TE Cornelius Ingram: “At the end of the day, there’s nothing like being on the field.”

After two years of rehabbing his torn anterior cruciate ligament, two years of watching while other tight ends succeeded in his stead and two years of sitting in the background while yearning to get back on the field to play his favorite sport, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Cornelius Ingram decided to spend his free month before 2010 training camp begins starting a charity and spending a half hour talking about his career and life with OGGOA. The former Florida Gators breakout star, now back in town to relax with family and work out with some of his former coaches, reminisced about his struggles, successes and what he hopes to accomplish in his hometown.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start off with the most important question first…how is your knee? Last we heard you were back to full speed and participating in mini camp.
CORNELIUS INGRAM: “That’s 100 percent correct. I feel good. I was able to go through OTAs and minicamp and I had a pretty successful one as well. I feel good. The knee’s back to 100 percent, so I’m excited about the season.”

AS: Obviously it is tough going into a situation where you are hoping to contribute right away only to get backtracked with basically the same injury again. What were your thoughts when you found out you had to sit out another full year after tearing your ACL?
CI: “It was tough. If anybody is doing something that they have a passion for and they love it, regardless if its sports or not, it’s tough when you love to do something and it’s something you’ve been doing your whole life – it’s very hard to sit out and watch other guys be successful. I’m a pretty competitive guy, so I’m always trying to do my best at whatever I’m doing. It was very tough being [injured] two years in a row. But the good thing I can say – I was still able to go to meetings. I was lifting weights; I was still able to watch film with the team during the course of game week. I still felt like I got better in certain areas, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing like being on the field.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Cornelius Ingram…after the break!
Continue Reading » TE Cornelius Ingram: “At the end of the day, there’s nothing like being on the field.”

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CHOMPING: Why 2010 will not be a repeat of 2007

The 2007 season was arguably the worst the Florida Gators have played since head coach Urban Meyer took over the program in 2005. That is often what happens when a team’s starting quarterback (Chris Leak) graduates, it loses the majority of its defensive starters to the NFL Draft (defensive linemen Jarvis Moss, Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas and Joe Cohen, safeties Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith, linebacker Brandon Siler) and a few other key pieces leave as well (wide receiver Dallas Baker, running back DeShawn Wynn).

Considering the departures following the 2009 season (QB Tim Tebow, WR Riley Cooper, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey, cornerback Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, S Major Wright, LBs Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham) appear eerily similar (if not greater) to those that occurred before 2007 got underway, many might expect the Gators to experience a similar downfall. Perhaps they will go from back-to-back one-loss seasons to a similar 9-4 record, 5-3 performance in the Southeastern Conference and maybe even a bowl game loss?

Here is why those that think the sky is falling may be too reactionary…
Continue Reading » CHOMPING: Why 2010 will not be a repeat of 2007

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Florida Gators take second in 2010 Directors’ Cup

The University of Florida and its athletic program will finish second in the 2009-10 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup when the standings are made official after baseball season, according to a release from the school. The second-place overall ranking – which ties a program-high (1997-98) – is fueled by 2010 NCAA National Championships in Men’s Indoor Track & Field and Women’s Swimming & Diving.

The annual national all-sports competition, as awarded by athletic directors across the country, recognizes schools with the best overall sports performances in an academic year. The honor has been owned by the University of Stanford in recent years.

With 1,237.25 total points, the Florida Gators placed a distant second, 271.25 points behind the winning Stanford Cardinal (1508.50). The title is Stanford’s 16th consecutive Director’s Cup, an absolutely dominating stretch.

Florida, however, “is the only program in the nation to finish among the nation’s top 10 in each of the last 27 national all-sports standings,” according to UF. The Gators’ 2009-10 finish is the first time the program has finished in the top three in back-to-back seasons (third, 2008-09). Additionally…

Florida’s 14 top-10 national team finishes in 2009-10, including nine in the top five, is a school record. The previous high of 12 top-10 finishes was equaled five times in the program’s history, including each of the last two seasons. This is the ninth consecutive year that 10 or more Gator athletic teams finished among the nation’s top 10.

Points are awarded based on which sports a school’s athletics program participates in and how said team finishes at the end of that sport’s season.

No other Southeastern Conference school finished in the top 10; however, Florida State University will be ranked No. 7 with 1,009.50 total points.

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FOUR BITS: Easley, Crowder, den Dekker, UCF

1 » When the New York Post asked Florida Gators five-star freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley what his goals are when he heads to Gainesville, FL, next week, his response was straight-forward: “start right away and get to that BCS championship game.” Easley – who was honored with a student-athlete award on Monday after finishing high school with an 85 grade average while compiling 73 tackles and 16 sacks as a senior – says that he is excited for his future. “It’s getting crazy,” he said. “I’m going to be doing what I’ve been watching all my life.” Earning praise from his teachers, administrators, coaches and peers, Easley is on the fast track to success and may realize that as soon as Sept. 4 against Miami (OH).

2 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, entering his sixth season in the NFL, is facing a bit of adversity this offseason after the team signed high-priced free agent LB Karlos Dansby and traded for back-up LB Tim Dobbins to compete with him for one of the inside positions. Though Crowder has not been a source of game-changing plays yet in the NFL, his consistent play and locker room presence is one of the driving forces of the team’s defense. Crowder sat down with the Sun-Sentinel for a wide-ranging interview which can be viewed below. As OGGOA has contended for years, Crowder is easily the best interview in the NFL. Enjoy.

3 » In college baseball, deciding to remain in school after being selected in the MLB Draft is an increasingly difficult decision – especially when the lure of money is being thrown around. But according to Gators senior outfielder Matt den Dekker, returning to school could not have gone any better. “This is definitely the best moment in my career,” den Dekker said after defeating Miami last week to advance to the 2010 NCAA College World Series. “Coming back was the best decision I could have made.” The choice also improved his draft stock, seeing as he moved up from a 16th-round pick in 2009 to the No. 152 overall pick just over a week ago as selected by the New York Mets.

4 » As OGGOA first reported via Twitter early Wednesday, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan and Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones will be holding a joint press conference in Orlando, FL, on Thursday at 3 p.m. to officially announce the neutral-site game to be played at the brand new Amway Center on Dec. 1. The game will be the first college basketball contest played at the $480 million facility and will hold added significance on two levels for Donovan. Most notably, he will be going up against his former long-time assistant in Jones for the first time since he left the program for the top job at Marshall after the 2007 NCAA National Championship season. Donovan also will be coaching in the new home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the team he once agreed to coach before backing out just days later and signing a new contract with Florida in 2007.

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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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USC Trojans lose scholarships, face two-year postseason ban from NCAA

Reports from ESPN and the Los Angeles Times Thursday morning stating that the USC Trojans football program would face a two-year postseason ban, a reduction in scholarships and a forfeiture of wins when the NCAA released its sanctions for the university later in the day were confirmed by the organization at 3:00 p.m.

Specifically, USC will lose 30 scholarships over a three-year period (can only accept a maximum of 15 per season), may only have 75 players under scholarship at any given time in that same span, and will vacate the 2004 BCS National Championship and every victory from the 2005 season.

Though the NCAA could not force Southern California to relinquish its 2004 Orange Bowl win against the Oklahoma Sooners, the BCS came out Thursday evening and did just that. It is currently meeting to finalize a decision to have the 2004 title vacated; a new National Champion will not be named. Additionally, the Associated Press will not strip the program of its 2004 title.

Under investigation due to numerous violations in both the football and men’s basketball programs (specifically involving stars Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo), the Trojans had been awaiting a ruling from the NCAA Committee on Infractions for months. The postseason ban will specifically relate to the football team, but the NCAA has handed down penalties to the basketball program as well. The NCAA’s penalties are listed below:

Football:
- Two-year postseason ban; four-year probation (June 10, 2010 to June 9, 2014)
- Loss of 30 scholarships over three years (maximum 15 allowed per season)
- Reduction of outstanding scholarships to 75 per year over three years
- Vacated 2004 BCS National Championship*
- Vacated 2005 season – new record: 0-1
- $5,000 fine
- Bush’s individual and team records erased; he may not assist the university financially or with recruiting; complete disassociation
- Boosters and the like disallowed from traveling with the team, attending practice, participating in camps or having access to the sidelines or locker rooms

Basketball
Self-imposed
- One-year postseason ban from Pac-10 and NCAA Tournament (already served)
- One less scholarship for 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons
- Three recruits released from respective National Letters of Intent
- One less coach allowed to recruit for 2011 class
- 20 less days to recruit for 2011 class (from 130 to 110)
- Vacated 2007-08 season – new record 0-12
- $206,020 returned to NCAA as payment for 2008 NCAA Tournament appearance
NCAA-mandated
- Four-year probation (June 10, 2010 to June 9, 2014)
- Mayo’s individual and team records erased; he may not assist the university financially or with recruiting; complete disassociation
- Boosters and the like disallowed from traveling with the team, attending practice, participating in camps or having access to the sidelines or locker rooms

Women’s tennis:
- Former student-athlete used the athletic department’s long distance to make 123 calls (cost: $7,000) to her family during her admission
Self-imposed
- Vacated all wins from Nov. 2006 to May 2009 in which the player participated

As far as Bush’s Heisman Trophy goes, the NCAA could not strip him of the award, though the organization might. “The Heisman Trophy Trust will have a comment at the appropriate time,” the group said Thursday. “Until that time, it will have no comment.”

The NCAA’s report claims USC showed “a lack of institutional control, impermissible inducements, extra benefits, exceeding coach staff limits, and unethical conduct by an assistant football coach.”

The Trojans have released statement through the university’s Sports Information Department stating that the university will appeal some of the penalties imposed by the NCAA. Due to this appeal, punishments will not go into affect until a decision is rendered – possibly delaying the inevitable and extending the school’s sentence. From Todd Dickey, senior vice president for administration:

We acknowledge that violations occurred and we take full responsibility for them. However, we sharply disagree with many of the findings in the NCAA Committee on Infractions Report. Further, we feel the penalties imposed are too severe for the violations identified in the report.

We will accept those sanctions we believe to be consistent with penalties imposed upon other NCAA member institutions found guilty of similar rules infractions. We are hopeful that the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee will agree with our position on appeal, and reduce the penalties.

Read the NCAA’s report on USC’s violations here

OGGOA will continue updating this story throughout the day.

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FOUR BITS: Softball up one, doubles falls, track

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators softball (47-8) began its quest for a berth in the 2010 NCAA Women’s College World Series with an 8-0 shutout of the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils (44-16) while hosting the Gainesville Super Regional on Saturday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Junior starter Stephanie Brombacher (33-6) has been dynamite in the postseason; she recorded her 11th shutout of the year, pitching a complete game and only yielding four hits. Junior outfielder Kelsey Bruder (2-3) and senior third baseman Corrie Brooks (2-2) each led the Gators with three RBI, while freshman designated player Brittany Schutte (2-3) added two. Florida hopes to conclude Super Regional action by prevailing in the second game, Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

2 » The Gators’ No. 5 doubles pair of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will was eliminated from competition for the 2010 NCAA National Championship Saturday, falling 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 to Tennessee’s No. 1 duo of Natalie Pluskota and Caitlin Whoriskey at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. Florida tennis – both men’s and women’s – has now been completely removed from NCAA competition for this season.

Find out which Gators qualified for the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships and what sport Georgia is going after Florida in…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Softball up one, doubles falls, track

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FOUR BITS: Baseball wins another, five more qualify, doubles advances, softball begins

1 » In their second-straight elimination game, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (42-14), the top seed in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament, topped the fifth-seed Vanderbilt Commodores (41-17) 5-2 on Friday night at Regions Park in Hoover, AL. Freshman starter Hudson Randall (7-3) earned the win after giving up one earned run over 5.1 innings; freshman reliever Steven Rodriguez tossed two shutout innings for his first save of the season. Junior sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-5) led the way for the Gators offensively with a home run and two RBI; freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-2) added a RBI of his own. Florida moves on to face Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. in their third consecutive elimination game. The contest will air live on Sun Sports and ESPN3.com.

2 » Five more members of Gators track and field advanced to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships on Friday while competing at the 2010 NCAA East Preliminary Round at Irwin Belk Track. Junior thrower Kemal Mesic (first – men’s shot put) and sprinters sophomore Jeff Demps (fourth – men’s 100m dash), junior Terrell Wilks (ninth – men’s 100m dash), senior Calvin Smith (second – men’s 400m dash) and freshman Tony McQuay (10th – men’s 400m dash) are all earning trips to Eugene, OR, to compete for titles. They join the seven other Florida track & field stars who qualified on Thursday.

3 » The No. 5-ranked Florida doubles pair of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 NCAA National Championship after squeaking out a three-set victory over Stetson’s pair of Carolina de los Santos and Valentina Galbrini – 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 – at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. As a singles competitor, No. 8 will fell 6-1, 6-5 to Georgia’s No. 12-ranked Chelsey Gullickson earlier in the day.

4 » No. 4 Gators softball (46-8) is set to begin 2010 NCAA Super Regional action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils (44-15) in up to a three-game series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The first game will air live on both ESPN and ESPN3.com, while the second game will take place on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., airing live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. Game three, if necessary, will be played Sunday evening.

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