Gator Bites for Thursday, January 12th

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.

» In a poll conducted by ESPN and calculated monthly, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow topped the December list as the United States’ favorite athlete. Tebow is “just the sixth different athlete to finish No. 1 in the monthly rankings since 2007” and, in the 18 years of the poll, only 11 different athletes have ever held that distinction.

» In addition to the Top 10 list OGGOA posted Wednesday from CBS’s the Late Show with David Letterman, Tebow was also brought up on TBS’s Conan. Host Conan O’Brien, claiming he was absent the budget to air actual game footage, had his staff put together a recreation of his game-winning play from Sunday…with peanuts replacing the players.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, January 12th

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FOUR BITS: Tebow 3:16, top 25s, Azzanni, Weis

1 » One of the most famous moments in professional wrestling history actually occurred outside of the ring as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was being coronated King of the Ring in 1996. As he was being interviewed, Austin caught a glimpse of a John 3:16 sign in the crowd and spouted, “You talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16, Austin 3:16 says I just whopped your ass!” The “Austin 3:16” phrase immediately became a hit in what is now known as WWE and spawned signs from fans, T-shirt sales and plenty of other merchandise. With Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow throwing for exactly 316 yards and averaging 31.6 yards per completion on Sunday against Pittsburgh (the final quarter-hour rating of the game was also a 31.6 overnight), Austin was asked by TMZ if he minded that it was being used with Tebow nowadays. “Austin 3:16 still rules,” he told the website. “If Tebow can throw for 316 yards again this weekend then hell, he can have the numbers and I’ll have no problem with it. A guy named John was using it before me so if Tebow can do it again, more power to him! I wish him all the luck in the world. [...] I’m not a Denver fan but Tim’s a great role model for kids.”

2 » In the final USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll of the 2011-12 season, the Florida Gators earned a single vote, meaning the team was listed at No. 25 by one participating coach. The final rankings had Alabama as the unanimous No. 1 (59 first-place votes), four Southeastern Conference teams in the top eight and eight SEC teams receiving at least one vote. Missouri and Texas A&M, the two teams joining the conference next year, each received votes though neither finished in the top 25. The Associated Press Top 25 had Alabama as the overwhelming No. 1 (55 of 60 first-place votes) with LSU in second (one first-place vote) and Oklahoma State in third (four first-place votes). Four SEC teams were ranked in the top nine and six received votes with Auburn the only one unranked. Missouri got 23 votes in the AP poll, but Texas A&M did not receive any.

3 » Former Gators wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who was on the staff for just the final year under head coach Urban Meyer, has spent the past season as offensive coordinator and WR coach at Western Kentucky. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Azzanni is a top candidate to take over as WR coach for Wisconsin if head coach Bret Bielema has his way. “One of the [offensive coordinator] candidates knows Azzanni and would be fine with him as receivers coach,” the paper reports. “The other candidate doesn’t know Azzanni personally but would likely be on board with the hire.”

4 » Speaking of former Florida coaches, ex-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who has taken over as head coach with the Kansas Jayhawks, has pulled two more Gators onto his staff. Weis announced Monday that he has hired former Florida graduate assistant Adam Sitter as director of high school relations and former Gators defensive quality control coach Scott Vestal as assistant director of football operations. He also plucked former Gators assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Holsopple, who was named director of strength and conditioning with the Jayhawks last week.

Extra BIT » The artist who wrote and sang “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion),” a song that became popular in 1985, rewrote the single in Oct. 2011 due to being inspired by Tebow and what he was doing with the Broncos. John Parr told FOX31 Denver on Monday that he chose to do so in order to “honor…the way he lives his life as being a great example.” Though a studio version of the song has been available for a while, it is new to OGGOA, so feel free to listen to it below. (Thanks to reader Ajay for the heads-up.)

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FOUR BITS: Bell, Sturgis, Harvin, Fedora

1 » Minutes after the Kansas Jayhawks announced that they had hired Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as their next head coach, fans and media members began pointing to Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell as a frontrunner to replace Weis at Florida. Bell spoke with The Gainesville Sun Thursday evening about the possibility. “Naturally, the University of Florida is my alma mater,” he told the paper. “It’s something I’ve always said I’d like to do. I love being a head coach. It would have to be the right place [for me to leave Jacksonville], and Florida is the right place. Will Muschamp has a personality that seems like a guy who would be great to work with. I definitely would be interested in listening. It would be great to come back.”

2 » Gators redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was a finalist but did not win the Lou Groza Award on Thursday. However, he was named a 2011 Walter Camp All-American and was placed on the second team, following in the footsteps of former Florida punter Chas Henry who was selected for the first team one year ago.

3 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin had one of the best games of his NFL career last Sunday, posting a career-high 156 yards with two touchdowns against the Denver Broncos. Harvin almost didn’t play in the game, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after suffering “migraine-like symptoms” just one day earlier. “The symptoms were similar to Harvin’s past struggles with migraines, according to the unnamed person, including bloodshot eyes and vomiting,” the paper reported. Harvin had been without migraines all year after believing doctors found a way of preventing them in the offseason. If he did indeed suffer a migraine, Harvin may go through even more tests this offseason to try and find another solution.

4 » Former Florida offensive coordinator Larry Fedora (2002-04) was introduced as the new head football coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday. After leaving the Gators alongside then-head coach Ron Zook, Fedora worked as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2005-07 before taking the top job at Southern Mississippi in 2008. During his introductory press conference with UNC, Fedora singled out Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and thanked him for all of his help getting to this point in his career. Foley told UF senior writer Scott Carter shortly after how much he appreciated Fedora’s ability and work ethic. “I’ve always felt very highly about Larry Fedora and have followed his career closely. He did an outstanding job for us as an assistant at Florida and has had success at every stop since,” Foley said. “He is a good football coach, but even a better person and family man and I fully expect his success to continue.”

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Muschamp confident in future of Gators offense

Losing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis – a four-time Super Bowl winner – to a head coaching job with the Kansas Jayhawks after just one year wearing orange and blue may be a tough pill to swallow for some. Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, however, is confident that his team will not miss a step either in the 2012 Gator Bowl on Jan. 2 against the Ohio State Buckeyes or going forward next season.

After he confirmed that Weis would be leaving the team at a bowl game press conference Thursday in Jacksonville, FL , Muschamp announced that running backs coach Brian White would take over play calling duties for the contest.

“Brian’s an experienced play caller. He’s a great idea guy. He’s been a coordinator before. He’s had tremendous success as a coordinator before, and he’s a guy I got tremendous confidence in,” he said.

Though White will be a substitute in the interim and may be a candidate for the permanent job, Muschamp does not know who will be taking over long term. He does, however, know the direction the offense is going to be heading.

“We are going to remain a pro-style offense, and I will go hire the best offensive coordinator in the country,” he said. “We need to improve offensively; it’s pretty obvious. We look forward to taking those steps forward.”

He did not express a shred of trepidation when saying that he and the Gators will have no problem finding the right replacement.

“We’re at the University of Florida. We’re going to be able to hire an outstanding football coach that’s going to fit what I want done within our offense and within our systems. That’s what we’re going to do, and I’m going to take my time on it to make sure we hire the right guy and get the right fit,” he said.

Weis is the third staff member to leave Florida since the regular season finale against Florida State. Strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti and director of football operations Mark Pantoni both left UF to join former head coach Urban Meyer’s new staff at Ohio State. Offensive line coach Frank Verducci, a close friend of Weis’s, may also follow him to Kansas, though that remains to be seen.

Despite a few defections, Muschamp refused to say the staff has been “raided” and remains confident in the coaching staff staying by his side heading into 2012.

“Our staff hasn’t been raided,” he said. “Our strength coach left with a guy that he’s been friends with for 25 years, and I totally understood that was a possibility when I retained Mickey. But Mickey’s a good strength coach and he did a good job for us. And our offensive coordinator got a head coaching job, a multi-million dollar deal. That’s not getting raided.

“When you’re at the University of Florida, and you hire a really good staff, what a compliment it is to the job you did hiring people that other people want your coaches. You know what? We’re going to hire really good coaches. Next year, we’re going to win, and they’re going to come want to get our coaches again. It’s a great problem to have. You know what? There are a bunch of people calling my cell phone – that is off right now – that want to come to the University of Florida.”

ADDITIONAL NOTES

» Muschamp, when asked if he had guys in mind for the offensive coordinator job, lit up and responded, “Oh yeah.”

» When asked if Jacksonville head coach Kerwin Bell was a possibility, he did not dismiss the notion whatsoever. “I know Kerwin. He’s an outstanding football coach and certainly will be under consideration,” he said.”

» Muschamp said having a prior relationship with his new hire is not the most important thing but “it would help obviously because you know them a little bit better and, when the bullets start flying, you know how they’re going to respond and react.”

» Asked if he would be leaning on any of his coaching friends for advice, Muschamp quipped, “Most of my friends we got to beat, so no.”

» Most of all, Muschamp is interested in having continuity in the staff in the future. “If guys get a promotion and guys get a step up, I think that’s great and I support it. It says a lot about the guys you hire – that they do a good job, are good football coaches, are good men and are good recruiters. I’m very pleased with the continuity of our staff and do not anticipate any changes moving forward,” he said.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Muschamp discusses Weis at Gator Bowl presser

In Jacksonville, FL to promote the 2012 Gator Bowl alongside Ohio State Buckeyes interim coach Luke Fickell, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke less about the game and more about the breaking news that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis decided to accept the head coaching job with the Kansas Jayhawks.

“Charlie took the University of Kansas head football job today. He informed me about a couple of hours ago. I’m very happy for him and his wife Maura. I’m really excited for them,” he said after making an opening statement. “Getting an opportunity to be a head coach, it’s a great compliment to our staff. We’ve had numerous schools contact me about prospective coaches on our staff. For him to have the opportunity to be a head coach again, I know he’s really excited about it, and we certainly wish him all the best.”

Though the news comes as a shock to Florida fans, Muschamp said he was aware that Weis was interested in the position and does not have any problem whatsoever with him taking it even after he promised to be in Gainesville, FL long term.

“In the recent days he was contacted about the job and we talked about it, and he told me it was an opportunity that he wanted to take. I support him 1,000 percent,” he said. “Any time – in our profession is no different than the business world – when you’re able to take a step up, I support it 1,000 percent. In a situation when you’re a coordinator and you got an opportunity to be a head coach, I support it 100 percent. That’s what he wanted to do.

“I asked him and said, ‘Is this something you’re really interested in?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I want to talk to them. If I wasn’t interested, I would not talk.’ So I said, ‘I support you 100 percent if that’s what you want to do. I think that’s great.’ Now when guys make parallel moves, I don’t think that’s great. If guys can further their careers, I think that’s great.”

“There aren’t many opportunities you get to be a head coach,” Muschamp added. “I know with Charlie, the last one didn’t end the way he wanted it to. He’s an outstanding football coach. He’s a family man, and I’m extremely happy for him and his wife, Hannah and Charlie, Jr.”

He also noted that Weis’s supersized contract doesn’t hurt the decision-making process.

“When you talk about a five-year contract and the amount of money that people are willing to pay you nowadays, quite frankly I don’t blame him. That’s what happens. That’s the reality of coaching and business,” he said.

Muschamp was also asked to evaluate how Weis did in a Gators polo and said he appreciated how much effort put in even if things started faltering after redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley got injured on Oct. 1.

“I think Charlie did a good job,” he said. “Obviously we had an awful lot of confidence offensively going into the fifth ballgame of the year. We lost our starting quarterback and we played with two freshman quarterbacks – who are going to be outstanding, who are very good players, and I’m very excited about their future.

“At the end of the day we had the injury, we lost some confidence offensively, we got out of kilter, we started searching for answers and things we can do against good people. When you lose that confidence, it’s tough to regain that confidence. Considering the situations and the circumstances, I’m very pleased with the job he did.”

Weis’s Florida offense finished 102nd nationally in yards per game (334.17) and 72nd in scoring offense (25.58 points per game). He will take over a Kansas program sorely in need of a boost after a multi-year downturn.

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SIX BITS: NFL injuries, Tebow, Munroe, women

1 » New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of the team’s leading receivers this year with 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns through two games, sprained his MCL during Sunday afternoon’s game and will be out of action at least 1-2 weeks, according to the Boston Globe. Also injured on Sunday was Chicago Bears free safety Major Wright, who was hit hard in his contest and was removed from the field with what was considered a head injury. After further evaluation, Wright was diagnosed with a “stiff neck” and not a concussion, which means he does not have to miss his team’s next game. However, Wright may not start anyway as, according to the Chicago Tribune, the team is considering moving Brandon Meriweather into the starting role.

2 » Denver Broncos second-year player Tim Tebow has yet to see the field as a quarterback in 2011 after leading his team to a 1-2 record in three starts to conclude the 2010 season. However, Tebow got into his team’s game on Sunday as a wide receiver due to injuries to some of the other players. According to NBC Sports, Tebow asked the coaching staff if he could play receiver on the scout team rather than do nothing during practice. The coaches agreed and allowed him to fill the role and he wound up playing out wide on Sunday as a result. Head coach John Fox said Monday that the Broncos only consider Tebow a quarterback and have no plans to play him at receiver going forward.

3 » Former Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe, who OGGOA recently profiled as we broke the story that he would be playing for the Toronto Varsity Blues of OUA Canadian college football, was interviewed in a profile piece on The Score out of Canada. Through three games with Toronto, Munroe has 13 tackles and an interception.

4 » In unrelated Tebow news, he told the Associated Press last week that, while he appreciated the support of fans who were raising money for billboards declaring that he should start for Denver, he hoped they were “going to do the right thing” with the money and donate it to charity. Fox, asked about the billboard, said, “I’ve seen a lot of billboards and I can’t remember one that really influenced me.”

5 » No. 9 Florida soccer (8-2) ended its non-conference slate over the weekend with a pair of decisive road victories. On Friday, the Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers (7-2) behind a pair of goals by freshman midfielder Annie Speese at 43’ and 86’. Sunday’s 7-2 blowout of the Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) was a total team effort with six different players scoring. Speese added her third goal of the weekend at 20’, but freshman forward Tahnai Annis opened and closed the contest with goals at 9’ and 89’. Florida will continue its four-game road trip with a pair of games against Georgia (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) as they open Southeastern Conference play. UF will then return to Gainesville, FL for a five-game homestand.

6 » No. 6/7 Gators volleyball (8-2, 1-0 SEC) began league play on Friday with a 3-0 shutout (25-20, 25-18, 26-24) of the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-5, 0-1 SEC) on the road in Starkville, MS. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy, who was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts, posted a triple-double with 10 kills, 19 assists and 11 digs in the match. Also excelling Friday was senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel, who led the team with 14 kills on the evening. After playing their last three matches on the road, Florida will return home for a two contests next weekend against Kentucky (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) before hitting the road the following weekend.

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Florida softball sweeps, wins Lipton Invitational

No. 3/9 Florida Gators softball (9-1) took home the 2010 Lipton Invitational title Saturday, winning five straight games in the tournament by an average of over five runs.

Check out all five game recaps and much more after the jump!
Continue Reading » Florida softball sweeps, wins Lipton Invitational

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FOUR BITS: Softball sets record, lacrosse debuts

1 » No. 3/9 Florida Gators softball (5-1) shutout the Campbell Camels (1-4-1) 7-0 Friday night on the back of a school-record six home runs. Leading their team to victory, junior first baseman Megan Bush had lead-off home runs in back-to-back plate appearances, and junior starter Stephanie Brombacher (4-1) blanked Campbell over five innings while compiling a season-high 11 strikeouts. Six of Florida’s seven runs came on solo homers from five different Gators including Bush (4th, 6th), sophomore outfielder Michelle Moultrie (4th), junior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (6th), freshman C Kelsey Horton (6th) and junior outfielder Kelsey Bruder (7th).

Florida softball (6-1) continued its dominance Friday with a 12-4 win over the Kansas Jayhawks (2-5) in the Gators’ second game of the night. Junior second baseman Aja Paculba went 4-4 with a career-high five RBI. In all, seven UF players accounted for 14 hits and freshman pitcher Erin Schuppert (1-0) earned her first career win in four innings of relief with seven strikeouts while allowing only two runs. Freshman Ensley Gammel started for the Gators.

2 » Florida’s newest sport, women’s lacrosse, is set to debut Saturday against the Jacksonville Dolphins (0-2) at 6 p.m. in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium for the first regular season game in school history. Head coach Amanda O’Leary has done a terrific job preparing the Gators, including recruiting the No. 1–ranked signing class in the nation according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine. The team, which fell 17-8 in its first exhibition match against the U.S. National Development team before rallying to a 7-7 tie at Rutgers and a 10-8 win over Princeton, is made up of two seniors, one junior, two sophomores and 24 freshmen. Admission is free for all home games, so be sure to go out and support this up-and-coming team in its first season!
- Athletic director Jeremy Foley is proud of the school’s newest sport.
- The Florida lacrosse team was years in the making.
- Everything you need to know about how lacrosse is played.

Gators swimming & diving and gymnastics also impressed on Friday…
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Softball sets record, lacrosse debuts

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