel, Kitchens

1 » Former Florida Gators center Neal Walk, the highest-drafted basketball player in school history (No. 2 overall in the 1969 NBA Draft), is featured in last week’s Sports Illustrated “Where Are They Now?” issue. In the piece, Walk discusses how vegetarianism and drug use affected his performance on the court and eventually caused him to get traded away from the Phoenix Suns. He eventually played in Italy but was arrested for drug possession and soon ended his career. Walk, who renamed himself Joshua Hawk in the 1980s following a spiritual journey, has been confined to a wheelchair for the last 26 years after being diagnosed with atrophy. He had the opportunity to return to the Suns shortly after retiring and remained with the franchise up until recently being let go in Oct. 2012. Be sure to pick up the latest copy of SI for a detailed and immensely interesting look at Walk’s life and career.

2 » After going through the 2013 NFL Draft process without an agent, Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam has decided not maintain his stance not to hire one and will instead negotiate his own rookie contract, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. The No. 32 overall pick in April, Elam is being advised by his brother, seven-year veteran NFL safety Abram Elam, who is currently a free agent. Matt Elam’s rookie contract will be a four-year deal worth $6.8 million with a $3.3 million signing bonus, terms that are already worked out under the slotting system that was agreed upon during the last collective bargaining agreement between league owners and the NFL Players Association. He plans to get the deal done before the start of training camp. Other Gators rookies unsigned as of press time are Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans.

Read two more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Walk, Elam, Driskel, Kitchens

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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FOUR BITS: Reed, Tatum, Mincey, Gilbert

1 » Despite signing a National Letter of Intent in February and expecting to be a member of the Class of 2013, three-star defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Scooba, MS) will not be joining the Florida Gators this season. Reed was hoping to obtain his associate degree from East Mississippi Community College in one year but is “roughly 25 credit hours short of obtaining” the degree “which is a requirement to enroll at an SEC school,” according to InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman ($). Most junior college players that transfer to four-year universities need two full years to amass the necessary credits to get their degree. Reed will spend the summer and fall at EMCC where he will complete his coursework and play junior college football for one more season. He should be able to join the Florida football program in the spring as an early enrollee with two years of eligibility left as a member of the Class of 2014.

2 » Is Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan primed to land his third big-name recruit out of St. Louis, MO? Hoping he follows in the footsteps of David Lee and Bradley Beal, Donovan has focused in on 6’6”, 180-pound Jayson Tatum as his next target out of St. Louis. Currently attending Chamindale College Preparatory School, where Lee and Beal both graduated, Tatum will be a sophomore next season and not able to join a college program until 2016. Nevertheless, Florida has already offered Tatum as has Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Marquette, Memphis, Missouri and Saint Louis, among others. He recently told ZagsBlog.com that UK’s offer was “really cool” because “Coach Cal is like a celebrity” though that may not be any indication of where he is leaning so early in the process. Tatum currently plays the one, two and three but is mostly a point guard at this time.

3 » Former Gators defensive end Jeremy Mincey signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012 but enters the second year of his deal having underperformed in his first. After proving to be a difference maker for the Jaguars in 2011 (eight sacks, four forced fumbles, 57 tackles), Mincey played more snaps in 2012 but finished with just three sacks, two force fumbles and 41 tackles. He explained to The Florida Times-Union that playing 70+ snaps per game wore him down, but he did his best every time he stepped on the field. This season, Mincey is in for some increased competition at defensive end now that Jacksonville has been able to add Jason Babin off waivers from Philadelphia. With Babin likely to start at one end, Mincey will be competing for a starting job, playing time and his contract as he is due $4.475 million (a jump of nearly $3 million from his 2013 salary) in 2014. “I can do a lot more this year. I’ve got a lot of good players around me. I’ve just got to embrace my role,” he said. “Trust me, I’ll findme a spot somehow someway. I fit right in. I can do it all.”

4 » Former Florida tackle Max Starks saw his nine-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers come to an end this offseason when he inked a one-year deal with the San Diego Chargers and became tasked with protecting the blindside of a quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger. As it turns out, Roethlisberger may not have to worry too much about the left side of his offensive line as another former Gators tackle, Marcus Gilbert, is in a competition with Mike Adams to win the job. Like Starks, Gilbert started his career at right tackle for Pittsburgh but is now looking to make the move to left, a position that is not only more valuable on the field but usually results in fatter contracts because of its importance. “Obviously, the left side is more important, the quarterback has to have trust in you,” Gilbert told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Right now, I feel really confident with what I have to bring on the left side in protecting Ben’s blind side. I know he’s highly confident in me, too.”

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FOUR BITS: women’s tennis, Tebow, Purifoy

1 » After falling short of a third-straight team national title, Florida Gators women’s tennis felt confident that its three singles competitors would make some noise in the 2013 NCAA Singles Championship, which began on Wednesday. Instead, all three Florida women lost their first-round matches and were eliminated from the competition. No. 1 senior Lauren Embree continued her tough week by being upset 3-6, 2-6. Just two days earlier, Embree suffered the first NCAA dual match singles loss of her career when she was similarly beaten in straight sets. For one of the greatest tennis players in school history, both results are shocking. No. 17 junior Sofie Oyen (3-6, 4-6) and No. 51 junior Alex Cercone (3-6, 7-6, 4-6) also dropped their matches; all three lost to lower-ranked competitors. The No. 11 duo of Embree/Oyen will participate in the 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship beginning on Thursday.

2 » The “Chuck Norris wears Tim Tebow pajamas” joke that was so often mentioned during former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow’s college days got the actor’s attention at the time. The two wound up meeting and becoming friendly. Now Norris (via the conservative-slanted website NewsBusters) is campaigning on Tebow’s behalf, questioning why he is not currently employed by an NFL team despite proving to be a clutch player. In this 1,075-word rant, Norris calls Tebow “a winner – plain and simple” while arguing that the two are very similar as people and that is why the Jacksonville Jaguars should be signing the controversial player.

I’ve heard the critics say Tebow has poor technical skills, but the truth is that Tim is a natural leader, an amazingly gifted football player, an inspiration to his team and the possessor of intense determination and strategy to bring any team to victory — no matter what the odds. One can improve technique, but leadership is innate. That is why I believe that Tebow could be a superstar and legend in the NFL.

Tebow is a player who rises to the occasion and delivers big in critical moments. He reminds me of myself when I used to compete in martial arts. I would spar with my black belts in class, and sometimes they would outscore me. Yet in the tournaments, I would defeat them. My students used to ask me, “Why is it that we can contend equally against you in class but can’t beat you in the tournaments?” My answer was always the same: “When it counts, I rise to the occasion.”

3 » Florida junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy is receiving a ton of praise heading into the 2013 season, especially from ESPN’s draft analysts. Mel Kiper, Jr. has Purifoy ranked as his No. 10 overall prospect, and Todd McShay believes he is approaching “top-tier” cornerback status. “FLA CB Purifoy (#15) needs strength and to improve [his] ‘off’ cover skills, but [he] has feet, balance, hips, instincts to become [a] top-tier NFL corner,” he tweeted on Wednesday. McShay has Purifoy ranked as his No. 19 overall prospect and also sees him making an impact as a punt return specialist in the NFL.

4 » If you have find yourself wondering what Florida’s sports nutrition program is like, check out this feature by Scott Carter, the senior writer on Florida’s official website, which profiles the program and Sarah Snyder, the Gators’ director of nutrition. “What can give you that upper edge if everyone is doing the same amount of practice time, the same amount of intensity?” Snyder asked rhetorically. “Hydration and nutrition come into play, and recovery comes into play.”

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17 Gator Bites for Tuesday, May 7

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.

» The relationship between Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels and the Florida Gators has soured. According to ESPN 106.3 out of West Palm Beach, FL, Daniels is angry that two former Dwyer players who committed to Florida but have since left the program (quarterback Jacoby Brissett and tight end Gerald Christian) did not get the opportunities they were promised with the team. “I’ve said all along, I don’t think he’s been given the fair shot which was said was going to happen,” Daniels said in regards to Brissett. “It was made clear to him, and to everybody else, that it didn’t matter what Jeff Driskel did, it was [Driskel’s] job and going into next fall, it’s going to be the same way. I think he had no choice. If I was quarterback on that team last year, I might have been able to get some wins, the way their defense was playing.” He continued: “The way Jacoby was handled and the decision that was made…if it was my kid, I wouldn’t expect anybody to treat my kid like that, and I don’t think anybody should treat anybody like that. I think it was a complete lie about how he was going to be given a fair chance and I don’t think there’s anything to dispute that there wasn’t a lie.”

Despite all of this – including similar comments about how Christian “was frustrated and felt like the coaches were lying to him” – Daniels (a Florida alumnus) said he will not dissuade his students from playing for the Gators. “I can’t hold a grudge forever and I still talk to Coach [Will] Muschamp,” he said. “I would never steer a kid away.”

» Former Florida wide receiver Stephen Alli was selected with the second pick in the sixth round of the 2013 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over the weekend. Alli, who would have been chosen higher had he committed to playing in the CFL next season, will instead attend graduate school and continue his education at UF.

» He may currently be a free agent hoping for the opportunity to continue his NFL career, but former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow received a shred of good news this week when Forbes named him the most influential athlete in the United States. “A unique set of QB strengths and weaknesses and an affinity for wearing his Christian faith on his sleeve combine to make Tebow a compelling public figure, even as an NFL backup,” staff member Tom Van Riper wrote.

Check out 14 more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 17 Gator Bites for Tuesday, May 7

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Josh Evans – Path to 2013 NFL Draft: Jacksonville

The 2013 NFL Draft is now in the books, and Florida Gators fans saw eight players – one shy of the school record in a seven-round draft – get selected from Thursday-Saturday. Safety Josh Evans, Florida’s leading tackler in 2012, patiently waited for his name to be called and eventually saw his dream come true late on Saturday when he was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 169 overall pick, the first of the sixth round of the draft. Below is Evans’s final entry as his Path to the Draft has finally come to a close. OGGOA thanks him for keeping his fans up-to-date on his experiences over the last four months in this exclusive blog.

The whole draft process was pretty crazy. It really is unlike anything else I have experienced or will probably experience again in my life. Though I knew I would not be drafted during the first round on Thursday, there were indications that I could go during the second day on Friday.

Personally, I thought I would be going anywhere from the third or fourth round on down. The Dallas Cowboys had actually called me twice on Thursday – in the morning and at night – and told me they were looking to pick a safety on Friday or first thing on Saturday. They wound up taking somebody else [J.J. Wilcox - No. 80 overall], so I just stayed humble and hungry and waited for that phone call from another team.

When I did not get selected on Friday, it was not a major concern. I wondered what was going on and how things would play out, but I kept my faith in God and figured that something good would happen. No matter what, I was going to make the most of whatever opportunity a team decided to give me.

During the fifth round, the Buffalo Bills called me and told me that they were interested. When they didn’t select me, the next team I heard from was the Jacksonville Jaguars, which called me about a minute before they drafted me.

As I wrote here last time, the Jaguars spoke with me and my agent three times over the last week, so I knew they were interested…but I did not know I would end up there.

When they called, they asked if I was “ready to be a Jacksonville Jaguar.” I said, “Absolutely,” and then my name popped up on the TV a minute later and then my family and everyone around me got excited.

Continue Reading » Josh Evans – Path to 2013 NFL Draft: Jacksonville

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Jaguars choose Gators S Josh Evans in seventh round of 2013 NFL Draft; Bucs trade for Demps

Round 6 – No. 169 (overall)
Josh Evans, S
Jacksonville Jaguars


Height: 6’1″ – Weight: 207 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Senior

Just moments after a pair of Florida Gators were selected at the end of the fifth round, safety Josh Evans received a phone call from the Jacksonville Jaguars as the team decided to make him the No. 169 overall selection – the first of the sixth round – in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Jacksonville had been after Evans for quite some time and even contacted both him and his agent on three separate occasions in the week leading up to the draft. Evans, who penned a Path to the Draft blog exclusively here on OGGOA, said he felt “a lot of love” from the Jaguars throughout the process.

“I just want to say it’s an honor and privilege to be in this situation and be a part of a great organization like the Jaguars,” Evans said. “I’m somebody who’s committed whether it’s special teams, defense, wherever I’m needed I’m coming out there to make the best of my opportunity, to go out there and be able to compete.”

Though Evans may have been overshadowed a bit by Matt Elam in the back of the Gators’ secondary, NFL teams took notice of his ability over the last few months. He showed out in a big way at the 2013 NFL Combine and earned some added attention with an impressive performance at Florida’s Pro Day.

Evans improved in each of his four years with the Gators and showed some promise as a junior after head coach Will Muschamp took over the team and began personally coaching the safeties. He played in all 13 games and made eight starts in 2011, ending the year with 51 tackles (fifth-most on the team), a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. He took an even bigger step in his development during his senior campaign as he started all 13 games and led Florida with 83 tackles (4.5 for loss), registering two sacks, three interceptions and three pass defenses.

“It helped me a lot,” Evans said of Muschamp’s tutelage. “Having those guys a part of my life my last two years at Florida really changed my career and it helped me for the next level as far as being able to anticipate certain calls and being in different situations at game time. Checking definitely on the back end with the safeties, pretty much being the quarterback of the defense.”

The eighth Gators player drafted by the Jaguars in franchise history, Evans is the first to be selected by Jacksonville since Derrick Harvey (No. 8, 2008) but the third defensive back that has been chosen by the Gators in the last eight years. Dee Webb (No. 236, 2006) and Reggie Nelson (No. 21, 2007) are no longer with the franchise. It is the first time Florida has had two safeties have been selected in the same draft.

The New England Patriots on Saturday traded former Gators running back Jeff Demps to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for RB Legarette Blount and a seventh-round draft selection. Demps, who informed the Patriots that he wished to run track and would likely miss at least training camp (if not a few games), was jettisoned by New England to the team that wanted him most as an undrafted free agent last offseason. The Buccaneers will likely give Demps an opportunity to contribute to the team though it is unknown how his track desires will affect his ability to make the squad.

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Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Meetings

Through the 2013 NFL Draft from April 25-27, Florida Gators safety and 2012 leading tackler Josh Evans will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Evans’s seventh entry covers his last two weeks, which included numerous workouts and meetings with NFL teams. There are only two more entries upcoming.

Last time we touched base was before I started taking private meetings with teams. The only team I had met with at that time was the New England Patriots and that happened at The Swamp. There was a meeting scheduled two weekends ago between myself and [safeties coach] Brian Flores where he was going to come down to Brooklyn, NY to meet with me but it never really materialized. We had an interview over the phone instead, and he told me that Coach [Bill] Belichick liked me and was going to watch even more film on me. They said they liked my film, liked how I played and that I was a guy they could see being a part of their organization.

That following Monday, I flew out to meet with the Cleveland Browns. It went great. I got a chance to see Joe Haden, and it is always good to see a former teammate in the NFL. He said he put in a good word for me and told the coaching staff that I was a good football player who never had off-the-field issues and could come in and contribute.

The coaching staff was really cool, very down to earth. It’s a whole new staff so they’re running a brand new scheme on both sides of the ball. I definitely felt a connection there with them as far as the defensive backs coach [Louie Cioffi], the head coach [Rob Chudzinski] and the defensive coordinator [Ray Horton], even the special teams coach [Chris Tabor]. They all showed a lot of love and interest in me, and I enjoyed myself.

Continue Reading » Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Meetings

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