SIX BITS: Tebow, Dillman, gym, Jenkins, Powell

1 » Appearing Monday on WKOV 690 AM in Jacksonville, FL, new Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan responded to a caller who was wondering if he would consider trading for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow should he be made available. “You know something? I think I can tell you this. I had a long chat with Wayne [Weaver] that year. Obviously the Rams drafted Sam Bradford, and I was talking to Wayne then on what they ought to do,” Khan said. “I should have an offline conversation with you, OK? I’m going to absolutely talk your ear off. Some of the stuff might not be politically correct, but I share your sentiment. I think, when is the next time Jacksonville is going to have an athlete like Tim Tebow? Coming from being raised in Illinois, I couldn’t see Red Grange playing for anybody other than the Bears or Dick Butkus playing for anybody other than the Bears. I don’t want to get into 20/20 hindsight, and God help us, the draft record has not been the best with the Jaguars.”

Khan was then asked by the host if he would have drafted Tebow had he been owner of the Jaguars at the time. “100 percent I would have. Absolutely,” he said. “The first Jaguars game I came to was in ’10, we played Denver here. There were a lot more Tebow jerseys in the Jaguars stands than the teal jerseys for any player, let’s face it. You hate to get into 20/20 hindsight and finger pointing, but certainly [I would have] if I had anything to do with it. We probably won’t have a chance like that again.”

2 » Even though his team is not participating in Super Bowl XLVI, Tebow will be in Indianapolis, IN for festivities over the course of the week. He will also be a guest on NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday along with actor/comedian Tracy Morgan and musical group All American Rejects. Tebow’s name has been a hot topic on Fallon’s show recently as the host as done a parody character of him and David Bowie and also used him in a number of jokes over the last few weeks.

3 » The Florida Gators have put together an introductory video featuring the team’s new strength and conditioning staff including most notably director Jeff Dillman and assistant Jesse Ackerman. The duo discuss their mental and physical approach to strength and conditioning over a video featuring a number of Florida players lifting weights and working out. You can check it out by clicking here.

4 » No. 8 Gators gymnastics (6-0, 2-0 SEC) put together an unbelievable performance on Friday, registering the fifth-highest total in team history and the top score in the nation this season, 197.775, to defeat the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks (8-1, 2-1 SEC) and No. 24 Maryland Terrapins (4-4) and Bridgeport in a quad-meet at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Four Florida gymnasts won events with sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto winning the uneven bars (9.95), junior Marissa King taking the balance beam (9.95), junior Ashanée Dickerson capturing the all-around (39.60) and both Dickerson and freshman Kytra Hunter tying to win the floor exercise (9.95). According to UF, Friday was the first time the Gators had defeated a top-ranked team at home since 1989.

5 » North Alabama and former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins put together a solid performance in the 2012 Senior Bowl on Saturday and is in the process of working his way into the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. As part of this journey, he quit smoking marijuana, which he was arrested for three times and ultimately got him dismissed from UF. “I learned as a young man, you can’t smoke weed; it don’t get you where you want to go,” Jenkins told The Florida Times-Union. “As a kid I had to learn for myself. I learned for myself when I found out the hard way. I just thank God for letting that happen to me early and not late. […] I tell everybody now if you’re going to come around me and smoke weed, I can’t hang around you,” he said. “We’re friends, but while you’re smoking marijuana, I can’t hang around you.”

6 » With National Signing Day less than 48 hours away, the Gators are hoping to haul in a number of top prospects that still have them high on their list. As it turns out, Florida may actually end up losing a commitment due to his grades and a potential learning disability. Four-star linebacker Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL), who committed to the Gators almost a year ago, recently visited the Marshall Thundering Herd and enjoyed his trip. According to HerdNation.com, it has become a legitimate landing spot for him because of the school’s H.E.L.P. Program which provides “educational support, remediation and mentoring to individuals” with specific learning disabilities or disorders like ADD/ADHD. Powell must pass one more high school class and improve his ACT score in order to get into UF, obstacles that could have him instead decide to commit to Marshall.

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Donovan adds Pelphrey, Roberts to Gators staff

A familiar face and an old friend will be joining Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in Gainesville, FL next season. On Tuesday, the University of Florida announced that a pair of former head coaches – John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts – have been hired as assistants for the basketball team.

“Having John back will be a great addition to our program,’’ Donovan said in a school release. “Obviously, he has a level of familiarity with me and with the University of Florida makes this a great fit. John’s a great coach, he’s a great friend and has a love for Florida, and we’re excited to bring him back. Being from New York, I’ve known Norm for a long [time]. He’s an outstanding coach, he’s a great recruiter, has high character and integrity and I’m thrilled to have him on our staff here at Florida.”

An assistant at Florida for six seasons (1996-2002), Pelphrey will be reunited with his close friend and mentor. He played under Donovan (an assistant at the time) and head coach Rick Pitino with the Kentucky Wildcats and served as an assistant on Donovan’s first coaching staff for two seasons with the Marshall Thundering Herd (1994-96). He joined Donovan when he was hired by UF, helping lead the Gators to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Pelphrey left in 2002 for a head coaching gig with the South Alabama Jaguars, where he led the team for five seasons. He won the Sun Belt Championship, was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and brought his squad to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006. USA would end up falling to Florida in the first round.

Noticing his success at a smaller school, Arkansas hired him to lead their program in 2007. Pelphrey brought the Razorbacks their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999 in his first season but failed to replicate his success over the following three. He was fired by Arkansas on March 13 even though he had a top-tier recruiting class on its way in.

Roberts, who does not have any direct coaching connection to Donovan, is – like his new boss – a native New Yorker. He most recently served as head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm from 2004-10 but was fired on March 19, 2010, after leading the team to an unimpressive 81-101 record in six seasons.

Donovan is in the middle of reshaping his coaching staff as he has now lost all three of his 2010-11 assistants in one offseason. Long-time cohort Larry Shyatt accepted the top job at Wyoming, assistant Rob Lanier is returning to coach at Texas, and assistant Richard Pitino will join his father’s staff at Louisville.

OGGOA learned on April 3 that Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall is a top candidate to fill a role on Donovan’s revamped coaching staff. Another option is former Florida player Brett Nelson, who coached under Pelphrey at Arkansas last season.

Photo Credit: Unknown, Chris Trotman/Getty Images

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Report: Pelphrey to return as Gators assistant

UPDATED STORY: Donovan adds Pelphrey, Roberts to Gators staff

Former Arkansas Razorbacks head coach John Pelphrey will rejoin the Florida Gators basketball team as an assistant coach, a source told Jeff Goodman of FOX Sports Tuesday. An assistant at Florida for six seasons (1996-2002), Pelphrey will be reunited with Gators head coach Billy Donovan, his close friend and mentor.

Pelphrey played under Donovan (an assistant at the time) and head coach Rick Pitino with the Kentucky Wildcats and served as an assistant on Donovan’s first coaching staff for two seasons with the Marshall Thundering Herd (1994-96). He joined Donovan when he was hired by the University of Florida, helping lead the Gators to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Pelphrey left UF in 2002 for a head coaching gig with the South Alabama Jaguars, where he led the team for five seasons. He won the Sun Belt Championship, was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and brought his squad to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006. USA would end up falling to Florida in the first round.

Noticing his success at a smaller school, Arkansas hired him to lead their program in 2007. Pelphrey brought the Razorbacks their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999 in his first season but failed to replicate his success over the following three. He was fired by Arkansas on March 13 even though he had a top-tier recruiting class on its way in.

Donovan is in the middle of reshaping his coaching staff after losing long-time assistant Larry Shyatt to a head coaching job with Wyoming. He may also see Rob Lanier head out the door to be an assistant at Texas, and Richard Pitino could join his father at Louisville, which suddenly has an opening.

OGGOA learned on April 3 that Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall is a top candidate to fill a role on Donovan’s revamped coaching staff.

Photo Credit: Carrie Pratt/St. Petersburg Times

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Heater to join Addazio as defensive coordinator

Former Florida Gators co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater has joined head coach Steve Addazio’s Temple Owls staff and taken the reigns as the team’s defensive coordinator, sources confirmed to the Philadelphia Daily News.

A career assistant coach who has coached in the NCAA since 1976, Heater’s only prior defensive coordinator experience was with Colorado State from 1991-92 before he was given an enhanced role with Florida last season. He is known as a terrific secondary coach and recruiter who has helped bring in major defensive talent for the Gators.

The Daily News reports that Heater joined Addazio at Temple’s basketball game Wednesday evening and will be announced as his defensive coordinator shortly.

Addazio has also hired two former Florida graduate assistants who currently work as coaches for the Marshall Thundering Herd under head coach Doc Holliday (himself a former Gators assistant), according to the paper.

Defensive line coach Sean Cronin served as a defensive graduate assistant at Florida from 2005-08, while wide receivers coach Zach Smith (hired as the Owls’ special teams coach) was a offensive/special teams quality control assistant, recruit evaluator and offensive/special teams graduate assistant at UF from 2006-09.

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TWO BITS: McFarland is eligible, Demps is fast

1 » After National Signing Day, the Florida Gators‘ top-ranked 2010 recruiting class was faced with a handful of academic eligibility concerns. While most of the players have been able to qualify without issue, four-star athlete Travon Van had to be let out of his scholarship (he has since signed on with the Marshall Thundering Herd), and three-star tight end Michael McFarland was faced with not making the team due to grade concerns. A source close to the university informed OGGOA of McFarland’s issues last week as Van was being dismissed, but they have since told us that McFarland “got what he needed grade-wise” and his eligibility is now simply a formality.

2 » ESPN’s Bruce Feldman found out over the weekend what Gator Nation has known for quite some time – junior running back (and sophomore sprinter) Jeff Demps is a fast, fast man. Feldman interviewed Demps for ESPN Insider (subscription required) and touched on his football and track careers. “Four. No, wait. Five. I got one in football. I got one for the indoor 60 meters and for the team indoor title, and now I have ones for the 100 and the outdoor [relay],” Demps said when asked how many national title rings he possesses.

Photo Credit: Caitlin Healy

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Meyer speaks on expansion, recruiting and 2010

Not always up for extensive one-on-one interviews, Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer granted Joe Rose of 560 WQAM in Miami, FL, 15 minutes of his time on Thursday and answered questions spanning a number of topics that fans have been waiting to hear him discuss.

Meyer, who makes it a point to appear on Rose’s show once or twice a year mostly due to the fact that it is popular in the recruiting hotbed of South Florida, said he would not necessarily be against Florida’s in-state rivals being added to the mix of a potentially expanded Southeastern Conference in 2012-13.

“I think that would be great for the SEC,” Meyer said. “I have not done the research, I [would need to] ask a lot of questions. […] I know one thing – our commissioner and our office, they won’t be caught by surprise because we got the best people. It’s phenomenal the job they do. That’s a natural fit – the two schools you just mentioned – we play one of them every year anyway and the other is a great rivalry as well.

“As a coach, you look at it and say, ‘Here we go, let’s go add a couple more powerhouses.’ [But then] you have to go play them.”

He also noted that the SEC’s recent dominance is likely the cause for the immediate need for conference expansion across the country.

“As far as interest on a national level, as far as quality of play, right now the SEC is the best,” he opined. “The television contracts, the interest level that’s taking place in the SEC is forcing some of these other conferences to react. It’s going to be interesting. The one thing you can rest assured though, commissioner Mike Slive – the guy’s phenomenal. He has got his hand on some buttons if we have to do what we have to do.”

One facet in which adding Miami and/or Florida State to the conference could potentially impact the Gators is in recruiting. When it comes down to it though, Meyer is more than confident about the prowess of his program in that area.

“Our best recruiters are our players,” Meyer said. “I didn’t even go on the road the last three weeks because I was not allowed to do that. The fact that we have the facilities in place now, we have the players in place, we have an excellent coaching staff. I don’t want to say it recruits itself, because it doesn’t, but the best salesmen you have are the people that are involved in your team. Our current team right now is very close. Our team has had success in the classroom and on the field.”

That success is one of the reasons why Florida had to deny four-star athlete Travon Van admittance to the school. Van winding up with former Gators assistant coach Doc Holliday and the Marshall Thundering Heard was no coincidence – the two coaches remain close. In fact, Meyer took a bit of offense to Rose questioning if any dirty recruiting was involved on Holliday’s part.

“Doc’s a great friend – so [the decision] was nothing behind the scenes. That was in the forefront. The person that we’re talking about – I’m not even sure I’m allowed to mention it – but that was all done in conjunction,” he said. “There was no shady play or something like that. There was going to be an admission issue at Florida. Guys like Doc Holliday –he’s great for college football, he’s a great man and he’s a great friend. The most important thing is making sure the student-athlete has a place to go to school.”

Regarding 2010 recruit Kevin Nelson accusing his coaches of dirty recruiting, Meyer said he didn’t hear about those comments and that Florida worries “about its own business.” Nevertheless, he touched on the subject of how bad ugly recruiting can get.

“It’s a little bit like Tim Tebow. Tim, when he first came to Florida, he was The Chosen One. And then I’ve never seen a young man go through the scrutiny [he did and] just get picked apart,” he lamented. “I don’t think it’s necessarily me…maybe it is….but I think people just want to take a shot at something that’s doing OK. We’re very proud of our program here.”

When it comes to the Gators’ latest group of incoming freshman, Meyer once gain praised five-star safety Matt Elam and said he is looking forward to getting all of his players on the field as soon as possible this summer.

“Matt Elam is going to play. It’s done,” Meyer said emphatically. “He had a heck of a spring, he’s a heck of a kid, comes from a great family, we’ve known about him forever. We feel very good about our freshman class. Our [defensive line] – those kids are going to play. We don’t redshirt here at Florida – you go play. That’s why we recruit them and that’s why they’re here. We need some help because we lost a lot of really good players. I’m about as excited for [summer to begin on] June 24th as I’ve ever been.”

The most telling statement Meyer made during his conversation with Rose was his response to being questioned about how difficult it is to recruit nationally. Contrary to popular belief, it is an absolute non-issue for the program.

“We don’t want to recruit national. That’s one of the big sales why I wanted to come coach at Florida, because it’s a regional recruiting school,” he noted. “I have no interest in getting on a plane and flying across the country. We don’t recruit nationally, what we do is we cherry pick a little bit. If there is some kind of draw or some kind of interest – one of the best players in the country – we’ll go and make a run at them. Because of our brand, lately, we’re getting involved in that. That’s not what we do. What we do is try to do the best job we can in South Florida and Georgia and obviously the rest of the state of Florida, and then we’ll go cherry pick a little bit. This has been a unique year for out-of-state kids to jump all over it. They are some great players. I would like to, out of 25, have 18 in-state-ers or [from] south Georgia and in-state.”

Meyer also spoke on a variety of other topics, which you can read…after the break:
Continue Reading » Meyer speaks on expansion, recruiting and 2010

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ATH Travon Van headed to Marshall instead

Former Florida Gators four-star athlete commitment Travon Van (New Berlin, NY) has enrolled in summer classes at Marshall University with hopes of improving his grades in order to qualify academically to play next season for the Marshall Thundering Herd, according to numerous sources.

Van, who moved from California to New York to attend Milford Academy in order to improve his grades so he could enroll early at Florida, was denied admission in January due to an academic qualification issue. He kept his commitment to the Gators – spurning suitors like West Virginia – and hoped to enroll during the summer session.

OGGOA has confirmed that Van has been released from his National Letter of Intent primarily due to his inability to qualify academically but also because of depth concerns.

He has since signed with the Thundering Herd to play under head coach Doc Holliday, the former associate head coach and safeties coach at Florida from 2005-07.

Van’s summer grades at Marshall will determine whether or not he will be eligible for the 2010-11 season; if they do not improve, he may be forced to sit out a year.

Photo Credit: MaxPreps.com

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FOUR BITS: Brewer MIP, LaPorta, Jones, Couch

1 » As OGGOA mentioned two weeks ago, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer is much improved one year after returning from surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. Brewer is playing so well for the Minnesota Timberwolves, in fact, that he is in the running for the NBA’s 2010 Most Improved Player award. “It’s a confidence thing,” Brewer said of his improvement. “My rookie year was tough because I was going from one extreme system to another extreme system. I didn’t know where I could fit in. […] That’s why I loved Florida because we pressed, I got to get out on the break, got a lot of dunks. Now to be able to do it in the NBA, to actually get some highlights, it’s good.”

Brewer also told The Gainesville Sun that he keeps a close eye on the Gators and is hopeful for the future. “They need a few more players,” he said. “Coach [Bill Donovan] has been doing a good job. Austin Rivers is going to be really good when he comes up. The big kid from Jacksonville [Patric Young] coming in, I like him. And then my man, Casey [Prather], he’s from Tennessee. I like him, athletic 6-4.”

Three more BITS on UF connections in the MLB, NCAAs and PGA…after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Brewer MIP, LaPorta, Jones, Couch

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