FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

1 » Rookie left-handed pitcher Alex Wood has been getting hazed by his Atlanta Braves teammates since being promoted to the majors. One tactic his teammates are using to embarrass Wood is forcing him to carry a plush Florida Gators backpack out to the bullpen when he warms up. “His fellow relievers brought as much attention to the prank as they could,” MLB.com explains, “making Wood lead the group into the outfield and taking turns playing with the snout of the plush gator mascot on the back of the backpack.” The former Georgia standout only faced Florida twice during his three years in college with the Gators beating him both times.

2 » By defeating Serbia 71-62 on Wednesday, USA Basketball earned the No. 1 overall seed in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and will open up the bracket portion of the event on Friday at 2:15 p.m. when the Americans take on their neighbors to the north, Canada. Florida rising sophomore guard Michael Frazier II barely saw the court in the United States’ last game, playing only the final 1:37 of the first half and not leaving the bench in the second half. Head coach Billy Donovan did not sit Frazier without good reason; he had shot 8-of-36 (.222) from downtown in the first five games. ESPN3.com has picked up the quarterfinals of the event and will air the Americans’ showdown with the Canadians at 2:15 p.m. on Friday.

3 » Green Bay Packers rookie running back Jonathan Franklin was born in Los Angeles, CA, and attended UCLA but did not name a Californian his role model when asked during an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I Love Tim Tebow because of his spiritual walk,” Franklin explained. “Through all that he’s been through he still stays strong in his walk and that’s very encouraging. My pastor and my mom (Pamela) have also been great role models for me.”

Check out Aaron Hernandez murder investigation updates…after the break.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: USA Basketball, Tebow, Hernandez

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Red Sox sign Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel

Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel will enter the 2013 season as the starter after leading Florida to an 11-2 record last year, but should his football career turn south on the college or professional level, he now has a fallback option.

According to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday signed Driskel, the franchise’s 29th round selection (No. 863 overall) in the 2013 MLB Draft.

His mother, Mary Driskel, initially denied that her son inked an MLB deal, telling the Orlando Sentinel that “he hasn’t done anything since he was drafted.” However, his father, Jerry Driskel, later told the Sun-Sentinel‘s Dieter Kurtenbach that his son has indeed signed with the Red Sox but will still play for the Gators next season.

On Thursday, Driskel confirmed the decision himself via his Twitter account. “Yes I signed with the Red Sox. Nothing changes,” he tweeted. “I am still a full time student athlete at UF, fully committed to playing football. #GoGators”

He later released a statement through Florida.

“I plan on focusing on football and finishing my college career with the Gators,” Driskel said. “After my college football career is over, I want to pursue a professional career in the NFL. If I ever decide I want to play baseball, I want to play with the Boston Red Sox, who drafted me in the recent draft.”

Boston understands that he will continue playing football at UF and not immediately join the Red Sox’s farm system.

By signing Driskel, Boston owns his MLB rights for six years. Should he choose to play baseball after college or not succeed in the NFL, his back-up plan is in place.

He is not be the first college quarterback to take this action.

Continue Reading » Red Sox sign Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel

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TWO BITS: Van Aman’s DUI, Zunino’s walk-off

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman walk-on punter Grant Van Aman was arrested by Gainesville Police early Saturday morning for driving under the influence. According to the police report, Van Aman was pulled over at 2:29 a.m. on the 1200 block of Southwest 8th Avenue in Gainesville, FL, for failing to stop at a stop sign while riding his red scooter. Van Aman cut off the officer, who happened to be at the scene, when he missed the stop sign, forcing the officer to suddenly “hit the breaks” on his car to avoid an accident. Van Aman then “jerked the handle bars on his scooter causing it to swerve and almost lose control.” The officer noticed “a very strong odor of alcoholic beverages” on Van Aman, describing his eyes as “watery, blood shot and extremely dilated” and his face as “flush and pale.” Furthermore, Van Aman was slurring his speech and mumbling his words, which led the officer to conduct a DUI investigation. Van Aman was not forthright about his drinking that evening, refused to submit to a field sobriety test and twice refused breath tests. He remains locked up in Alachua County Jail.

2 » Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, just 11 games into his MLB career, registered his first walk-off hit on Friday night as he led Seattle to a 5-4 win (10 innings) over the Chicago Cubs. With the bases loaded and the count full, Zunino smacked a one-out single up the middle to send his team to victory. Zunino is currently batting .237 with one home run, two RBI and two walks. [Watch]

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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.

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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TWO BITS: Horschel’s finish, Tebow and baseball

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel (+5) finished in a four-way tie for fourth place at the 2013 U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club over the weekend, earning $291,406 and 120 FedEx Cup points after a strong showing in the event. Horschel hit all 18 greens in regulation – the first time a competitor has accomplished this feat at the U.S. Open since the statistic began being recorded 20 years ago – while registering a three-under 67 on Friday. He shared the lead with Phil Mickelson entering the weekend but posted rounds of 72 and 74 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to fall out of first place and finish four strokes back of eventual winner Justin Rose. Horschel has now registered 10 top-10 victories in 16 events so far in 2013. He won the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, LA back in April and has missed one cut. Horschel entered Thursday fourth in the 2013 FedEx Cup standings and is now fifth with 1,413 points and approximately $3 million in winnings. Players ahead of him include Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Mickelson.

2 » WEEI 93.7 FM revealed over the weekend that former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was nearly drafted by the Los Angels Angels out of high school. “We wanted to draft him,” said former Angels scout Tom Kotchman, “but he never sent back his information card. Either it never got to him, or… It’s Tim Tebow. Who knows if it got to him, and if it did we just never got it back. Otherwise we were going to take him.” Had Tebow decided to concentrate on baseball, he would have been projected as a Round 7-12 pick with six-tool potential and great left-handed power. “It was just easy for him,” said Boston Red Sox scout Stephen Hargett. “You thought, ‘If this guy dedicated everything to baseball like he did to football, how good could he be?’”

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Horschel, Zunino, Moultrie

1 » Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored her 156th career international goal on a penalty kick in stoppage time on Saturday as the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Korea Republic 4-1 in a friendly. Wambach moves within two goals of former teammate Mia Hamm, whose 158 international goals are a worldwide record for either gender. The United States and Korea will square off again on Thursday as Wambach looks to close the gap even further.

2 » Former Gators golfer Billy Horschel, who entered the 2013 U.S. Open ranked fourth on the FedEx Cup standings, is tied for fifth at +1 entering Sunday’s fourth and final round at Merion in Ardmore, PA. Horschel shot a 67 on Friday, becoming the first player in at least 20 years to hit the green on all 18 holes in a U.S. Open event. He followed his dominant performance with a 72 on Saturday and is now two shots back of leader Phil Mickelson (-1). Horschel hopes to win his first professional major in style as he will be donning these pants on Sunday (2:47 p.m. tee time).

Check out two more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Wambach, Horschel, Zunino, Moultrie

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SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

1 » Former Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino earned his first career MLB start on Wednesday for the Seattle Mariners, opening the game behind the plate and batting sixth. Zunino went 1/4 with a strikeout in the game, registering his first big-league hit during his second at-bat. Had Nick Franklin not held up at third base, Zunino also would have registered his first career RBI.

2 » Billy Horschel is the only former Gators golfer competing in the 2013 U.S. Open this weekend and plans to make a statement with his attire. Should Horschel make it to Sunday, which is likely considering he is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings at this time, he will don a dark pair of pants featuring octopi. Really. See here.

3 » Though no further information was provided, U.S. Women’s National Team star striker Abby Wambach on Wednesday tweeted out this picture of her hanging out with New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. “Hey @BrandonSpikes55 nice chillin’ with you. Gators nation forever. No doubt! #newpatsfan,” she wrote on Twitter.

Check out three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

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FOUR BITS: Zunino, APR, Fowler, Marotti

1 » One of the most accomplished players in the history of Florida Gators baseball, catcher Mike Zunino has been called up to the major leagues and will suit up for the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Zunino is hitting just .238 with 11 home runs for the Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate. Chances are Zunino’s call up is as a temporary replacement for rookie C Jesus Sucre, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners on Saturday. Unless Zunino starts dominating immediately on the major league level (or even if he does), he will likely be sent back down so the year he is eligible for arbitration is not bumped up a season. “So far the transition has been pretty good,” Zunino told the Seattle Post-Inteligencer as part of a recent feature story. “For me it’s one of those things where it’s all about how you prepare mentally and physically, and taking care of yourself. Ultimately that gives you the best chance to succeed.”

2 » The NCAA released the official Academic Progress Rates for the 2011-12 athletic season with all the numbers coming in positive for the Gators. Florida’s football team finished with an APR of 968, tied with Georgia for fourth-best in the Southeastern Conference behind Missouri, Alabama and Vanderbilt. UF basketball scored a 989, checking in one spot back of UGA.

3 » The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu penned an interesting feature over the weekend on Gators sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. and how his decision to play for Florida has affected his father, a long-time die-hard Florida State fan. “We gave [all the FSU shirts and hats] away,” Fowler said. “Everything FSU is gone. Strictly Gator. All Gator stuff now. It was a little hard for [my dad] at first, but he started wearing some of the Florida stuff to go to the barber shop and everyone would say, ‘You’re wearing orange and blue now.’ Everything FSU is gone. We turned him around. He’s actually glad now that I made the decision to come here. I think in the end, this was the best decision for me. I’m just very happy now.” The feature also looks at Fowler’s successful freshman season, how he is preparing for his second year, and his admiration for his new “big brother,” redshirt junior Buck LB Ronald Powell.

4 » Speaking of features, CBS Sports columnist Bruce Feldman wrote one Tuesday on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer from the perspective of the team’s assistant athletic director for football sports performance, Micky Marotti. In the piece, Mariotti kind of brags that Meyer was able to nab defensive end Noah Spence, who he notes was the No. 1 player at that position end on Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s recruiting board. He also explains how Meyer has changed from his time at Florida. “He’s a lot less likely to fly off the handle,” Marotti said. “I think he’s at a point, where you try to teach and educate and cultivate your players, but ultimately it’s their decision to make the right or wrong decision out there in the world. He’s done a tremendous, Emmy award-winning job coaching our coaches in philosophy, methodology and recruiting. I see it all. He’s really into teaching.”

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