Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

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Florida Gators grab No. 1 spot on Rivals’ Top 10 recruiting classes since 2002

Celebrating a decade of presenting high school recruiting rankings, Rivals.com released a special feature on Tuesday detailing the 10 best recruiting classes since 2002. The Florida Gators, under former head coach Urban Meyer, earned two spots on the list including the No. 1 overall ranking.

Florida’s 2006 recruiting class, which featured five-stars quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes, came away as the clear leader even after being ranked as the second-best class that year.

“What makes this group stand out above the rest was the number of prospects who panned out: 16 members of the class were starters at one time,” writes Rivals. “Beyond Tebow and Harvin, there were guys such as LBs Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe and A.J. Jones, DE Jermaine Cunningham, T/G Marcus Gilbert, DTs Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders and WR Riley Cooper. The group helped Florida win two national championships, and Tebow won the 2007 Heisman as a sophomore and was a finalist as a junior and senior.”

Two of those players (Tebow and Harvin) wound up being first-round picks in the NFL Draft; three more (Spikes, Cunningham and Gilbert) were selected in the second-round and one other (Cooper) was a fifth-round pick. Other prominent names in the 2006 class include kick returner Brandon James and offensive lineman Carl Johnson.

The Gators’ 2007 recruiting class, ranked No. 1 the year it was signed, closes out the list at No. 10. One of the reasons it is lower on the list is the fact that three of its most prominent members – five-stars quarterback Cameron Newton and defensive tackle Torrey Davis as well as four-star DT John Brown – had off-the-field issues that did not allow them to conclude their careers in Gainesville, FL.

However, Florida’s 2007 signings also included a trio of first-round picks (cornerback Joe Haden and centers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey), safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, DE Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez and punter Chas Henry. Players remaining on the Gators include redshirt seniors QB John Brantley, DT Jaye Howard, running back Chris Rainey and WR Deonte Thompson.

Check out Rivals at 10: Ten best recruiting classes for the rest of the rankings.

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Two former Gators selected in 2011 UFL Draft

The 2011 NFL Draft came and went last weekend with four former Florida Gators selected during the three-day event.

Center Mike Pouncey was chosen by the Miami Dolphins in the first round, tackle Marcus Gilbert was picked in the second round and is headed to join Pouncey’s brother with the Pittsburgh Steelers, safety Ahmad Black had to wait until the fifth round to be selected by his childhood favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Washington Redskins gave guard Maurice Hurt a chance in the seventh round.

The United Football League held its third draft on Monday with two former Florida players earning unique opportunities.

Cornerback Reynaldo Hill, a four-year NFL veteran (Tennessee Titans, 2005-08), was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the first round by the Omaha Nighthawks. Hill was a seventh round pick by Tennessee in 2005 but has been out of the league for years.

Defensive tackle Ian Scott, a seven-year veteran and fourth round pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2003 NFL Draft, was chosen No. 30 overall in the sixth round by the Virginia Destroyers and head coach Marty Schottenheimer. After playing for Chicago (2003-06), Scott had a short stint with the Philadelphia Eagles (2007) before finishing his career with the San Diego Chargers (2008-09).

The duo join former Gators guard Tavares Washington in the UFL; Washington has played the last two seasons for the Las Vegas Locomotives.

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Steelers add Gators OT Marcus Gilbert with No. 63 overall pick in second round of 2011 NFL Draft

Round 2 – No. 31 (63rd overall)
Marcus Gilbert, OT
Pittsburgh Steelers


Height: 6’6″ – Weight: 330 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Senior

After a 48-slot delay between selections, the Florida Gators had a second player get picked in the 2011 NFL Draft as offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert was chosen with the 31st pick in the second round (No. 63 overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday evening.

The first Florida player at his position to be drafted since Max Starks was a third-round selection by Pittsburgh in 2004, Gilbert has most of the tangible qualities NFL teams desire for starting-caliber offensive linemen.

He started all 27 games the Gators played over the last two seasons; however, during the pre-draft evaluation process, teams differed at which position they believe he will be best suited for in the pros. Gilbert is tall, long, athletic and strong and could have the opportunity to start right away for the Steelers at either right tackle or guard.

Gilbert will join Starks and former Florida center Maurkice Pouncey on Pittsburgh. The Steelers selected Pouncey with the No. 18 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft; he made the Pro Bowl in his first season and started all but one game for Pittsburgh as a rookie.

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

» OGGOA’s 2011 NFL Draft Live Blog – Click here!

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OGGOA’s comprehensive 2011 NFL Draft Preview

Legalities surrounding the lockout may still be looming, but the 2011 NFL Draft will begin without a hitch Thursday night (ESPN, NFL Network) and run through April 30 as more than a dozen former Florida Gators hope to see their childhood dreams come true.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting Florida’s players may not be as excited about the event this time around considering there will be a significant drop-off from the nation-leading nine players that were selected in 2010 (including a school-record three in the first round and six in the first two rounds).

Few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft – trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player brings to the table differently than analysts and commentators do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, we will stick with what likely will happen.

» Center/guard Mike Pouncey will be the only first-round pick, selected before his brother was and headed to one of five teams.

Unless a team decides that they desperately need a center and plans to trade into the top half of the first round in order to jump a handful of other teams, Pouncey will likely be headed to either the Miami Dolphins (15) or New York Giants (19) at their respective draft slots or to one of three teams that would have to trade down/up for him: Dallas Cowboys (9), Chicago Bears (29) or Pittsburgh Steelers (31). The top-rated interior lineman in the draft, Pouncey continues to garner high praise and has plenty of teams around the league looking in his direction.

» Florida will not have another player selected until at least the third round.

There was talk for a while that tackle Marcus Gilbert may be moving into the category of a late second-round selection but that has died down recently. However, he is the only player on the team who has actually climbed up draft boards since the season ended. His size is undeniable and scouts were impressed with his agility and strength. Gilbert projects as either a right tackle or guard in the NFL with many scouts believing he might perform better in the latter position. He will likely be selected sometime in the third round and may very well be one of only two Gators picked in the first two days of the draft.

» The future of Florida’s secondary standouts is not very “safe.”

Like linebacker Brandon Spikes in 2010, strong safety Ahmad Black has seen his stock slide going into the draft due to concerns about his speed. Unlike Spikes last year, Black also has scouts worried about his lack of prototypical NFL size and how his immense talent will be able to translate to the big stage. As Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow knows, all it takes is one team to believe in you. And whether former head coach Urban Meyer is in Bill Belichick’s ear once again (the New England Patriots drafted three Gators in 2010) or a team simply realizes that Black has a high football IQ and can significantly impact a game if given an opportunity, he will likely have someone take a chance on him in the third or fourth round.

Though free safety Will Hill has the prototypical size and speed that Black lacks, those around the league have realized he is missing perhaps even more important things like football IQ and character. His athleticism is undeniable, but there are too many question marks about him (including, simply, his talent level) for a team to take a risk on him early. Hill will be picked on the third day – if he is at all.

» Punter Chas Henry will be drafted later than he should be.

When it comes to specialists, just being picked in the NFL Draft is usually an honor. Sometimes one has so much upside that they are selected extremely early (see kicker Sebastian Janikowski [No. 17 overall, 2000] and P Ray Guy [No. 23 overall, 1973]), but most of the time they are just lucky to be chosen in a middle round. Though Henry was the best collegiate punter in 2010 (and arguably 2009, too), his draft position will be based strictly on team need. His ability to serve as a viable back-up kicker should provide him a bit of additional value but chances are he is picked late on the third day.

» The vast majority of Gators will be undrafted free agents.

Due to red flags ranging from injuries to lack of production, the rest of Florida’s draft-eligible players may not know where they are headed for days, weeks or months depending how NFL teams decide to handle undrafted free agent signings in the face of the (recently lifted) lockout.

Offensive lineman Carl Johnson and Maurice Hurt; running back Emmanuel Moody; wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams; defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; defensive tackles Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine; linebackers A.J. Jones, Brandon Hicks and Lorenzo Edwards; and long snapper John Fairbanks could all be picked up after the draft concludes. There is the chance that a select few (Johnson, Hurt, Moody, Moore, Trattou) could be selected in the sixth or seventh round due to potential long-term upside.

For LIVE COVERAGE of the 2011 NFL Draft, be sure to join us back here at OGGOA beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. and running through the conclusion of the event on Saturday.

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Gators at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine – Part 1

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will be covering the seven former Florida Gators players who have been officially invited to participate in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium each day.

Five Florida Gators – center/guard Mike Pouncey, tackle Marcus Gilbert, guard Carl Johnson, guard Maurice Hurt and punter Chas Henry – have already been measured, completed exams, met with the media, been interviewed by teams, undergone psychological tests and completed their full combine workout. The quintet was on the same schedule throughout the week; they arrived Wednesday and departed Saturday. Below is how each player measured in and performed at the NFL Combine.

Center/guard Mike Pouncey (Group 02, OL39)
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 303 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 ¼ in.
Hand Size: 9 ¾ in.

40-Yard Dash: 5.12 seconds
Bench Press: DNP
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.64 seconds
Broad Jump: 8’0”
Vertical Jump: 25.0
3-Cone Drill: 7.66 seconds

Overview: The consensus top interior offensive lineman in the draft, Pouncey has been touted for his outstanding footwork, hand speed and overall football IQ. His work ethic is unquestionable and many teams look at his brother’s early success as an indicator of his future ceiling. Pouncey is determined to be selected earlier.
Strengths: Size, quickness, experience, awareness, discipline
Weaknesses: Shotgun snap issues, can improve run blocking

Tackle Marcus Gilbert (Group 02, OL27)
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 330 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 ½ in.
Hand Size: 9 ¾ in.

40-Yard Dash: 5.46 seconds
Bench Press: 30 reps
20-Yard Shuttle / Broad Jump / Vertical Jump / 3-Cone Drill: DNP

Overview: The measurables are all there for Gilbert, and he has shown proficiency both in pass and run blocking. Not the most explosive offensive lineman, Gilbert is projected as an NFL starter down the road.
Strengths: Size, length, athleticism, mobility, instinctive
Weaknesses: Quickness, tenacity, awareness

Quote: “I just want to show that I’m one of the best tackles out there. Come out here and compete and have fun. Just showcase my skills and try to elevate, show them that my game is higher than what most people realize.”

Check out how the other five Gators performed in Indianapolis…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gators at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine – Part 1

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Three Gators practicing for 2011 Senior Bowl

Though center/guard Mike Pouncey ended up choosing not to attend, three players representing the Florida Gators arrived in Mobile, AL to begin practice for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl. Weigh-ins and the first day of practice took place on Monday with little news coming out of Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Safety Ahmad Black, named by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock over the weekend as his No. 2 safety in the country, checked in at 5’9 3/8” and 183 lbs. with 9 5/8 in. hands, 29 1/2 in. arm length and a 73 1/4 in. wingspan. As expected, Black’s size was a topic of conversation amongst scouts who otherwise were impressed with his ability and tenacity.

He has signed with Joel Segal of Lagardere Unlimited, the agency that also represents both Pouncey twins and NFLers including Gerard Warren (New England), Alex Brown (New Orleans), Percy Harvin (Minnesota), Channing Crowder (Miami) and Riley Cooper (Philadelphia).

Without Pouncey in attendance, Marcus Gilbert was the sole representative of Florida’s offensive line. He came in at 6’6 1/2” and 329 lbs. with 9 7/8 in. hands, 34 in. arm length and an 81 1/8 in. wingspan. It is rumored that Gilbert, who is receiving a second-day projection, has signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Punter/kicker Chas Henry, a first-team All-American and 2010 Ray Guy Award winner, is the third former Gators player on the South team. Though Henry’s representation is currently unknown, he will likely be selected during the second day of the 2011 NFL Draft even though most punters are signed as undrafted free agents or picked toward the end of the third day. At 6’3 3/8” and 220 lbs. with 9 3/8 in. hands, 33 in. arms and a 77 1/8 in. wingspan, scouts believe his talent is worth an early selection.

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Hill, Trattou, All-Rookie

1 » A reliable source told OGGOA on Thursday that Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who announced on Monday that he would remain enrolled at the University of Florida for his senior season, is having second thoughts about his decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Prior to his announcement Monday, Jenkins was told that, due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he would most likely be selected in the second round of the draft. After doing some additional research into the matter throughout the week, Jenkins was given a first-round grade by a handful of NFL front office executives he contacted, according to our source. The deadline to declare for the draft is late Friday afternoon, leaving Jenkins with less than 24 hours (as of press time) to make a final decision he is comfortable with.

2 » As first reported by OGGOA on Jan. 5, Florida junior safety Will Hill was never confused about his decision – he will declare for the draft and officially submit his paperwork to UF on Friday. Speaking with the Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Hill explained that he made his decision mostly due to financial and family issues and hopes he will be selected in the first two days of the draft. “It took a while to come to that conclusion, but the thing that made me come out and try to go pro is I have a family,” Hill told the Post’s Jason Lieser. “It’s a priority of mine to help my family. I have [three] little ones to look after. I feel like this was the best decision for me and them.”

He also admitted that he did not perform up to his capabilities this past season with the Gators. “I had an up and down season. I was hurt, which people fail to realize. I had a bad shoulder and groin that was keeping me from competing,” he said. “I wish my junior year went better. Everybody wants to have that elite season. I learned a lot from it. I learned don’t take things for granted, every play counts. I know I missed tackles here and there due to injuries, but I put everything on the line.” The Post also reports that Hill has signed with Metro Sports Agency, is 30 credits away from graduating and is currently working out 48 hours per week at the TEST Football Academy.

3 » Florida senior defensive end Justin Trattou has decided to play in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game set to be played on Jan. 22 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. A captain for the Gators in 2010, Trattou finished the season with 57 tackles including 35 solo and a team-high 12 for a loss of yards. He is the fifth Florida senior to agree to play in a pre-draft game. Senior S Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey, senior punter/kicker Chas Henry and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Jan. 29 in Mobile, AL.

4 » Three former Gators – Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunalp – were named to the Sporting News 2010 NFL All-Rookie Team earlier in the week. Haden finished the season with 64 tackles, six interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack, while Dunlap contributed 24 tackles, 9.5 sacks (a Cincinnati rookie record) and recovered a fumble. Pouncey started every game at center for Pittsburgh.

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