FOUR BITS: Elam, Harvin, Noah, Hernandez

1 » According to the Associated Press, Florida Gators sophomore safety Matt Elam has settled the misdemeanor alcohol possession charge he was served an arrest for over the summer. Elam, who was caught by a police officer with a plastic cup containing alcohol, entered a plea of no contest on Monday. He will do 12 hours of community service, serve six months of supervised probation and pay a total of $331 in fees to settle the charge. Elam did not miss any playing time and has started all three games of the 2011 season for Florida at strong safety.

2 » Even though Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin had a dynamic kickoff return in the first game of the season and has proven to be the team’s second-most explosive weapon behind running back Adrian Peterson, he is not being used as much offensively has in the past. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Radio in Minneapolis pointed out on Monday that Harvin was only used in 44.1 percent (30-of-68) of the team’s offensive snaps in their second game of the season, which is more than 20 percent less playing time than just one week prior. The Vikings’ best receiver and deep threat, Harvin not being in the game has seriously stalled their offense, which is 31st (out of 32 teams) in the league in passing and has only scored 37 combined points in two games this season. His migraine and injury concerns are apparently a thing of the past, leaving many fans of the team to wonder why he is not being utilized more often.

3 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, aside from participating in international competitions, has been relatively quiet since his team was eliminated from the NBA Playoffs last year. Though you may not see him endorsing too many products west of the Atlantic Ocean, apparently Noah’s name is big enough in France to sell some shoes and clothing for the French sporting goods company Le Coq Sportif. Below is a video of the commercial Noah is currently appearing in for the brand.

4 » There may be some more bad news coming for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who reportedly tore his MCL in the team’s week two contest against San Diego. Though the Boston Globe initially reported that Hernandez would be out 1-2 weeks with the sprain, Comcast SportsNet New England believes he may be out more than a month and up to six weeks due to the injury. The loss of Hernandez would be a big blow for the Patriots, who have found success recently with two pass-catching tight ends and perhaps even bigger for fantasy football owners who were counting on him to continue his dominant 2011 campaign.

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SIX BITS: Harvin’s healthy, Raymond wins, books, soccer & volleyball split, Floyd’s repayment

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin is healthy – finally. After being nagged by injuries throughout his college career and having persistent migraines limit the amount of time he could practice and play for the Minnesota Vikings during his first two years in the NFL, Harvin has finally cleared all of that up and hopes to become the dynamic playmakers his teammates, coaches and fans know he can be. He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week that he has “tremendous confidence in my ability” and proved that Sunday, taking the opening kickoff 103 yards down the field for a touchdown. Having missed fewer than two practices in the offseason (for precautionary reasons due to sore ribs), Harvin is ready and raring to go and hopes to continue the electricity he showcased over the weekend.

2 » Former Florida tennis player Lisa Raymond has always seemed to excel in doubles action, where she is 700-251 all-time as a professional and has been a part of 71 title-winning duos (she was even half of the No. 1 pair in the world back in 2000). Raymond, with four Grand Slam doubles titles to her name this century, was looking to win her first this decade, teaming with Liezel Huber at the 2011 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, Raymond and Huber made it all the way to the finals where they defeated No. 3 seed Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) to win Raymond’s fifth Grand Slam and earn her the world No. 1 ranking she has been looking to recapture for nearly 11 years. At 38-years-old, Raymond would be considered by most to be a relic of professional tennis, but she told The New York Times that her age was an advantage going into the event. “I think that’s probably one of our biggest assets as a team is our experience,” she said after the victory. “We have years and years and years of being in finals of Slams, winning the championships, being down breaks in the third set to win or lose a Slam.”

3 » Two former Gators in the team’s Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame – running back Emmitt Smith and linebacker Jack Youngblood – are releasing brand new books chronicling their lives. Smith’s is titled Game On: Find Your Purpose – Pursue Your Dream “outlines the principles that helped him become a winner on and off the football field.” Youngblood’s – Because It Was Sunday – The Legend of Jack Youngblood – gives “readers and football fans an unprecedented, candid account of [his] remarkable life journey.” He will be at the University of Florida’s Alumni Hall promoting the book on Oct. 1, the day it is scheduled to be released.

4 » No. 9 Florida soccer (5-2) split a pair of games over the weekend, dropping a heartbreaker 3-2 to the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles on Friday before soundly defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 5-0 on Sunday. UF and FSU went back-and-forth Friday with the Seminoles scoring at 4’ and 55’ and the Gators knocking goals in at 45’ (junior midfielder Erika Tymrak) and 68’ (junior MF Holly King). With the match tied 2-2, Florida State’s Tiffany McCarthy scored her second goal of the evening and fifth of the season at 72’ to push her team to victory. Florida rebounded Sunday with a shutout victory including goals from freshman forward Tessa Andujar, Tymrak (16’), freshman defender Lauren Silver (24’), sophomore MF Caroline Triglia (43’) and senior F Lindsay Thompson (58’).

5 » Competing in the Nike Big Four Classic in Palo Alto, CA, No. 7 Gators volleyball (7-2) also split their weekend matches. Florida defeated the No. 10 Texas Longhorns in five sets (25-22, 20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12) on Friday prior to being beat in similar fashion by the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal (17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 13-15) on Sunday. Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the way for the Gators with a total of 35 kills and 33 digs in back-to-back double-doubles, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy followed suit with 26 kills and 59 assists in two double-double performances of her own.

6 » Gators sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, as part of his punishment by the NCAA, is required to make arrangements to repay $2,700 to a charity of his choosing in addition to having already sat out the first two games of the 2011 season. Many OGGOA readers have asked via e-mail, comments and Twitter how Floyd will come up with the money before the Tennessee game on Saturday. The answer is simple: he doesn’t have to. According to a NCAA compliance expert who spoke with us over the weekend, Floyd – in conjunction with the University of Florida – only must submit to the NCAA his decision on how and over what period of time he plans to make payments. Further details on what Floyd chooses to do will likely be unavailable going forward, but the concern over him being able to pay the money prior to playing should be squashed in the interim.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Harvin, Reed, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators center Maurkice Pouncey had a great rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Earning the starting job from day one, Pouncey helped his team advance all the way to the Super Bowl, which he ended up missing due to injury. He had another unique opportunity this past Saturday as he and 12 of his Pittsburgh teammates worked as actors for the third installment of the new group of Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises. Pouncey and the rest of the Steelers were cast as football players and went through some motions on Heinz Field while surrounded by thousands of extras in the stands as fans. They are on the field against a Gotham team coached by Bill Cowher. “From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be like a pregame, warming-up type thing,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before the filming. “I don’t know the whole concept. There’s a Gotham team, a football game. We’ll be wearing uniforms. It will be fun.”

2 » A standout performer at Minnesota Vikings training camp thus far, wide receiver Percy Harvin is also becoming more of a leader. “I’ll tell you there is no way that I would have predicted over this lockout that Percy would have come back taking a leadership role that he has,” head coach Leslie Frazier told the Associated Press. “From the moment the lockout was lifted and we could contact players, it’s been refreshing just talking to him and just seeing his attitude about this season. The fact that he’s leading, he’s talking to other players, explaining to them what needs to be done, how things are done.” Not only is Harvin stepping up, he is also feeling much better after being plagued with migraines throughout his entire football career. Free from them for the last seven months and confident that doctors have finally found a solution, Harvin could be poised for a breakout season even though he’s already won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and scored a ton of touchdowns in his young career.

3 » Gators redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed finally feels like he is coming into his own at his new position. Moved to tight end from quarterback heading into 2010, Reed was forced to move back behind center in order to help run Florida’s offense. A year later, he is once again prepared to try his hand at blocking and catching. “I’m excited about being the tight end,” Reed told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “It’s been a lot easier on me than last year, knowing that I’ve just got to worry about one position.” To help with his transition, he has sought out assistance from former Gators TE Aaron Hernandez. “We still talk all the time,” he said. “He tells me to watch film and learn the defense and coverages and it will be easier for me.”

4 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps was named to the watch list for the 2011 Paul Hornung Award on Monday. The award, presented to the nation’s most versatile college football player at the end of the year, was given for the first time in 2010. Demps and redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey were on last season’s watch list but neither ended up being one of the three finalists. The former has also been named to the 2011 Doak Walker Award watch list for the country’s top running back.

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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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FOUR BITS: Harvin, LaPorta, Macklin, facilities

1 » Hobbled by migraine headaches throughout his life, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin believes that – finally – the nagging issue is behind him. “This is the best I’ve felt, probably, since I’ve been in kindergarten,” he told Ed Miller of The Virginian-Pilot. “I met a couple of doctors. There were a couple of things they found in my neck that I won’t get into – some things they found and fixed, along with diet and the rest of the things that can cause them. It’s been great, and knock on wood, it’ll continue.” Harvin, who had a scary episode during practice in Minnesota last year, has visited dozens of doctors and specialists and received even more explanations and treatments the migraines than he can count. He believes it has been five or six months since he last experienced one and hopes this streak continues permanently.

2 » Cleveland Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta, one of the best baseball players ever to wear a Florida Gators uniform, was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the club on Saturday after he severely sprained his ankle on Friday while caught in a rundown. LaPorta is currently hitting .242 with eight homers and 31 RBI.

3 » In an extensive question-and-answer session with Dime Magazine, Florida center Vernon Macklin touches on a number of topics including his workouts leading up to the 2011 NBA Draft, decision to transfer to the Gators, opinion of how he can succeed in the pros, and plans for draft day. Here are a few choice selections from the interview, which can be read in full right here.

Dime: Are you happy with the decision you made to come to Florida for two years after spending your first two at Georgetown?
VM: I’m pretty happy about it. I think Coach (Billy Donovan) took a great risk in taking me, transferring from a school and not playing as much. But I think I went in there and played hard for him for the two years. And I sat out a year, I learned a lot from him and a lot of guys. So I think it was a great fit.

Dime: How did it feel to make such a deep run in the NCAA Tournament?
VM: It was good. I’m happy we made the run. It’s been a while for Florida to be back and playing good basketball. So us making a run to the Elite Eight and being able to compete every single game in the tournament was great for us. It was also great for Coach Donovan and the whole program.

4 » Some more improvements are going to be made to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – both inside and out – in the next two-to-three years. According to The Gainesville Sun’s Nathan Crabble, Florida is looking to upgrade some of the Gators’ facilities in ways that will benefit both student-athletes and fans.

The board also approved a variety of renovation projects, some using $2.8 million in reserves and the rest using $15 million in bonds planned to be issued. Reserves will be spent on projects that include the resurfacing of the Percy Beard Track and the conversion of staff and JV locker rooms in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to football meeting rooms and a player lounge.

The bonds, which still must be approved by the Florida Board of Governors, would be spent on projects that include renovations to the gymnastics studio in the O’Connell Center and the baseball and softball stadium scoreboards. Renovations would be made to the west concourse of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium that include changes to concession stands and bathrooms, [athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

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FOUR BITS: Crowder, Harvin, Noah, Calathes

1 » Outspoken Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder told the Sun-Sentinel Tuesday that the current NFL lockout could “mess up integrity of the game” if it continues. “There’s going to be more injuries, it’s going to be real simple football,” he said. “It’s going to mess up the integrity of the game because we’re used to having those OTA’s, minicamps, off-season workouts […] it’s hurting the NFL now and as long as the owners won’t let us go to work it’s going to continue to hurt the game we love.” Crowder has been participating in private workouts with teammates in the offseason and hopes to be in top-notch condition when the season begins…whenever (if ever) that occurs.

2 » In a pairing that may make some Florida Gators fans cringe, Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder has reached out to wide receiver Percy Harvin to begin working out together. The former Florida State Seminoles QB and Florida WR could be connecting for touchdowns for quite some time considering Harvin’s impressive athleticism and Ponder being selected with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

3 » In an extensive question-and-answer session with self-described “out, gay sportswriter” Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah provided additional perspective on how his anger at a fan is not representative of him as a person. Below is a short excerpt from the interview, which can be read here in full.

Arnovitz: I understand. I just wish it hadn’t been you. I mean, that word is hard to hear no matter who says it, but you’re supposed to be one of the enlightened guys. You’re the guy who grew up in Soho and has European parents and friends all over the world. There are a lot of players in the league who, whether because they come from certain backgrounds or maybe choose not to care, don’t surprise me. But you surprised me.

Noah: You know, all my best friends live downtown in New York City. I was made in Soho. Sometimes, when you’re at this level you don’t realize the consequences or how much a word can bother people. My mom’s best friend was gay. We used to call him “Mom.” So I’m disappointed because that’s not me. I didn’t mean any harm to anybody. I don’t want anyone to feel disrespected by what I said, and I understand that’s what’s going to happen. […]

Arnovitz: So it’s safe to say you’re really pissed off at yourself? Moderately pissed off at yourself? Pissed off at the potential consequences?

Noah: I’m pissed off that I’m a distraction to my teammates right now. We’re playing the biggest game of our lives and this is off subject. I’m pissed off that I might’ve offended people.

4 » Though the Gators do have one former player – forward Corey Brewer on the Western Conference Finals leading (3-1) Dallas Mavericks, another could be joining the team shortly. Former Florida point guard Nick Calathes, is currently playing for Panathinaikos in Greece but only has one more year remaining on his deal. With Dallas’ older backcourt and need for big men in the draft this year, there are whispers that Calathes could be playing in the NBA as soon as the 2012-13 season.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Taylor, Bullock, Macklin

1 » Due to his migraines and a coaching change mid-season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not end up performing up to where he did when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie one year earlier. When If the 2011 season begins, Harvin will be more involved in the offense, according to head coach Leslie Frazier. “I still think there are more things that can be done with Percy [Harvin],” he told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “We did some things toward the end of the year where we definitely tried to isolate him, and that’s one of the reasons I pulled him off kickoff at times. I wanted to feature him more than we were. I wanted him to be a featured part of our offense. There’s different things we can do with him, and hopefully, Sidney [Rice is] in the fold and he’s healthy and there’s some things that we can do with him. Because of Adrian [Peterson], there are opportunities that we can do on the perimeter that a lot of teams can’t. But you still have to account for him on every single play. So, we have to be able to exploit in that sense and I think what we’re trying to do is build to be able to do that. Adrian creates a lot of good situations for our perimeter people.”

2 » Two months ago, veteran running back Fred Taylor sounded like he was going to call it quits after a 13-year NFL career including 10 as a featured rusher. Having amassed 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns (as well as 290 receptions for 2,384 yards and eight more scorers) over his career, Taylor has noted that being healthy enough to spend quality time with his family is important going forward. On Monday, Taylor told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union that being injured in 2010 may have “bought him some extra years.” At 35-years-old, it remains to be seen if he will decide to continue and what time, if any, would sign him.

3 » Former Florida right-handed pitcher Billy Bullock was traded from the Minnesota Twins – who drafted him in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft – to the Atlanta Braves on Monday in order to complete an long-standing deal. Bullock has spent his time as a professional in the minor leagues and pitched for AA squad New Britain last season, striking out 60 batters in 36 2/3 innings.

4 » Wrapping up Gators basketball for the 2011 season is this story from The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway on a tattoo redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin has on his forearm. Though he has 40+ tattoos, Macklin has one that means a lot more to him the rest – a memorial to his deceased grandmother. Read more about Macklin’s tattoo here.

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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