1 » FOXSports.com college football columnist Bruce Feldman believes the Florida Gators face the third-toughest road to the 2014 College Football Playoff, only behind Arkansas and California. With Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State on the schedule – plus a rebuilding Tennessee and improving Kentucky along with a Vanderbilt team that snapped its 22-year losing streak to UF – Feldman believes the Gators will wind up facing up to five top 15 opponents by the time the regular season has concluded. As a means of comparison, the Razorbacks will take on Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and LSU with games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State peppered in there as well.
1 » Though the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to let the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs choose whether to offer EverBank Field‘s new cabana seating for the annual World’s Largest Cocktail Party, the schools have turned down the opportunity both for 2014 and the foreseeable future. The 17 cabanas, which according to the Associated Press can seat a maximum of 640 people, take up the space of 7,000 seats that Florida and Georgia would otherwise be able to sell for the game. The athletic directors for both schools prefer to have temporary seating added in that space rather than waste the real estate. “Our No. 1 priority is to have the same number of tickets available to our fans and we don’t have an interest in any scenario that reduces the number of tickets,” Gators AD Jeremy Foley told the AP’s Mark Long. Jacksonville removed 9,500 seats as part of its new renovation but should still come close to its capacity of 84,000 for the game.
2 » ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, after speaking with personnel throughout the NBA, listed Florida head coach Billy Donovan as the coach in the college ranks who best prepares his players to be professionals. “He runs a lot of pro stuff and integrates a lot of wrinkles,” a league executive told Goodman. “He has an innovative playbook. … He just gets it.” The rest of the 12-person list, in order: Ben Howland (unemployed), John Beilein (Michigan), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Bill Self (Kansas), Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech), Rick Pitino (Louisville), John Calipari (Kentucky), Sean Miller (Arizona), Tony Bennett (Virginia).
1 » The New York Giants on Monday officially waived former Florida Gators safety Will Hill just days after the NFL officially suspended him for the first six games of the 2014 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Hill, who tested positive for marijuana for the second time as a professional, has now been suspended for drugs thrice in as many seasons (once for a performance-enhancing substance after testing positive for Adderall). The Giants gave Hill a chance despite his character flaws, signing him to a free agent contract in 2012 (after he went undrafted in 2011) and providing him with plenty of avenues for counseling and help should he need it during his tenure with the team. New York was willing to overlook his first transgression in 2012 as Hill claimed he needed Adderall for his attention deficit disorder but was perturbed when he was caught smoking marijuana in 2013. Three suspensions were simply too much for the Giants to stomach, even if Hill did amass 115 tackles (89 solo), two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), four pass defenses, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in two seasons.
2 » Quarterback Tim Tebow has not played a meaningful NFL snap since 2011 but has not given up on his dream of playing professional football even though he’s accepted a new role as analyst for the SEC Network. “I’m training every day and feel like I’m the best that I’ve ever been,” he told The Tennessean. “I still love it, love playing, talking about it, and I’m just excited about whatever the future holds. Who knows what could happen? But I’m excited about it, though.” Tebow will return to Gainesville, Florida, on Sept. 13 as the Florida-Kentucky game will be featured as the host of his SEC Nation game day program.
1 » No. 18 Florida Gators baseball (24-13) smacked the ball around Tuesday on its way to a 7-1 victory and regular-season series win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (24-14) at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL. The Gators were embarrassed in a Gainesville, FL round robin from Feb. 27-March 2, splitting a pair of games with the Eagles, but came up big Tuesday. Junior catcher Taylor Gushue (3/4, 2 RBI, R) was one of six Florida players to drive in a run, and sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (3/5, RBI, 2 R) did his job in the batter’s box as well. UF used four pitchers to seal the deal against FGCU with junior right-hander Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, H) earning the start and victory. Freshman lefty Kirby Snead (4.0 IP, H, K) ate up the most innings, and freshman RHP Shaun Anderson (1.0 IP) closed the door. The Gators have now won three-straight and four of their last five games.
2 » Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow last week spoke at the Mississippi Coliseum as part of a fundraiser to help support Afghanistan war veteran CJ Stewart. Not only did Tebow himself pledge $10,000 and get four more audience members to do the same – meeting Stewart’s $100,000 goal – he also fielded questions about his life and football. Tebow said he hopes people won’t “talk about football when they talk about me in 50 years,” preferring his legacy to be “how I cared about people, and that I did something to make their lives better.” Seeing as he was in Mississippi, he also discussed UF’s loss to Ole Miss in 2008. “I consider that one of our biggest blessings,” he said, according to The Clarion Ledger. “We were a very talented team, but we needed more motivation. We went to practice in full pads that Sunday, and it was the most intense practice I’ve ever been in. So, thank you very much, Ole Miss.”
1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Andre Caldwell re-signed with the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, inking a two-year deal worth a maximum of $3.45 million to remain with the team. Caldwell was signed by Denver in 2012 when the Broncos signed quarterback Peyton manning and was not given the opportunity accomplish much his first season. Last year, Caldwell only caught five passes through the first 14 weeks before exploding on Dec. 2, 2013 with six receptions for 59 yards and his team’s only two touchdowns in a 27-20 loss to San Diego. He caught 12 passes over the final five games and was held without a reception in Super Bowl XLVIII. With Denver not expected to re-sign WR Eric Decker, Caldwell could have a greater opportunity to contribute in 2014.
1 » ABC is making the most of its subsidiary’s employment of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, according to The Hollywood Reporter, by having the Heisman Trophy winner sit in Friday as a guest co-host on Good Morning America. Tebow, who signed with ESPN in December to cover college football and be the face of the SEC Network (set to launch as its own channel in August), will join the Time Square-based show to discuss the forthcoming Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and his former team, the Denver Broncos.
2 » The highest-profile former Florida player actually participating in Sunday’s big game is Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has a penchant for stepping up when championships are on the line. Harvin was cleared to return to practice last Wednesday and will be full-go for the Super Bowl with head coach Pete Carroll saying the playmaker has looked “great” in practice. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey called Harvin “a dangerous man” on Sunday, “one of the most explosive guys coming off the ball” and someone who can “change the game.” Harvin on Tuesday declared himself “ready to go.” “This is what I live for,” he said. “I’m used to playing in big games since I was younger, whether it was in Pop Warner or the two with the Gators.” As a freshman, Harvin picked up 82 total yards and a touchdown in Florida’s 41-14 2007 BCS National Championship win over Ohio State. Two years later in the 2009 BCS National Championship, Harvin exploded for 171 yards and a touchdown in UF’s 24-14 victory against Oklahoma.
Former Florida Gators defensive end Jack Youngblood can generally be found in a jovial mood, enthusiastic to talk about his collegiate and professional careers, always willing to lend his opinion about a variety of football-related topics.
And while he once again had no problem sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics Thursday while on 740 The Game out of Orlando, FL, his tone became disapproving and bothered when discussing former Florida (now Ohio State Buckeyes) head coach Urban Meyer on the air with host Mike Bianchi.
Youngblood, a seven-time Pro Bowler and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee who is also a member of the Gators’ Ring of Honor and UF Athletic Hall of Fame, explained that he once considered himself close with Meyer but no longer sees the coach in the same light.
“Very much so,” said Youngblood when asked if he was disappointed with how Meyer left Florida. “When somebody tells me something to my face confidentially, I expect it to be the truth. When it turns out to not be the truth, that doesn’t sit you very high on my Christmas card list, put it that way.
“[He told me] several things – that character was the No. 1 thing he was recruiting on, that was the main thing he was going to recruit on, character. That didn’t happen. And then all of the stuff at the end of the deal, it got convoluted and ‘I’m sick’ and ‘I needed some time off’ and then ‘I didn’t take time off’ and ‘I’m doing television,’ which if it’s not more intense than being a head coach, I don’t know what is.
“There was just no consistency to me, from my perspective.”
1 » Florida Gators wide receiver Solomon Patton on Wednesday confirmed to OnlyGators.com that he has been invited to the 2014 Senior Bowl. Patton plans to leave for the game, which is played in his hometown of Mobile, AL, on Saturday along with cornerback Jaylen Watkins and guard Jon Halapio, both of whom will be participating in the game. Patton got on the Senior Bowl’s radar after hauling in a MVP award in the inaugural 2014 Medal of Honor Bowl over the weekend. In other news Wednesday, Halapio was announced as a signee of Paradigm Sports Management. Patton and Watkins are both being represented by agent Tom Santanello of Elevate Football.
2 » One of five former Gators back in Gainesville, FL this spring taking classes in pursuit of their college degree, defensive end Jarvis Moss saw his semester start off on the wrong foot. Moss late Monday night was arrested and charged with a felony for tampering with evidence as well as a misdemeanor for possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis after he was stopped near 900 NW 7th Ave in Gainesville. He was initially pulled over for running a stop sign, but the arresting officer smelled “a strong odor of ‘fresh’ cannabis coming from the vehicle” and “observed the defendant chewing intently.” Upon asking Moss to open his mouth, he identified “large pieces of cannabis … that he was trying to swallow.” Additionally, according to the police report, Moss “denied eating cannabis” after being read his Miranda rights but “did admit to smoking cannabis earlier.”