Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

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FOUR BITS: Johnson, Jenkins, Walker, Hill

1 » Florida Gators junior left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson, who has signed a professional contract with the Boston Red Sox after being selected with the No. 31 overall pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, was presented with the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award on Saturday night. Johnson became the first player in team history to bring home the award and added yet another honor to the numerous postseason recognitions earned by Gators juniors who will play professionally next season. He finished the 2012 season with an 8-5 record, 3.90 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 90 innings along with a .307 batting average and 41 RBIs.

2 » According to sources close to the team that spoke with Yahoo! Sports’s Jason Cole, the relationship between cornerback Janoris Jenkins and the St. Louis Rams (which selected the first-round talent with a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft) is “off to a rocky start because of a verbal pre-draft agreement” that is not permissible but is also not being honored. One reason why Jenkins has not signed his contract with St. Louis yet, Cole reports, is because head coach Jeff Fisher wants him to be financially advised by Lou Taylor of Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group while Jenkins and agent Malik Shareef seem “content” with the management team in place. Pre-draft agreements of this kind are not allowed as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, something that Cole reports both parties are aware of, but what appears to be one looks to be the reason why Jenkins is not yet an official member of the Rams organization.

3 » The No. 6 overall recruit in the class of 2013, five-star power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL) continues to be the apple of Florida head coach Billy Donovan’s eye. Not only is Walker an extremely talented player at a much-needed position for the Gators, he is also a local product and friend of current Florida commit five-star point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL), the No. 7 overall recruit in the country. Walker recently told SLAM Online that he plans to schedule seven visits and make a decision at the end of the summer. “My plan is to commit either right after this summer or towards the beginning of the school year; I’ve always wanted to decide early in the process, to get comfortable and just enjoy my senior year of high school without all the distractions,” he said. Many analysts believe Walker is truly between UF and Kansas; each school has a current teammate of his already committed. “Me and Kasey talk about [playing at Florida together] all the time, and to be honest, I would love to play with him,” Walker said. “Kasey is the truth – he can score, find the open man and create for others. It would be really good to play with him.”

4 » The AAU team that Walker and Hill currently share – the Florida Rams – made headlines on Thursday when it was one of four summer league teams officially banned from NCAA-certified events by the organization. The NCAA announced their ruling after it was determined that the Rams and three other teams had associations with a sports agency called ASM Sports. Though the teams will not be able to participate in events this summer, the players will retain their eligibility and be able to play as long as they join different teams or have their team recreated in a brand new form. Walker and Hill will both be affected by this, and it will be interesting to see if they find a way to remain together and continue playing this summer.

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FOUR BITS: Parsons, Beal, lacrosse, baseball

1 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is back in Gainesville, FL continuing rehabilitation on a partially torn right labrum he suffered during the season. OGGOA learned of Parsons’s injury on Friday and was told that he has already been rehabbing the shoulder for a month and is not allowed to have any contact until June at the earliest. He did not undergo shoulder surgery as it was not required by doctors. Houston plans to have Parsons, a 2012 NBA All-Rookie second team member, in action during their summer league games. He will likely participate in one or two contests and spend the rest of the time practicing and working out with his teammates.

2 » Just over a month away from the 2012 NBA Draft, Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal continues to be a hot name amongst scouts and front office executives. Not only is he almost cemented in to be a top-five overall selection, Beal is seen by many to be one of the three best players available and could go as high as No. 2 overall according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, who notes that his “physical stature and his ability to make shots mean he’s ready to contribute.” Continued…

NBA.com’s David Aldridge:

Beal, who finished second on the Gators in scoring last season, is the choice of just about every pro scout and evaluator I’ve spoken with, and there isn’t one of them who believes he won’t be taken in the top five or higher in June’s Draft.

“I’m not comparing him to Ray [Allen], but he’s the best I’ve seen since Ray in terms of being able to catch and shoot,” said an official from a Southeast Division team — who, indeed, just compared the 6-foot-3 Beal to Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. [...]

“He has a chance to be really good,” said a Central Division personnel man. “Super high-character guy, too. He can do a lot more than he’s shown. Works his tail off. Just all of the things you want. He’s like the flavor of the month.”

Said a Northwest Division scout: “He’s not tall, but he’s big and thick and strong. He has a lot of poise to him. I think he has upside. He didn’t have an elite shooting year, but it’ll get better. His stroke is good. It’s just a matter of taking more shots and making them.” [...]

“The one thing that hindered him was Boynton and Walker were chuckers,” said a Southwest Division scout. “I saw him against Arizona and I wanted Bradley to get (ticked): ‘Why don’t y’all pass the ball?’ But he stayed in his lane. If Bradley had played with a better point guard, he probably would have had better numbers.” [...]

“I think he can guard people,” the Northwest scout said. “He’s really, really strong, very physical. I think he takes it personally. He wants to guard. And if you’re going to play for Billy (Donovan) you have to have some of that in you.”

3 » Set to participate in their first Final Four on Friday, members of No. 1 Florida lacrosse learned earlier in the day that they had been awarded prestigious honors by WomensLax.com. The organization, one of three nationally that hands out awards each postseason for women’s lacrosse, named Amanda O’Leary the Coach of the Year, junior Mikey Meagher the Goalie of the Year and placed four Gators – Meagher, junior attacker Kitty Cullen, junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell and freshman M Shannon Gilroy – on their list of All-Americans. Cullen is the only player who was honored in the same way last season and becomes the first player in team history to earn consecutive All-America selections.

4 » Two members of No. 2 Florida baseball – juniors Brian Johnson and Austin Maddox have been named to the watch list for the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. Johnson (6-4, 3.88 ERA, .310 avg., 5 HR, 34 RBI) has done more two-way work than Maddox has this season, earning 45 starts as a hitter and 14 as a pitcher. Maddox (3-2, 12 S, 1.43 ERA, .265 avg., 5 RBI) has appeared in 28 contests as a closer/reliever but has only hit in 25 games with 18 of those coming as a starter.

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TWO BITS: Larson’s future, Johnson’s nomination

1 » Roosevelt High School head coach Lee Taylor, who has been teaching Florida Gators 2010 three-star forward commitment Cody Larson for the last few years, spoke with the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday afternoon about the player, calling him a “terrific human being.” Taylor told the Sentinel’s Jeremy Fowler that Larson is aware of his mistakes, has learned from them and takes the entire situation as a growing experience. “I think Cody understands this whole process will make Cody a better player and a better person,” Taylor said. “He’s a smart, terrific kid who does well in the classroom. Getting away and going to Florida will really help him move forward.” OGGOA’s Story

2 » Florida baseball’s left-handed starting pitcher and designated hitter Brian Johnson has been named to the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award watch list, according to the University of Florida. He is on one only 25 players to be recognized on the list and could receive it on July 2. Johnson, in his short career, is already a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week who is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 53 innings. In the batters box, he is hitting at a .385 clip with 10 RBI and a grand slam.

Extra Bit » Former Gators defensive end Bobby McCray, who won Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the New Orleans Saints, sat down for a wide-ranging interview with SportingNews. McCray touched on winning the big game, playing for defensive coordinator Gary Williams and what he would like to do when his NFL career is over.

Extra Bit II » Check out this video of Larson from one of his local news stations:

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