FOUR BITS: Harvey, Bullard on NXT, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Derrick Harvey has been underwhelming since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Having only compiled 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the league, he is taking the coaching staff’s belief in him to heart by shedding some weight and becoming a more athletic player. “I thought bigger was better,” Harvey told the Florida Times-Union. “Speed is better. You’ve got to be rushing all day, and you can’t be 280 [pounds] rushing in this heat. […] It’s all on me. I’ve got to perform.” General manager Gene Smith agrees. “I think a couple of things are evident out there,” he said. “He’s probably in the best shape of his life, and he’s lighter this year, so I think you’re seeing some quickness off the snap. And he has better bend coming off the corner. He has shown better flexibility, better quickness and has been better at getting to the quarterback than in any OTAs since he’s been here.

Three more BITS on Thaddeus Bullard’s debut on WWE NXT, 2010 baseball signees picked in the MLB Draft and Tim Tebow…after the break!
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TWO BITS: Gators in MLB Draft, Tebow vs. Rivers

1 » As they await their opponent for the 2010 NCAA Super Regional likely to be hosted at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, members of the No. 4 Florida Gators baseball team are on notice as the three-day 2010 MLB Draft begins Monday night at 7 p.m. Seniors outfielder Matt den Dekker and closer Kevin Chapman will likely be selected somewhat early in the process, especially considering it can go up to 50 rounds. Also poised to be picked at some point are seniors pitcher Jeff Barfield and outfielder Jonathan Pigott, junior second baseman Josh Adams, and redshirt sophomore pitchers Tommy Toledo and Justin Poovey. There are four other seniors on the Gators’ roster whose names could potentially be called. Unlike football and basketball, being eligible for or selected in the draft as an underclassman does not ruin eligibility; said player is not forced to hire an agent, sign a contract or leave school.

2 » Denver Post columnist Mike Klis took a different perspective on Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels’ decision to draft former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, saying he may be just what the team needs to finally equal or surpass the San Diego Chargers and their signal caller, Phillip Rivers. Here is an excerpt from Klis’ piece:

In Tebow, McDaniels believes he has a quarterback who can eventually match Rivers. Maybe not pass per pass, but play per play.

It’s too much to expect Tebow to keep up with Rivers this season. But maybe by 2011, Tebow can stare down Rivers and mix in 190 yards passing with a touchdown and 55 yards rushing with another touchdown. There’s the offset to the typical Rivers game against the Broncos.

Before he can beat Rivers, though, Tebow has to win over his locker room.

“When you earn respect from people, then they begin to like you, and then they believe in you, and then they begin to love you, and then you have a team that is united and cares about each other more than anything else,” Tebow said in a backroom session with The Denver Post. “And then you go out there and you play for each other, you play for your coaches and you win championships.”

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Tebow feeling growing pains at Broncos’ practice

As former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow progresses through his rookie practices and training camp, Denver Broncos’ beat writers and other media members following the young signal caller will be quick to evaluate his each and every move. This is what occurred Friday as Tebow struggled with some passes during practice but simultaneously showed flashes of brilliance.

Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette filed this play-by-play, singling out some of the more prominent mistakes Tebow made during seven-on-seven drills Friday:

Early in practice he missed receiver Alric Arnett, then a couple plays later threw way behind tight end Riar Geer. He had a pass tipped at the line that was intended to tight end Richard Quinn. A few plays later he missed badly to Quinn on a pass that hit the ground before it got to him. Tebow himself singled out another bad pass – a crossing route to open receiver Patrick Honeycutt that was behind Honeycutt and too low, and hit the ground.

Tebow continued to be a bit wild, missing some receivers by throwing behind or low or leading them too far. He did have some very nice throws, mostly on out routes – one of the toughest passes a quarterback can make. He had a fantastic throw to Arnett in the corner of the end zone that had great velocity. He called out a blitz at the line on one play, then calmly hit Arnett on a crossing route, showing he is starting to understand the offense a little.

Tebow recognized his struggles – as he usually does – and took them in stride. Extra scrutiny was on him Friday as only he and Brady Quinn (starter Kyle Orton was given the day off) were on the field throwing the ball.

“I was probably a little bit more happy with some of the reads,” Tebow told reporters. “I still got to get more consistent with some of them. Your accuracy comes when you know where to go and when to go to. […] Sometimes you’re still thinking, overthinking things sometimes instead of reacting and playing. I think that’s a big thing as a rookie. You’re trying to do everything right and thinking about everything. Am I doing this right? What’s he doing? How am I going to do this? Sometimes it’s just reacting and playing and playing and knowing your assignment.”

Regardless of Tebow’s early issues, head coach Josh McDaniels takes them in stride, remaining confident in his abilities and even going as far as to release the team’s previous third-string QB, Tom Brandstater, from his contract Friday.

“No issues, none at all in terms of [Tebow’s] arm strength, velocity, anything like that,” McDaniels said. “Time is progressing well in terms of understanding what the offense is asking him to do. No issues in terms of calling the plays in the huddle or communicating with his teammates and what he wants from them.

“Right now, until you understand exactly what’s going on every play, until you have your head and eyes in the right place in every snap as a quarterback playing in our system – or any other system at this level – it’s hard to consistently look the right way. There’s certainly a bunch of good plays, and there’s some other ones where we have to work hard to get him right. That’s what we’re doing, that’s what he’s doing.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Tebow participates in first OTA, reporters flock

With his first NFL minicamp in the rear view mirror, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow returned to Denver, CO, Monday for his first set of organized team activities (OTA) with the Denver Broncos at their Dove Valley facility.

There were “42 local and national media” at the Broncos’ first open OTA with a lot of attention paid to the four quarterbacks, according to Denver’s vice president of public relations Jim Saccomano. “Crazy interest in our OTAs which start today,” he wrote via his Twitter account. “Greatest interest I have seen since John Elway was a rookie.”

While some local columnists like The Denver Post’s Woody Paige continue to wax poetic about Tebow’s potential, others like ESPN’s resident gasbag Rick Reilly prefer to bash Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels for his decision to draft him.

Attention, hype and potential resent from teammates have never bothered Tebow, and he proved just that during a short media availability after his workout.

“That’s not something I can control much,” Tebow said. “I think something my [teammates] will know is how hard I’ll work, and my character and what I’m all about. So I don’t think that will bother them too much, to be honest. […] I’m just coming out here and playing football just like every other rookie. I’m just enjoying it and working hard.”

Tebow was listed as the fourth quarterback on the team’s depth chart behind starter Kyle Orton and back-ups Brady Quinn and Tom Brandstater. He threw less than a dozen total passes Monday and even took some time to toss the ball back-and-forth with former Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno.

Photo Credit: Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Peterson, Orton vs. Tebow, FSU wins

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson – now a veteran with the Atlanta Falcons, has taken on the roll of mentor with the team’s first-round choice in the 2010 NFL Draft, Sean Weatherspoon. Now 34, Peterson had a solid 2009-10 season (140 tackles) and hopes to continue to help both on the field and in the locker room. “I understand the business,” he said. “I want to help the team out. That’s what I’m all about. I didn’t come here to try and play 2,000 plays. I came here to try to win the Super Bowl. Whatever my role will be, I’m ready for it.”

2 » The Denver Post is apparently the “Kyle Orton needs to get out of here on way or another” angle now that former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has joined the Denver Broncos. Columnist Woody Paige insists the team needs to pull the trigger on a trade involving Orton because he is “not a short-term fix or a long-range fit for the Broncos,” noting that he is “an average quarterback who couldn’t start for 21 other teams in the league.” Better to see what they have in former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn and first-round pick Tebow, Page believes. Paper-mate mark Kiszla takes a similar angle on the topic, noting that Orton needs to get himself out of Denver as fast as possible. “[He] would have rocks for brains to start another game as quarterback of the Broncos,” Kiszla wrote. “He would be playing the fool for Denver coach Josh McDaniels. If Orton owns a penny’s worth of common sense, he has already quietly, politely and firmly asked for a trade to grant his freedom.”

3 » EA SportsNCAA Football 11, which will feature Tebow as its cover athlete, is undergoing more changes than just deciding to use one former player on its cover instead of many. According to Jon Robinson of ESPN, the gaming company has decided to further embed ESPN branding into the game, letting each contest play like it is a live network broadcast. Read more about some of the game’s brand new features.

4 » Speaking of ESPN, the worldwide leader has decided to create a bracket system in order to devise which college program has been the best pipeline for the NFL over the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, No. 13-seed Florida lost its opening-round match-up. Unfortunately for some fans, it was to the No. 4-seed Florida State Seminoles. Though writer Matt Williamson noted that the recent influx of Gators gives the team a chance to claim the title in the future, the past’s top five notable players (Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Walter Jones, Rohn Stark, LeRoy Butler VS. Emmitt Smith, Lomas Brown, Cris Collinsworth, Wilber Marshall, Neal Anderson) allows FSU to earn the edge. Check out the entire head-to-head match-up at the link above including summaries by Heather Dinich and Mark Schlabach.

Photo Credit: Jon Robinson/ESPN

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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Tebow makes rounds on Denver radio Tuesday

Now that he has survived his first minicamp with the Denver Broncos, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is, according to a radio show producer, back in Tennessee working out until the team reconvenes in a few weeks. To keep Tebowmania going throughout Colorado, he called in to two radio talk shows Tuesday morning, each interview having to be pushed back because of a personal workout.

With Gary and Vic of ESPN 1600 waiting for him to call in at 7:40 a.m. (MDT), his publicist moved him back to 8:30 a.m., eliciting the following joking banter from the hosts during the commercial break: “Jesus has him at 8:00, Mary Magdalene has him at 8:15, and he’s building an orphanage at 8:20.” Upon his call-in about an hour later, they told a producer off the air to “start a conversation with him…talk about rosary beads or something.” However, before he went back-and-forth with Gary and Vic, Tebow spoke to the guys with The Score on AM 1510 at 8:20 a.m.

After the break are some notable quotes from his two radio appearances:
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McDaniels: Tebow a pocket passer who can run

Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels loves working with quarterbacks. This was apparent during his time with the New England Patriots and even more so now that he selected former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

While some question whether or not Tebow can succeed as a prototypical NFL quarterback considering he used his legs so often in college, McDaniels is confident that he will be able to do just that, seeing his running ability simply as an added benefit.

“He will function from the pocket,” McDaniels explained to a few members of the media after the second day of Broncos minicamp on Saturday. “If he can do something out of the pocket, and he deserves to be on the field, that’s the biggest thing, then maybe that would warrant us doing other things. But he is going to get trained the exact same way the other guys are going to get trained.”

“We’re just trying to get good football players that can help our team. If he rushes for two touchdowns on a Sunday at some point in his career, great, that’s super. But that’s like if you have a [running] back who can catch passes out of the backfield and somebody else has a back who can’t catch passes. They’re not going to do the same thing, right?”

After two days of working Tebow out at Denver’s Dove Valley facility, McDaniels remains confident that the former Heisman Trophy winner is just as advertised, even mentioning that he was impressed with his ability to throw into the wind.

“He’s what we thought he was,” he said. “First of all, he’s a rookie. He’s made his share of mistakes out here. But his work ethic is what we thought it was.”

Considering McDaniels is as innovative as it gets when it comes to offensive play calling, fans should not be surprised to see Tebow on the field in 2010 during certain predetermined scenarios (short yardage pick-ups, goal line carries, etc.). However, it is important to note that those appearances will be indicative of Denver utilizing the abilities of a talented player, not them pigeon-holing him with a non-pocket passer role.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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