Florida Gators football’s tumultuous offseason

The 2013 offseason started out relatively calm and normal for the Florida Gators football program with some players deciding to leave school early to play professionally and others choosing to try their luck at another university. Suddenly, starting on Jan. 10, a string of arrests, poor decisions, injuries and negative headlines began taking over the spring and summer for the Gators. Below is a timeline* of one of the most bizarre and controversial offseasons in Florida football history.

* While all of the news below was sour for Florida or its players in one way or another, obviously some of the occurrences (arrests, suspensions) are significantly more egregious than others (players transferring, coaches leaving). The standout, headline-making stories that either painted the program in a negative light or were exceptionally newsworthy during the summer are highlighted in red.

Luckily for Gators fans, with fall practice officially opening on Friday and the 2013 college season exactly one month away, the offseason is now over.

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SIX NFL BITS: Tebow, Reed, Thompson, Andrews

1 » As part of a story on former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in the June issue of ESPN The Magazine, author David Fleming notes that members of the player’s “camp [are] privately admitting that his NFL run is probably over.” Shortly after the story was released online, members of Tebow’s “camp” began the damage control. “It’s not true,” a source told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Added his father Bob Tebow: “You are old enough to not believe all your hear.” Someone else in Tebow’s stable told USA Today’s Mike Garafolo, in the writer’s words, that “Tebow isn’t ready to give up, retire or look to head to the Canadian Football League or Arena Football League.” While these reports provide a different angle than Fleming portrayed, none actually refute what the source in Tebow’s camp told Fleming. Tebow may have every intention of continuing his NFL career but that does not mean those in his camp are forced to vehemently believe that he will actually wind up receiving another opportunity from a team.

2 » New Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed has not yet participated in a team practice, despite being under contract, and is unlikely to do so before training camp convenes in three weeks. Reed is still recovering from a left leg injury and feels the appendage is not strong enough yet to go full-speed on at this time. “[The trainer] has been helping me out a lot. I’m getting stronger, getting my muscle back. That’s all I really need to do: get my muscle back and I’ll be all set,” he told Comcast SportsNet. Reed explained that a thigh contusion he suffered at Florida led to a bone bruise in his knee, which is why he is currently missing practice time.”

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
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Dolphins sign Gators RB Mike Gillislee

Former Florida Gators running back Mike Gillislee agreed to a four-year rookie contract with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, officially becoming the fourth player out of Florida on Miami’s roster for the 2013 season.

He signed for $2.322 million with a $162,800 fully guaranteed signing bonus and will average $580,700 per season, becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

Gillislee is the fourth of Florida’s eight draftees to come to terms with the team that selected him in April’s draft. Chicago signed LB Jon Bostic on May 9. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins and kicker Caleb Sturgis inked deals with the Dolphins on Tuesday.

Gillislee was chosen by Miami with the No. 164 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, two spots ahead of Sturgis at No. 166 overall. The Dolphins will have an open competition at running back with Gillislee competing primarily against Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.

Though not a starter until his senior season, Gillislee made the most of the opportunity by racking up 1,152 yards while becoming the Gators’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns.

Being selected by Miami was the realization of a dream for Gillislee, who grew up rooting for the Dolphins. He also gets to play close to home in front of his family.

“The Dolphins were always my favorite team. It was always a dream, and now my dream came true,” he said. “I’m going to be closer to my family and I’m just ready to play football. It’s good weather to play football and everything.”

All three new Miami players will join former Florida center Mike Pouncey, who is entering his third year with the franchise.

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Dolphins sign Gators LB Jenkins, K Sturgis

Former Florida Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins and kicker Caleb Sturgis agreed to four-year rookie contracts with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday.

OGGOA has learned that Jenkins signed for $2.632 million with a $472,688 signing bonus and Sturgis inked his deal for $2.304 million with a $144,560 signing bonus. Signing bonuses for draft selections are fully guaranteed.

Jenkins and Sturgis are the second and third of Florida’s eight draftees to come to terms with the team that selected them in April’s draft. Chicago signed LB Jon Bostic on Thursday.

Jenkins was chosen by Miami with the No. 104 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Sturgis was selected at the bottom of the fifth round with the No. 166 overall choice.

The Dolphins believe that Jenkins’s speed, coverage ability, athleticism and upside were worth using their first third-day pick to acquire. At the time of his selection, he was the 11th former Gators player to be selected by the team and the first Florida linebacker picked by Miami since Channing Crowder (No. 70 overall) in 2005.

Sturgis became the 13th former Gators player selected by the Dolphins as he was picked just two spots after the team chose running back Mike Gillislee at No. 164 overall in the fifth round. Gillislee remains unsigned as of press time but should ink his deal with the team soon.

While Jenkins will compete for field time as a back-up linebacker, Sturgis will be in starter-or-bust mode as he goes up against veteran Dan Carpenter for the kicking job. Most NFL teams only carry one kicker on their roster. Though Carpenter had success early in his career, he struggled in 2012 and is set to earn $2.7 million in 2013, meaning Sturgis will have every opportunity to win the gig this summer.

All three new Miami players will join former Florida center Mike Pouncey, who is entering his third year with the franchise.

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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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Muschamp praises Gators drafted by Dolphins

In a phone call with the South Florida media on Monday, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp had nothing but extremely positive things to say about the three Gators selected by the Miami Dolphins on Saturday on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft.

“They got three great people, three great guys in the locker room,” he said. “Three really good, solid people and really good football players.”

The Dolphins started off the day by drafting linebacker Jelani Jenkins in the fourth round with the No. 104 overall pick. Miami sees Jenkins as a player who can contribute immediately on passing downs, and Muschamp agreed with that concept.

“Jelani Jenkins has got a huge upside as a player. He’s an every-down linebacker,” Muschamp said. “He’s an immediate contributor on special teams. But the guy can really run and play in space. He’s improved his physicality, playing blocks in the core. But he can play in every down, and that to me, especially the way the NFL is moving right now, as far as becoming a little bit more of a spread league, you got to have guys that are able to play in the box in two-back situations and have people spread you out, be able to play every down. And he can do that. He’s extremely intelligent, [a] hard worker and [has] absolutely no issues.”

Muschamp also explained that Dolphins linebackers coach George Edwards, who is back with the franchise after leaving in 2010 to take over as Florida’s defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer before leaving less than two months later to become defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills, is excited about Jenkins. Edwards coached under Muschamp when he was defensive coordinator in Miami under Nick Saban.

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Dolphins triple up with Gators, selecting RB Gillislee and K Sturgis in fifth round of NFL Draft

Round 5 – No. 164 (overall)
Mike Gillislee, RB
Miami Dolphins


Height: 5’11″ – Weight: 208 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior

Round 5 – No. 166 (overall)
Caleb Sturgis, K
Miami Dolphins


Height: 5’10″ – Weight: 188 lbs.
Age: 23 – Class: Senior (redshirt)

The Miami Dolphins sat by and watched for years as AFC East rival New England plucked top talent from the Florida Gators, a school located just four hours away from Miami.

The Dolphins chose to be spectators no longer when the franchise selected running back Mike Gillislee (No. 164 overall) and kicker Caleb Sturgis (No. 166 overall) on Saturday during the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

The two players join linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who was selected No. 104 overall by Miami in the fourth round on Saturday, and center Mike Pouncey (No. 15, 2011) on the Dolphins. Miami has now selected 13 former Florida players all-time including three in 2012 and four in the last three years.

Gillislee became the first Gators running back drafted since Chris Rainey (No. 159, 2012), while Sturgis was the first Florida kicker selected since Jeff Chandler (No. 102, 2002) and just the fourth in school history.

Though not a starter until his senior season, Gillislee made the most of the opportunity by racking up 1,152 yards while becoming the Gators’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns.

“I feel like I am a complete back. I feel like I can block, catch the ball and run the ball very well. I’m a good competitor and just being behind Chris Rainey I learned a lot. I’m just ready to play football,” he said.

Saturday wound up being the realization of a dream for Gillislee, who grew up rooting for the Dolphins and now gets the opportunity to play close to home for his favorite team. “The Dolphins were always my favorite team. It was always a dream, and now my dream came true,” he said. “I’m going to be closer to my family and I’m just ready to play football. It’s good weather to play football and everything.”

Sturgis ended his career at Florida as one of the greatest kickers in the history of the program. A two-time finalist for the Lou Groza Award in 2011 and 2012, Sturgis never won the honor but still went ahead and set school records for field goals made both in a career (68) and single season (24). He went 24-for-28 during his redshirt senior season and netted all three of his attempts from 50 yards out or longer.

“I couldn’t be more excited about staying in the state of Florida. My little brother’s with me (and) he’s a huge Dolphins fan. This was awesome,” said Sturgis, who was on the 17th hole of a golf course when he was selected. “This was a place I really wanted to go. I’m just ecstatic that I get to go here.”

Pouncey, who tweeted his excitement after Gillislee was selected, said he hoped that Miami found a way to pick Sturgis as well. He got his wish. “Wow that’s crazy I can’t believe I just predicted that,” he tweeted. “I will be handing out gator shirts to all my teammates this coming up week.”

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Dolphins choose Gators LB Jelani Jenkins with No. 104 pick in fourth round of 2013 NFL Draft

Round 4 – No. 104 (overall)
Jelani Jenkins, LB
Miami Dolphins


Height: 6’0″ – Weight: 243 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Junior (redshirt)

The third day of the 2013 NFL Draft got started relatively quickly for former Florida Gators as linebacker Jelani Jenkins was snatched off the list of available players by the Miami Dolphins with the No. 104 overall pick in the fourth round.

Jenkins, who left school a season early in order to try his luck in the draft, was chosen relatively high considering how much time he has missed in his collegiate career due to injury. Though his athleticism has never been a question, the numerous injuries he has suffered gave some NFL teams pause.

Miami was obviously undeterred, believing Jenkins’s speed and coverage ability were worth using its first third-day pick to acquire. Jenkins is the 11th former Gators player selected by the Dolphins in the draft and joins center Mike Pouncey (No. 15, 2011) on the team’s current roster. He is the first linebacker chosen by Miami since Channing Crowder (No. 70, 2005), second all-time.

“I think I tackle real well and I also cover real well. Those are both things that I know I’m going to get better at as time goes by more so,” Jenkins said. “I think I have a lot of ability. I have a lot of hope for the future knowing I’m going to get better. I’m looking forward to that.”

Jenkins suffered thumb, hamstring and foot injuries in 2012 and only registered 29 tackles (19 solo, five for loss) with two sacks and an interception as a redshirt junior. He averaged 75.5 tackles in the previous two seasons, combining for 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and seven pass defenses from 2010-2011.

The selection of Jenkins marked the fifth for Florida this season, the first time the Gators have had that many players selected since 2010 (nine).

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