13 Gator Bites for Tuesday, August 13

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.

» Over the last few days, some new NCAA-related products have been announced including scented candles from Yankee Candle and JELL-O with a jigglers mold kit. Both companies are offering versions featuring the Florida Gators, as you can see below. Pictures via Darren Rovell (ESPN) and Andrew Giangola (IMG)

» A new company has been started specifically to sell “collegiate fragrances.”

» The only Gators basketball player on ESPN insider Chad Ford’s first Big Board ($) for the 2014 NBA Draft is not even currently enrolled at Florida. Five-star forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL), who is hoping to be cleared by the NCAA in time for the spring semester, is descried as an “upside player” who is “blessed with elite athletic abilities and length.” Ford believes Walker will need to make the transition from the four to the three and play small forward in the professional ranks.

» Florida mic’d up new defensive line coach Brad Lawing during a practice last week. Scott Carter of UF’s website also wrote an interesting feature (Q&A included) on Lawing and how he is bringing “old-school ways to new adventure.”

Check out NINE more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

The 2013 NFL season is just one week away from beginning with preseason action kicking off on Sunday, Aug. 4.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the first full week of training camp from July 21-27.

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: His first full practice with his new team generated its fair share of excitement with some fans in attendance occasionally chanting his name. Though he is listed as the third-string quarterback – and therefore worked behind center in 11-on-11 drills during practice – Tebow also participated in drills where he caught the ball and attempted to break a tackle. In other words, New England may have more planned for him than head coach Bill Belichick wanted to admit initially. “I just do what I’m told and work as hard as I possibly can to do the best job I can with whatever I’m asked to do,” he said.

Comcast SportsNet‘s Patriots beat writer Tom E. Curran described Tebow’s practice as, in one word, “horrendous.”

After practice, Tebow was swarmed by the media and questioned about former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez. “It’s just heartbreaking and sad, and all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved,” he said. “I understand why you [the media] have to ask all the questions; that’s part of doing your job. Part of mine is listening to instruction, and we’ve been told not to talk about it.”

Tebow was happy to defend former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, however. “I feel like Coach Meyer is a great man, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of being around,” he said. “He is someone that not only tries to win football games, he’s someone that tries to invest in young men’s lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so close to him and why I’m proud of him.”

Read updates on more than a dozen other former Gators…after the break!

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Jaguars and S Josh Evans come to terms

Each of the two Florida Gators safeties selected in the 2013 NFL Draft agreed to rookie contracts with their respective franchise on Thursday as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Josh Evans came to terms on a four-year deal just hours after Matt Elam and the Baltimore Ravens made things official.

Evans’s rookie agreement was officially announced by the club though terms were not disclosed.

Based on the rookie wage scale set by the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union, his deal will be worth a total of $2.304 million with a $144,560 signing bonus.

“I just feel honored to be a part of the Jaguars and this new organization,” Evans told OnlyGators.com on Friday. “I’m excited to get down to Jacksonville and compete. I’m also excited for my first training camp as a professional.”

Evans was selected by Jacksonville with the No. 169 overall selection – the first pick in the sixth round – of the draft in April. The Jaguars viewed him as one of the best safeties in the draft and actually had a much higher draft grade on him.

He is the eighth Florida player drafted by Jacksonville in franchise history and the first since the Jaguars took Derrick Harvey (No. 8 – 2008). Evans is also the third Gators defensive back chosen by the team in the last eight seasons, following Dee Webb (No. 236 – 2006) and Reggie Nelson (No. 21 – 2007).

Evans joins former Florida defensive end Jeremy Mincey on Jacksonville’s roster and is expected to officially sign his contract on Monday. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was once a graduate assistant with the Gators.

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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!

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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!
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