Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”

» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.

» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.

Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!

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DL Joe Cohen: “…we called it ‘confidence.'”

It’s been a long ride for former Florida Gators defensive lineman Joe Cohen to get to where he is now – happily married with a loving wife, three young daughters and plenty of football years ahead of him. From losing a best friend at an early age and going through the trials and tribulations of college to being surrounded by family and looking ahead while the NFL tries to settle a lockout that seemingly has no end in sight, Cohen reflected about the path he took to get to where he is as well as his hopes for the future. Celebrating his 26th birthday on Monday, Cohen is trying to get in the best shape of his life and continue his NFL career while supporting his family and doing plenty of good for the community.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Before deciding to enroll at Florida, you grew up with and were teammates with Reggie Nelson at Palm Bay High School. Did you two always plan to go to college together or was it something that just worked out that way?
JOE COHEN: “Me and Reggie, back in like the 10th grade, we made a pact together. We ripped a dollar bill in half and made a pact that we’d stick together through all the hard times. We both ended up deciding to go to Florida together. Florida was always an option, but it wasn’t always our leader. We took our visits. One weekend it was LSU, one weekend it was Florida State, one weekend it was Miami, and one weekend it was Florida. We really had to sit down and make a decision after all the recruiting was done, after we could sit down and think ourselves. Florida felt more like home. Miami was too big of a city, LSU was unfamiliar, and FSU was rebuilding with the school and football team. Florida just felt more like home. I felt like that was a place I could call home for four-to-five years, and it was close enough to both of our kids where we could visit every weekend if need be. That played a big part in the decision making, too, because both of us had daughters coming out of high school.”

AS: Are you and Reggie still close friends?
JC: “As a matter of fact, I just spoke with him this morning actually. He’s in Jacksonville working out at The Hit Center and, like me, waiting for the lockout to be lifted and see what the next move is.”

AS: Since you brought up the lockout, what is your mindset right now? How are you approaching the NFL lockout and, of course, making sure you are employed
JC: “Right now my mindset is back to college mode, getting back hungry, like a rebuilding process. I’m trying to get back to the athletic ability, size and speed I had in college with the technique I possess now from being in the league. Right now I’m training with my brother-in-law, a younger guy who just turned 20. He’s in there kicking my butt, and I’m trying to keep up with him. But it’s really helping me a lot getting that hunger back. Where he’s at now is where I was five years ago – trying to get to the NFL. He’s really helping me out a lot.”

Cohen also discusses head coaches Ron Zook and Urban Meyer, the 2006 national title team, his fantastic football camp supporting the James McGriff Foundation, whether or not student-athletes should be paid, and if he still loves Disney movies.

Read the rest of this interview – for FREE – on InsideTheGators.com.

» OGGOA INTERVIEWS: F Chandler Parsons | C Marreese Speights | LB Mike Peterson | PG Taurean Green | QB Tim Tebow | QB Danny Wuerffel | ESPN’s Erin Andrews | ESPN’s Erin Andrews II | DE Alex Brown | WR Percy Harvin | F/C Al Horford | WR David Nelson | QB Shane Matthews | TE Cornelius Ingram | DE Jermaine Cunningham | S Major Wright | LB Earl Everett | DE Justin Trattou | DT Terron Sanders | F/C Chris Richard | DE Lynden Trail

Photo Credit: Mark Serota

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CHOMPING: Why 2010 will not be a repeat of 2007

The 2007 season was arguably the worst the Florida Gators have played since head coach Urban Meyer took over the program in 2005. That is often what happens when a team’s starting quarterback (Chris Leak) graduates, it loses the majority of its defensive starters to the NFL Draft (defensive linemen Jarvis Moss, Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas and Joe Cohen, safeties Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith, linebacker Brandon Siler) and a few other key pieces leave as well (wide receiver Dallas Baker, running back DeShawn Wynn).

Considering the departures following the 2009 season (QB Tim Tebow, WR Riley Cooper, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey, cornerback Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Major Wright, LBs Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham) appear eerily similar (if not greater) to those that occurred before 2007 got underway, many might expect the Gators to experience a similar downfall. Perhaps they will go from back-to-back one-loss seasons to a similar 9-4 record, 5-3 performance in the Southeastern Conference and maybe even a bowl game loss?

Here is why those that think the sky is falling may be too reactionary…
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LB Earl Everett: “I’m ready to get back out there”

A true freshman starter, former Florida Gators linebacker Earl Everett was unable to complete his degree in four years. He left for the NFL but was once again met with roadblocks as he suffered injuries while in training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals and later as a member of the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad. Soon after, he had a successful tryout with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL but broke two bones in his leg just days after returning from the workout, stalling his career for the short-term. On schedule to complete his degree at the University of Florida and graduate this summer, Everett is all healed up and ready to head up to Canada for a second chance on a professional football career. Before he returned to Gainesville, FL, Everett spent almost 20 minutes speaking with OGGOA about his career and life up until this point.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What are you up to now? I know you are back at UF getting your degree. How is it hanging out with the Gators and seeing head coach Urban Meyer?
EARL EVERETT: “It’s always good to go back. Coach Meyer told a lot of us seniors, he always said, ‘Once a Gator, Always a Gator.’ We will always be tied to the hip. And it’s the truth. Every time I go back and see him, he [tells me] that if I need anything – any advice, a reference for a job – you can always call the coaches and they are there for us guys. Even though you are done, you might be done playing football or done with school, they’re still there. It is a family first program – that’s what it is.”

AS: Are you saying that you feel you are done at this point after your injury during tryouts with Montreal last year?
EE: “No, I actually might have a chance to play over in Canada next year with Chris Leak. I’m kind of looking forward to that. I had a few road bumps – like you said, you know – I got injured and got released from a few teams. Then I decided the next best thing was to go back and finish my degree since I’m so close. I’m taking my last two classes now, Summer A, and I graduate in August.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Earl Everett…after the break!
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