1 » Florida Gators junior wide receiver Chris Thompson, who was excused from the team by head coach Jim McElwain while allegations of simple battery (dating violence) were flushed out, had the charge officially dropped by the state, according to Alachua County Court records. The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu spoke with State Attorney Bill Cervone, who said the alleged victim – an ex-girlfriend of Thompson – did not wish to pursue charges. Even if she had, it would have been unlikely that Thompson would have been found guilty of doing anything wrong. “He was legally entitled to make what is called ‘defense of his property,’ which in this case was his phone,” Cervone told the paper. “That’s what he was doing, and the injuries that resulted were inconsequential.” It is unknown if or when Thompson will rejoin the Florida football team.
Former Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey became the NFL‘s highest-paid player at his position on Friday night when he agreed to a five-year, $45 million extension ($22 million guaranteed) with the Miami Dolphins.
The landmark deal signed by the No. 15 overall pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft will mark the second league-record contract secured by the Pouncey family in as many offseasons.
1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin has found his fourth NFL home, signing a one-year, $6 million deal with the Buffalo Bills for the 2015 season. Harvin, who has been traded twice in the last two years and was cut by the New York Jets this offseason, follows head coach Rex Ryan to the Bills. Injuries and character concerns have derailed Harvin’s NFL success, but he is still seen as an explosive playmaker who can be a difference-maker both on offense and special teams. The one-year deal allows him to prove his value and potentially facilitate a long-term deal with a franchise in 2016.
2 » Florida football is going young. How young? Well, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Gators recently sent offers out to a high school freshman in running back Lorenzo Lingard and an eighth-grader in wide receiver Blake Hinson. According to their head coaches, Florida’s offer is the third for each player; Lingard also heard from Georgia and Iowa, while Hinson was offered by Miami and North Carolina. How did the Gators go about offering an eighth-grader? Hinson’s coach, DJ Mayo, told the News-Journal that he showed the player’s tape to head coach Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on his cell phone; an offer was sent the next day.
1 » The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 announced Thursday that the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which began last season, will undergo a significant format change. Instead of being 10 games played over three days in the fall, it will now be 10 games played in one day early in the spring. That date has been set for next season with all 10 games tipping off on Saturday, January 30, 2016, though match-ups have not yet been determined at this time. “Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later in the season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” said Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner. The 10 games will all be played on ESPN networks with the four SEC teams not given match-ups going head-to-head against each other on the SEC Network that day.
The Florida Gators wound up playing a home-and-home series against Kansas in the first two iterations of the event, hosting the Jayhawks last season and travelling to Lawrence, Kansas, this fall. Florida is expected to host an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in 2015-16, though renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center would have proved that difficult if the game was played during its previously-scheduled window. Whether the event was moved to help accommodate UF remains to be seen, but the scheduling adjustment was not just made for next season but for the duration of the event’s existence.
1 » For the second time in the last 14 months, former Florida Gators safety Will Hill is a wanted man. According to The Baltimore Sun, a warrant is out for Hill’s arrest in his home state of New Jersey as he allegedly owes $16,588.18 in back-due child support. Hill, then a member of the New York Giants, was arrested on the same charge in Dec. 2013. After not being selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, he spent an entire season out of the league while he tried to clean up his act and was picked up by the Giants in 2012; he remained on the team for two seasons despite being suspended twice for violating NFL drug policies. New York stood by him after his 2013 arrest but cut him on June 2, 2014, four days after the league handed down a third drug suspension. The Baltimore Ravens took a shot on Hill, who once again claimed to be reformed, and it paid off. Hill missed the first six games of the 2014 season but started most of the Ravens’ remaining contests, earning $368,824 for the duration of the campaign. For his career, Hill has made $1.03 million but lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to his three suspensions (14 missed games). His one-year deal with Baltimore expired; whether he gets another opportunity in the NFL remains to be seen.
“Will Hill, he has a lot of talent,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh in his last press conference of the season. “It’s something that we always knew. He also has a great love for the game. He learned our defense throughout the course of the season, which it’s not easy to do that. We have a tough defense. We do a lot of good stuff back there. But he was running the show pretty well back there toward the end of the year.”
At the conclusion of each year, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. For the second-straight year, which will go down as another difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 14 for 2014 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 14 for 2014 (COMING THURSDAY) to begin 2015 on a positive note!
14 » SEE YA NEVER
Over the final two months of 2014, the Gators football program saw three seniors decide – whether through purposeful actions or team rules violations – to end their careers early. Learning he would not be starting at Vanderbilt, redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr argued with then head coach Will Muschamp and was sent home on a bus before the game; he later tried to explain his side of the story. On the final day of the year, redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (mutual decision) and senior DT Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) were ruled out for the bowl game. Debose had an up-and-down hear overall, suffering a defenestration in the spring and barely playing on offense during the season; he was excellent as Florida’s all-purpose returner, however, and ends his career tied for the SEC record in kick return touchdowns (four).
13 » CHARACTER CONCERNS
Maurkice and Mike Pouncey kept their noses clean when they were with the Gators and continue to be fan favorite from their time at Florida. However, since becoming professional football players, some character questions have been raised – stemming in large part from the brothers wearing “Free Hernandez” hats last year – and those continued in 2014. Pouncey was one of the main players named in bullying allegations levied by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and both Pounceys were accused of serious assault during a night club incident in Miami. The brothers were not ultimately charged with assault from that evening’s incident but all of the allegations continued to paint UF in a bad light.
12 » UNEXPECTEDLY UNDRAFTED
It started in the 2014 NFL Draft when a pair of Gators junior cornerbacks that declared early – Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson – were not selected. Purifoy had a drug incident in the offseason that contributed to him not being drafted – and both players dealt with character concerns – but it was nevertheless a surprise. (Purifoy and Roberson, respectively, signed undrafted free agent deals with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams. Both saw limited action this season with Purifoy getting cut by the Colts, dropped by the Seattle Seahawks after a waiver claim [failed a physical] and ultimately suspended four games by the NFL for an undisclosed reason.)
There was even more of an expectation that center Patric Young would be picked in the 2014 NBA Draft with many believing he could go as high as the lower portion of the first round. Instead, Young fell out of the first and did not even get picked in the second as many NBA teams chose to select international players that they could stash and not sign to contracts. Young ultimately signed with the New Orleans Pelicans but was later cut by the franchise and is now playing in Turkey. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather also went undrafted, and though Wilbekin performed well in NBA Summer League action, he did not get an opportunity in the league either.
11 » BAD OMENS
Though there was some positive momentum for the football program as the 2014 season approached, with the roster looking healthy and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper expected to turn things around for Florida, a number of bad omens cast doom over the Gators’ campaign. It started with the Orange & Blue Debut spring game, which ended in a tie. Though there was no reason to continue the game per se, fans in attendance hoped to see a little bit of extra Florida football action and left disappointed.
The ominous offseason continued with wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips resigning from his position in June after Miami staffers reported him for a recruiting violation. Muschamp named former Gators quarterback and team graduate assistant Chris Leak as the replacement receivers coach, giving UF four different coaches at that position in as many seasons. The last omen was even more obvious than the first two with lightning storms cancelling Florida’s season opener against Idaho. Though options were considered to play the game at a later date in the season, it was ultimately decided to take the contest off both teams’ schedules with the Gators and Vandals only playing 11 contests in 2014.
The 2014 NFL regular season concluded this week with 36 former Florida Gators spread out over 20 of the 32 teams in the league.
Twelve teams had multiple Florida players on their rosters including Miami (four); Philadelphia and Tampa Bay (three each); and Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, N.Y. Jets, Pittsburgh and St. Louis (two each).
Below are full game statistics for all 26 players (16 starters^) that saw action along with select status and injury updates on some Gators during the 16th week of the regular season as well as the same information for all 29 players (15 starters^) that were active in Week 17.
Eight former Gators advanced to the postseason. Florida is represented on seven of the 12 teams that moved on to the 2014 NFL Playoffs.
^ Kickers and returners not counted as starters.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK (16)
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Started | five receptions for 53 yards (target: 7, long: 16), two touchdowns
PLAYS OF THE WEEK (16)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK (17)
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Started | three solo tackles, pass defense, interception (-4 yard return)
PLAYS OF THE WEEK (17)
Check out how the rest of the Gators in the NFL performed…after the break!
Updated on Jan. 10 at 4 p.m.
A pair of former Florida Gators were elected Tuesday to the NFL Pro Bowl fifth-year Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and fifth-year Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey were both chosen to participate in this season’s all-star game.
Update: Two weeks after the announcements were initially made, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey – who played right guard all season – was selected as a replacement for San Francisco guard Mike Iupati.
Haden and Maurkice Pouncey each received lucrative five-year contract extensions from their respective franchises this offseason.
The Browns agreed to pay Haden $68 million ($45 million guaranteed), while the Steelers and Maurkice Pouncey agreed on a $44 million compensation package ($13 million guaranteed).