The Silver Lining for Wednesday, September 17

There is a video embedded in this post that will autoplay once the page loads. Yes, I know autoplay videos are terrible. There was no other option in this instance.

If you care what Nick Saban thinks…

Through the comment section here on OnlyGators.com, my inbox and my Twitter mentions, it is quite obvious that the [vocal] majority of those that follow or root for the Florida Gators believe Saturday’s showing against Kentucky – a triple-overtime victory at home – was representative of the team failing to show improvement from 2013 rather than it heading in the right direction after being unable to win tough games a year ago.

Well, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban agrees with the minority in this particular instance.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, September 17

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14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Rather than doubling down on disappointment while stuck playing in the state North Carolina, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (4-1) came from behind on Monday to pick up a huge victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC, which took over for UF as the No. 1 team in the country last week, held a 2-0 advantage over its visitors after winning the doubles point and a singles match to start the contest. The Gators answered by rallying with four consecutive singles match victories to pick up the 4-2 win. First, junior Olivia Janowicz took down No. 79 Tessa Lyons 6-2, 6-1. Freshman Brianna Morgan then picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 122 Lauren McHale, leaving the match in the hands of Florida’s two best players. No. 4 senior Lauren Embree came through in the clutch once again with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory against No. 7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti, and No. 9 junior Sofie Oyen fought hard on court two to defeat No. 30 Zoe De Bruycker 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. UF’s loss on Sunday at No. 4 Duke was its first in over a year’s time. By taking down the Tar Heels on Monday, the Gators avoided falling in consecutive matches for the first time in three years.

» Former Florida guard Matt Walsh, who signed a deal with Spirou Charleroi of Belgium in August 2012, told OGGOA on Monday that his contract has been purchased by Brose Baskets of Bamberg, Germany. The three-time defending German champions play in the Euroleague and are hoping Walsh helps push them to a fourth-straight title.

» Despite multiple reports pointing to the contrary, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Friday said he has “no intent” of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Harvin raised concerns about Minnesota’s offense (and how he was not utilized much) prior to the 2012 season and reportedly got into an explosive verbal argument with head coach Leslie Frazier during the season. While it does look like he and the Vikings will split ways, multiple players have come out in his defense and expressed their desire to see him return to the team. The latest to do so is quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he “obviously” wants Harvin to return because “he’s a tremendous player” and “a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general.” Ponder told KFAN in Minneapolis, MN that he and Harvin have a good relationship and “spent some extra time together” working on their on-field chemistry during the last offseason.

Read 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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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.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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TWO BITS: Young and Noah, Bryant nominated

1 » Florida Gators junior center Patric Young recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with two-time national champion Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. The two discuss playing at Florida, what it takes to succeed and much more.

2 » The NFL on Thursday announced 13 first-year eligible modern-era players nominated for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Among those listed is current Gators defensive line coach and former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Bryant Young, who played in the league from 1994-2007. Young, the No. 7 overall pick of the 1994 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time All-Pro, Super Bowl XXIX champion, NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1999 and member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s. Also up for induction is former Florida tackle Lomas Brown, who played in the NFL with five different teams from 1985-2002 and has been on the list of nominees for five years.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Miller, Graham, Beal

1 » Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has been added to the Gator Boosters, Inc. board of directors, according to the University of Florida. Tebow, on the board for a one-year stint, joins some notable Gators including Alex Brown, Lomas Brown, and his own father Bob Tebow on the 60-member board presided over President Bill Heavener and soon President-Elect Rex Farrior III. As explained on their website, Gator Boosters is dedicated to “educate our student-athletes” through scholarship funding and “constantly building, or improving our athletic facilities for Gator student-athltes to be given the opportunity to compete in the finest facilities.”

2 » Former Florida guard Mike Miller spoke with ESPN Radio‘s Ric Bucher immediately following his fantastic performance in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals on Thursday. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

3 » Former Gators running back Earnest Graham has spent his entire NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2004. But with just six weeks until training camp, Graham remains unsigned and told the News-Press that he is mentally prepared for retirement should a team not pick him up soon. “Right now, honestly, I’m going to focus on being a free agent, but I definitely understand that it is likely that I may have already played my last game,” he said. Unfortunately for Graham, he did not even get to complete the 2011 season as he tore his Achilles and only wound up seeing action in seven games. Though that is not the way he wants to go out, Graham said he has his health back and would be able to perform like he has been the last few years if given an opportunity. “I feel fine,” he said. “I’m running around well. If training camp started today, I’d be able to do it.” Graham has run for 2,047 yards and 15 touchdowns while also catching 129 passes for 904 yards and one additional score over his eight-year playing career. His standout season came in 2007 when he rushed for career-highs of 898 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 49 passes for 324 yards as the starting tailback for Tampa Bay.

4 » Gators freshman G Bradley Beal appeared on ROME on CBS Sports Network on Thursday to discuss the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft and his decision to leave Florida.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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FOUR BITS: Pitino, Brown, SEC awards, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators basketball assistant Richard Pitino was named the new head coach for the Florida International Golden Panthers on Monday, signing a five-year, $1.25 million contract. At 29 years old, Pitino becomes one of the youngest head coaches in the country but properly noted that does not mean he is incapable of being successful in his new job. “People say I’m young, but I tell them I may be young, but I’m not inexperienced,” he said. “It may not always be pretty. It may not always be easy. But we’re going to get it done.” Pitino last worked under head coach Billy Donovan two seasons ago, leaving Florida before the 2011-12 campaign to work for his father in Louisville. “It is great to have Richard back in the state of Florida,” Donovan said in a school release. “FIU has hired a tireless worker and an excellent recruiter to build their program. I’m excited for Richard and I’m excited for FIU.” Pitino is the seventh assistant to work under Donovan and eventually be named a head coach joining Anthony Grant (Alabama), Donnie Jones (Central Florida), John Pelphrey (formerly at Arkansas), Lewis Preston (Kennesaw State), Larry Shyatt (Wyoming) and Shaka Smart (VCU).

Pitino on Donovan:: “Working for Billy Donovan was one of the greatest things I could have done. I was an assistant under my father and I really didn’t want to leave home, but Billy reached out to him. When I worked for Billy I learned so much because he wasn’t my father. They have a lot of similarities, but they are really not [the same]. They have completely different approaches on how to do things. For me to work for Billy, who has three Final Fours, and my dad, who has six Final Fours, that’s a combined nine Final Fours and three NCAA Championships. For me to be able to learn under those two guys, I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

2 » One of four players to file a lawsuit against the NFL this week, former Gators offensive tackle Lomas Brown claims – citing the recent bounty scandal surrounding New Orleans – that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions. According to the Associated Press, Brown and the three other players “do not claim in their lawsuit to be victims of [Gregg] Williams’s bounty system but cite it as the latest example of a culture that has left former players with debilitating conditions.”

3 » A pair of current Florida student-athletes – juniors tennis player Lauren Embree and left-handed pitcher/first baseman Brian Johnson – picked up SEC Player of the Week awards from the conference on Monday. The Gators baseball program also got another piece of good news as they regained their No. 1 national ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll while receiving nine-of-31 first-place votes.

4 » The Tim Tebow news cycle has not slowed down now that he is no longer in Denver. The latest New York Jets quarterback received a big donation for his charity over the weekend as a married couple pledged $100,000 just to spend a day with him. The auction took place at the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic, and Tebow himself was extremely touched at both the bid and donation. “It was very humbling, and you don’t necessarily feel worthy,” he said. “That day I feel like I’ve got to do a few extra things to be special, you know? I’ve got to try to be a little bit better.” Tebow was also the subject of a recent look-a-like contest held by the Double-A Jacksonville Sun. The winner was a Jacksonville, FL high school student named Jacob Carter who said that his grandmother suggested he participate in the event.

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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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