FOUR BITS: No. 1, Parsons, Spikes, Pouncey

1 » Combining the accomplishments of football and basketball teams nationally thus far during the BCS era, Rivals.com has listed the Florida Gators as the top overall program in the country. With 81 total points (44.5 from football and 36.5 from basketball based on their specific scoring system), Florida is 12 points ahead of the runner-up (Ohio State, 69) and out in front by 16 points over No. 3 overall (Texas, 65).

2 » Working his way up draft boards, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently training on the West Coast in preparation for the 2011 NBA Draft. ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford recently got to watch him practice along with a number of other prospects and came away impressed, bumping him up to potential first-round pick status.

Parsons really surprised me. I knew he was skilled and athletic for a 6-foot-10 player. But he showed aggressiveness that I just hadn’t seen at Florida. […] He showed the ability to take [Paul] George off the dribble to the rim, rise up and hit jumpers over George’s freakishly long arms and most importantly he made a number of spell-binding passes to [Malcolm] Thomas. Parsons’ decision-making in the sets was fantastic. So was his shooting. He was hitting just about every shot he took and showed range out to the NBA 3-point line.

3 » Taking a look at players who are “soon to be stars” in the AFC East, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson thoroughly discussed New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes’s future in a blog post on ESPN on Thursday:

Brandon Spikes is the perfect fit as the heavier take-on inside linebacker in Bill Belichick’s 3-4 scheme. Pass coverage — particularly man coverage against tight ends and swifter running backs — will probably always be a problem for Spikes, but what Spikes does, he does very well. This guy stops the run. And he stops the run very well. Spikes is a downhill player who is very quick to react. He does his best work between the tackles and as a fantastic take-on linebacker. He is also the ideal complement to Jerod Mayo, who is more of the athletic free-lancing type. Spikes rarely plays a bad game and is a model of consistency — even at such a young age (23).

4 » Choosing to workout up north with his brother and some of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, Miami Dolphins center/guard Mike Pouncey is trying to get in shape so he is read if/when the lockout is lifted. “I’m just doing offensive line drills with the guys, and I’ll be going down to Miami in two weeks to do that stuff with my offensive line,” Pouncey told the Palm Beach Post’s Ben Volin. “But I’ve been talking to Jake [Long], [Richie] Incognito and Vernon [Carey]. I can’t wait to get down there and learn from them.” Volin also spoke with his mother, Lisa Webster, who noted that her son is fueled by some of the shots he’s taken from NFL Draft analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, who say he is not the same caliber player his brother center Maurkice Pouncey has become. “It pisses him off. They’re so competitive,” she said.

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FOUR BITS: Elway, Haden, Pouncey, Spikes

1 » Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway continued to support Denver Broncos rookie signal caller Tim Tebow, calling for analysts and media to be fair when evaluating the former Florida Gators star on a game-to-game basis. “There’s just so many positives about this guy, and yet all the focus seems to be one negative,” Elway said on Denver radio Monday. “He didn’t get drafted in the first round because of his release. He was drafted in the first round because he has so many intangibles that you can’t coach.”

2 » Stepping into a starting role while veteran Eric Wright was on the mend, Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden worked with the first-team during practice all last week. But when it was game time, Wright resumed his role and Haden was shifted over to nickel back, a position he is still learning. “It just shows I’m starting to gain coach’s trust,” Haden said about working with the starters all week. “They keep putting me out there with the ones, so I’ve just got to keep getting better every day. I feel like I’m just getting better.” Head coach Eric Mangini agrees. “The key for Joe is to figure out a place of how he can help us and then to keep making his case to play more,” he said. “But those other guys, they’re making their case for him to play less and I think that’s a good thing because that’s competitive and you want that to be the situation. Nothing is given to anybody, it has to be earned. He’s working at it, but those other guys are working at it too and however it pans out, those guys will play.”

3 » Pittsburgh Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes rookie center Maurkice Pouncey has already won the starting job outright after two preseason games. “He’s no longer competing for the starting job at center. Give it to him now,” he wrote Sunday. “Pouncey is so dominant at the position that it’s not even close. He looks like a Pro Bowler after two preseason games. Not only does he block his man, he often blocks TWO men, getting one and then running downfield to obliterate someone else. The man consumes defenders.” Pouncey entered Saturday’s game during the second series, came back in for the third series and never left – playing through almost three full quarters.

4 » New England Patriots veteran linebacker Gary Guyton injured his knee on the fourth day of camp, allowing rookie Brandon Spikes to step in and get the majority of work as a starter next to Jerod Mayo. Now that Guyton has returned, his starting job may be gone for good, as ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss notes that Spikes “is getting starter-type respect” from coaches. Guyton is hopeful he can win his job back throughout the remaining few weeks, but Spikes is impressing everyone from head coach Bill Belichick to veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “He’s every bit the person I thought he was,” Wilfork said about Spikes. “Looking at the guy playing in college, he’s playing with that same mentality on this defense. He’s a hard-nosed, tough player who loves football. That’s exactly what he’s brought. That’s exactly what we need on this football team – somebody that loves this game and is not afraid to hit, tough, smart.”

Photo Credit: John H. Reid III/Cleveland Browns

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SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

1 » Asked his thoughts about the one-and-done mentality perpetuated by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan decided to reminisce about the 2007 season, when his National Championship-winning team decided to take the unselfish route and return to school to repeat. “I don’t know all the situations in terms of [Kentucky players] with their families,” Donovan said per the Knoxville News Sentinel at the 2010 Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings. “My situation was very, very unique. There was an incredible chemistry and bond. And coming off a championship, they also wanted to try and do it again. Three of the [starters’ fathers] were professional athletes. I think the one thing their parents talked to them about was that they would never, ever play on a team like that, and that the NBA would always be there.”

2 » Donovan also spoke about his passion for the Florida program and how he does not envision leaving anytime soon, citing how nice the Gainesville, FL, community has been to raise a family and build a life. “I’m in a unique situation,” Donovan said. “Florida’s been great to me. I still have a passion for it.”

Four more BITS on Brandon Spikes, potential conference realignments and strength coach Mickey Marotti…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Oh-Fours, Donovan, Spikes, SEC, Marotti

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TWO BITS: Pouncey, Cunningham rookie starters?

1 » Though Maurkice Pouncey earned major recognition as a center with the Florida Gators, his short-term future looks to be as a starting right guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team that drafted him No. 18 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. If you talk to Steelers’ starting left tackle Max Starks (also a Florida alum), Pouncey is already turning some heads. “Being that I’m such an established alum from the University of Florida, I’m going to be biased. So I’ll say he’s going to be great,” Starks told the Beaver County Times. “Seriously, Maurkice is a guy who’s come in with the right attitude. He’s a good kid. He’s picking up things and learning the system, although I’m sure his head is still spinning because he’s a rookie. But the most important thing is that he’s here getting a foundation. You can only imagine that once we get into camp and he puts the pads on and he’s had more time in this system, how well he’ll do.” Pittsburgh wants him to be the starting center – eventually – but would like him to get on the field as quickly as possible; right guard is where they need immediate help.

2 » Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com recently posted a New England Patriots mailbag covering a number of topics concerning the team including the future of former Gators linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes. Reiss projects that Cunningham will ultimately start at outside linebacker in 2010 opposite Tully Banta-Cain but thinks Spikes will have a rough go of it (at least in the beginning) beating out the two guys ahead of him for the opportunity to start alongside Jerod Mayo.

Photo Credit: David Silverman/New England Patriots

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Spikes comfortable with reporters, New England

Former Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes avoided doing interviews for much of his career as a student-athlete with the University of Florida. Now a professional football player and member of the New England Patriots, the luxury of avoidance he experienced in Gainesville, FL, is no longer available.

Spikes opened up to the media Friday about a number of topics including the flack he received for his 5.05 40-yard dash, his excitement about being with one of the best franchises in the NFL, the criticism he faced over eye gouge-gate during the 2009 season and his comfort level in his new surroundings with fellow former Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and tight end Aaron Hernandez by his side.

“I’ve got a little saying: It is what it is, but it ain’t what you think,” Spikes told reporters at Gillette Stadium. “That’s what happened. I feel like everything happens for a reason. I’m blessed to be here. Fortunately, the opportunity’s right here. I’ve just got to seize the moment. So I’m happy to be here. Great players, great organization, great teammates and winning tradition: That’s what I’m all about.”

His character and leadership shone through when he discussed his self-suspension after the Florida-Georgia game.

“I feel like a man, if you do something you should know your consequences,” he said. “I did it. I got caught, and I suspended myself. The reason I did that was I know little kids watch the game and when I was little, I watched linebackers [and] I tried to mold my game and I didn’t want little kids to think that’s how the game should be played. Emotion, big rivalry game, and it just happened. We were taking shots at each other. I did it. I got punished for it, and you move on from your mistakes.”

Spikes is hoping to earn a starting job on the inside in the Patriot’s 3-4 scheme alongside his former Southeastern Conference foe – Tennessee’s Jerod Mayo. He plans to hold this role while wearing his new number, 55, which was previously worn by both Willie McGinest and Junior Seau. No. 51 – his number with the Gators that is also worn by his cousin Takeo Spikes with San Francisco – belongs to Mayo.

“A lot of great linebackers wore [No. 55] and I just want to keep that tradition going, follow after those guys, and keep that legacy going,” Spikes said. “Big shoes; I like that. High expectations; that’s part of my game. I like the pressure.”

Though his number has changed, Spikes has been able to bring two pieces of Gainesville with him to Foxborough, MA.

“Fortunately [Cunningham and Hernandez] lived with me for a year and a half at Florida, so to see those guys, it felt like home again,” he said. “I’ve just been embracing those guys, putting a smile on my face and trying to get better.”

Photo Credit: David Silverman/New England Patriots

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Patriots add Gators LB Brandon Spikes with No. 62 overall pick in second round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 2 – No. 62
Brandon Spikes, LB
New England Patriots


Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 249 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior

Steadily drowning under intense scrutiny due to slow 40-yard dash times and concerns about durability, former Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes was thrown a life vest by the New England Patriots, which selected the him with the No. 62 overall pick in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

New England head coach Bill Belichick chose his second Florida player of the evening in Spikes, who will likely be slotted to line up next to former Tennessee star Jerod Mayo as an inside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 defensive scheme. He could end up spending a lot of time on the field with Gators teammate Jermaine Cunningham, who Belichick selected as an outside linebacker just nine picks earlier.

The first Florida linebacker picked since Brandon Siler (seventh round, San Diego Chargers – 2007), Spikes is also the highest drafted at his position since Jevon Kearse (first round, Tennessee Titans – 1999).

At the University of Florida, he was a two-time first-team All American (2008, 2009) and finalist for the Nagurski Award (2008), Butkus Award (2009) and Bednarik Award (2009) while serving as the undisputed leader of the defensive unit.

Spikes and Cunningham join former Gators running back Fred Taylor in New England.

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