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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Florida Gators 2013 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

OGGOA LIVE COVERAGE – April 25-27 – Florida Gators in the 2013 NFL Draft

Former Florida Gators are expected to come off the board quickly and often during the 2013 NFL Draft with the team assured of having at least eight players drafted over the three-day event for the first time since 2010. Florida has a legitimate chance to set a new school record with 10 or more players chosen from April 25-27.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting the Gators are just as excited to see where the players they used to watch on Saturdays will be playing on Sundays in the fall.

The fact of the matter is that few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft. Trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player on its board brings to the table differently than analysts do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, OGGOA is here to set your expectations for what should go down Thursday-Saturday.

» Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd will be the first Florida player selected but may fall short of being the highest-drafted player in program history.

Over the last few months no first-round player has seen more hype as it relates to his rise in the draft than Floyd, who started the process as a pick in the teens or early 20s and is now believed to be a consensus top-10 selection and the top player at his position in the draft. Most mock drafts heading into Thursday have Floyd slotted at No. 3 overall to the Oakland Raiders; a selection there would make him the highest-drafted player in Gators history, tying him with DT Gerard Warren (No. 3 – 2001), wide receiver Wes Chandler (No. 3 – 1978) and quarterback Steve Spurrier (No. 3 – 1967). However, there is no guarantee that Oakland will stay at No. 3 overall; in fact, multiple reports on Thursday have the Raiders preferring to trade back in the draft because the front office has so many holes to fill on its roster. Should Oakland move out of its spot, Floyd could still go No. 3 overall (to a different team) or may even fall to the bottom half of the top-10 depending what other moves are made. The only thing known for sure is that Floyd will be the first (and possibly only) Florida player drafted on Thursday and will be the first Gators defensive lineman selected in the first since Derrick Harvey (No. 8 – 2008).

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Jeremiah evaluates Gators for 2013 NFL Draft

Despite being incredibly busy this week, the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah sat down with OGGOA late Thursday night for a wide-ranging look at the Florida Gators available in the 2013 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, the device used to record the detailed conversation froze during the process of saving the interview and the content disappeared. However, detailed notes were taken so not all was lost.

Below is an abridged version of Jeremiah’s thoughts on most of the Gators that are expected to be selected at some point during the draft.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd
Projection: First round (No. 3 overall)
Analysis: “When I started the process of watching him, I thought, ‘This is a top-10 pick all day long.’ And then I picked up the phone and called a couple friends around the league that I highly respect. All of them think it’s a no-brainer, he’s a slam-dunk top-10 pick. He has the athletic ability to play the three-technique and get up the field. That’s where he belongs. I think he’s got NFL size, first and foremost. You have to like that about him. You’re looking for qualities that you have that are kind of elite qualities. If you’re picking somebody up in the top part of the draft, you don’t want somebody who is kind of good at everything. You want somebody who has some elite characteristics, and to me, his quickness is elite. He’s got quick feet, quick hands. He’s very nimble, athletic. I just love the way he can get around blocks. A lot of times guys get around blocks and they’re segmented in their movement. He doesn’t do that; he can wrap around blockers all in one motion. It’s not a two-step process. That’s stuff that kind of jumps out at you when you watch him. He’s got lateral range and can make plays down the line of scrimmage. I think he’s just tapping into what he can be as a pass rusher. He has all the tools. He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do.”

Safety Matt Elam
Projection: Late-first, early-second round (top 30 overall)
Analysis: Jeremiah said the main drawback with Elam, of course, is his height (5’10”) but that otherwise he is a fantastic player and prospect. In addition to being good in coverage, Elam can be put at the line of scrimmage as a blitzer and has proven that he can play nickel cornerback. Jeremiah loves him as a possibility for Baltimore but not as a replacement for Ed Reed. Rather, he thinks compares better to Bernard Pollard, another safety the team lost this offseason.

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Mayock high on most Gators in 2013 NFL Draft

In exactly one week’s time, the 2013 NFL Draft will commence from Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY. Florida Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, a consensus top-10 pick, will be in attendance but plenty of his teammates will be watching just as intently hoping to hear their names called.

The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, the featured analyst on the network’s coverage and one of the most respected draftniks around, is bullish on most of the players coming out of Florida and has given high marks to many Gators during his pre-draft evaluations.

Mayock believes that Floyd, who could very well become the highest-drafted player in program history if he goes in the top three picks of the first round, is the cream of the crop and has him listed as his No. 2 overall prospect.

“That tells you how much I like Sharrif Floyd. What I love about the kid is he’s a prototypical three-technique, a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. His quickness and ability to get up the field and disrupt the pass game is unique for a defensive tackle. If you can get a defensive tackle that can affect the pass game, you got something special,” he said on Thursday.

“He’s also stout enough to play the run. I’ve got him No. 2 on my board. I love the kid.”

Also a potential first-round selection is safety Matt Elam, who Mayock thinks will be selected in the 25-32 overall pick range. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he slid into the second round, but I like him as a first-round safety,” he said.

Mayock addressed Elam’s primary flaw, his height, which is the main reason why he is not a sure-fire first-rounder.

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