FOUR NFL BITS: Tebow, Murphy, Reed, Evans

1 » Contrary to comments from the front office and coaching staff of the New York Jets indicating that quarterback Tim Tebow is currently in the team’s plans to be part of the competition at his position for 2013, ESPNNewYork.com reported Tuesday that “nothing has changed with regard to Tebow’s status on the team.” A league source tells Dan Graziano that “the Jets are holding out hope they can trade him and are in no rush to do so. They could stretch the process out to the draft, but failing a trade, the Jets will release him, the source said.”

2 » Wide receiver Louis Murphy is the only former Florida Gators free agent to sign with a team thus far in the 2013 offseason as the New York Giants decided to bring him on board with a one-year contract last week. Speaking with the SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday, general manager Jerry Reese raved about what Murphy brings to the table. “I think he’s going to add another dimension to our offense,” Reese said. “We have a scout named Jeremiah Davis and he talks about guys being a ‘knife.’ This guy is a ‘knife.’ This guy can take the top off your defense. He gives us a different dimension in our offense […] a deep threat that we haven’t had. We haven’t had a guy who can run like this guy.” Murphy should enter the season as the Giants’ fourth or fifth receiver but may still see a good amount of time on the field next year.

3 » Greg Cosell, the senior producer for NFL Films, recently praised what he has seen from Gators tight end Jordan Reed. Cosell wrote on Twitter that he loved what he saw from Reed on tape and believes he has the chance to be the next successful ‘Joker’ tight end in the league, comparing him (as many other have done already) to New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez.

4 » Florida safety Josh Evans has private workouts scheduled with the Jets and Patriots, OGGOA learned on Wednesday. Evans, who turned heads with his performances at the 2013 NFL Combine and Pro Day, is beginning to draw some significant buzz in league circles. According to the National Football Post:

While Evans has been viewed as the “other safety” at Florida throughout the 2012 season and not regarded as a top prospect, sources at the Florida Pro Day told us that Evans had a strong all-around workout. Although not an explosive athlete, Evans was smooth throughout the positional drills staying over his feet and changing directions easily. One NFL person in attendance told us that it was clear to him that Evans is the more flexible and fluid athlete of the two safeties, Matt Elam being the other, and that he felt Evans was also better in coverage in games. Although his workout was impressive and we think he warrants being selected above Elam, the sources we spoke with said that while they agreed with our evaluation of Evans as a better prospect that Elam will still likely be selected first.

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TWO BITS: Tebow’s future, Spikes’s agent

1 » The New York Jets reportedly spent plenty of time at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine looking for a trade partner so the team can finally split ties with quarterback Tim Tebow. However, in a conference call with season ticket holders on Monday, new general manager John Idzik made it sound as if Tebow may very well get an opportunity to compete for a job in training camp. “Tim, as you know, he’s currently on our roster. What we’re doing is we’re trying to increase competition at that position and positions across the board,” said Idzik, according to the New York Daily News. “So we’re going to let the competition play out. We’re going to see who we’re able to bring on board and let it play out this offseason and into training camp. So I think that’ll be healthy for all concerned, including Tim.”

Should the Jets cut Tebow, like many insiders believe the team plans to do if it does not find a suitor for him, more than $1.5 million of the $2.5 million in pay he is due for 2013 would be dead money against the salary cap. New York also spent fourth- and sixth-round draft choices and paid $2.5 million to Denver to acquire Tebow, assets that the team hopes not to waste on a failed trade. However, should the Jets keep Tebow and potentially cut him late in training camp, the team will only be doing his career an even greater disservice than it already has by avoiding playing him like he was the plague. With a new offensive coordinator (Marty Mornhinweg) in the fold, Tebow’s career with the Jets may not be over just yet, so stay tuned.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes has signed with his third agency in as many seasons. According to the Boston Herald, Spikes has signed with Premier Sports & Entertainment and will be represented by Gary Uberstine and Eric Kaufman. With his rookie contract expiring and the 2014 offseason set to be a huge one for Spikes, linking up with an agency he trusts is of utmost importance heading into the process. Though New England will likely want to re-sign him, the Patriots are keen to offering backloaded contracts similar to the one that tight end Aaron Hernandez received prior to the 2012 season. Spikes, who has a great relationship with owner Robert Kraft, may want to avoid that and might feel like he will have better options on the open market. All of this remains to be seen, of course, and New England may even be interested in locking him up prior to the start of the 2013 season. Perhaps that is the reason Spikes felt he needed yet another agent change.

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SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

1 » The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is now in the books. Though not all of the 10 Florida Gators invited participated in the full event, a handful did and looked quite good while doing so. Below are links to OGGOA‘s combine wrap-ups. Click the appropriate link to see how your favorite former Florida player performed.

Safeties Matt Elam and Josh EvansTuesday | Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd; linebackers Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCrayMonday | Running back Mike GillisleeSunday | Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, kicker Caleb Sturgis, tight end Jordan ReedSaturday

2 » New England Patriots running back and Olympic silver medalist sprinter Jeff Demps wants to return to the track but do so without giving up football. According to agent Daniel Rose of Gridiron Sports, who did not return a request for comment from OGGOA but did send a tweet about the subject on Tuesday, Demps truly hopes that New England gives him permission to pursue both of his passions. “Jeff Demps has no intentions of leaving football. He loves doing both football and track. Representing Team USA in track and field in the Olympics and playing NFL football are an honor and privilege and Jeff Demps loves both,” he wrote. NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport first reported the story and explained on NFL Network that “he plans to compete in an event in March and that calendar would run through August. They informed the Patriots of that this week. It’s possible the Patriots could work out a deal as Demps does want to play two sports. It’s a little too early to know a resolution on this but we do know he wants to play two sports.” Whether or not New England – or another NFL team – wants to give Demps that opportunity is an unknown at this point.

3 » While at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, TX a few weeks ago, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee approached USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo about playing for Team USA in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup and remaining on the team through the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to FOX Sports’ Chris Tomasson, Colangelo “said nothing is definite yet as far as Lee being among 20 to 24 players” invited to Las Vegas, NV for training camp from July 24-28. Chances are he will have that opportunity, however, as Lee trained with Team USA in preparation for the World Championships in 2010 and probably would have made the team if not for sustaining an injury that forced him to depart early.

Check out three more Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

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Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Cunningham, Gilbert, volley, Quinn

1 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. The substance Cunningham used was not disclosed and it is currently unknown if he already filed or plans to file an appeal. Cunningham is the fourth former Florida Gators defender to receive a four-game suspension for PEDs since 2010. New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010), Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (2012) and New York Giants safety Will Hill (2012) have missed four games each. All three claimed their positive tests resulted from an ingredient contained in ADHD medication like Adderall. Cunningham would be eligible to return in the playoffs.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is one of four former Gators on his team and one of three Florida offensive linemen that got injured this season. Unfortunately for Gilbert, while center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Max Starks were able to return to action, he has been sidelined since Week 6 with an ankle injury and was officially placed on the team’s injured reserve on Monday. He is the third former Gators player to be knocked out for the season with an injury, joining Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (ACL) and Patriots running back Jeff Demps (leg).

3 » Following in the footsteps of the soccer program, which cleaned up at the Southeastern Conference‘s annual awards announcement, Florida volleyball matched the program with three major awards and a number of placement on the All-SEC teams. Junior middle back Chloe Mann captured SEC Player of the Year honors, outside hitter Ziva Recek brought home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Mary Wise was named SEC Coach of the Year for the 13th time. The Gators note that “this is the first time since 2000 and second time in program history for Florida” to win all three awards. Mann is the 17th player in team history to win Player of the Year, and Recek is the fourth UF freshman to be honored by the league in that capacity. Also honored Monday were junior setter Taylor Brauneis and senior right-side Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Mann and Recek on the All-SEC first team; senior MB Betsey Smith on the All-SEC second team; and Recek again on the All-Freshman team.

4 » Three members of the Gators football team have been named finalists for yearly national awards. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of three finalists (Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Tulane’s Cairo Santos) for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and sophomore punter Kyle Christy is one of three finalists (Louisiana Tech’s Ray Allen, Ball State’s Scott Kovanda) for the Ray Guy Award, both of which will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN.

Joining them is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is one of five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant college football coach in the nation. The other finalists are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco, Texas A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Quinn has UF’s defense ranked top-15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (No. 1), scoring defense (No. 3), yards per play (No. 3), yards per attempt (No. 4), third-down defense (No. 5), rush defense (No. 6), interceptions (No. 6), yards per rush (No. 7), red zone touchdowns (No. 13) and red zone defense (No. 15).

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, Spikes, volleyball, soccer

1 » The Florida Gators announced on Tuesday that head coach Billy Donovan’s son of the same name has decided to transfer to Florida and walk on to the team to play for and learn from his father. Billy Donovan , who spent his last two years playing for the Catholic Cardinals (Division III) in Washington, D.C., has already joined the team and will don the No. 42 though fans will not see him on the court this year as he will be forced to ride the bench during games due to NCAA transfer rules. As was noted a year ago when Catholic traveled to Gainesville, FL to play the Gators in an exhibition game, the younger Donovan originally chose to attend that university in order to further his passion for politics. A change of career path – he is now interested in a coaching or administrative role in a basketball organization – led him right back to where he grew up. “I never wanted it to be like I was telling him what to do career-wise,” Donovan told UF’s GatorZone.com. “I think he needs to figure that out on his own. My job, my wife’s job, is to be supportive and help put him in the best situation for him to pursue what he wants to pursue.” There is probably no better spot for the younger Donovan to learn how to coach or run a basketball team than under the wing of a future hall of fame coach.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes received some bad news on Friday when he learned that the NFL decided to fine him $21,000 for an illegal blindside block he threw in a game on Sept. 30. Spikes, who leveled Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler during an interception return for his team, told the team’s website earlier in the week that he did not believe that he did anything wrong. “A lot of guys, they know the new rules. I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep it legal, but I just want to kind of try to make a point – when I hit a guy, I want him [to say], ‘Oh, that was Spikes that hit me. I know that already.”

3 » No. 11 Florida volleyball (13-2, 7-0 SEC) has been on a roll as of late, wrapping up their ninth- and 10th-straight regular season wins over the weekend while hosting a pair of Southeastern Conference opponents in Gainesville. UF registered a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-18, 25-15) the Arkansas Razorbacks (13-4, 4-2 SEC) on Friday before coming from two sets down to win 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8) against the Kentucky Wildcats (10-7, 4-3 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek of Slovenia was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts over the weekend. She registered a total of 32 kills and 14 digs combined over the two matches. Impressive in her own right was junior middle back Chloe Mann, who notched a combined 22 kills and 30.0 points on the weekend.

4 » No. 12 Gators soccer (10-3-1, 7-1 SEC) is on a roll of their own, shaking off early season disappointment to rebound with a seven-match winning streak including two big road victories over the last weekend. Florida won 2-0 over the LSU Tigers (5-5-4, 1-4-2 SEC) on Friday before, like volleyball, coming back from a deficit to take down the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (12-2-1, 6-1-1 SEC) 2-1 on Sunday. Four different players scored goals for the Gators over the weekend with senior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and sophomore MF Havana Solaun finding the back of the net on Friday and senior defender Jo Dragotta and junior F Adriana Leon scoring on Sunday. Tymrak, who garnered SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, also notched an assist on Leon’s game-winning goal.

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Will Hill third former Florida Gators player to receive NFL suspension for ADHD medication

In the middle of what could only have been considered an epic career turnaround, New York Giants safety Will Hill learned Monday that he has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Hill released an official statement immediately following the NFL’s announcement explaining that the suspension is for using Adderall, a drug used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that was prescribed to him by a doctor before he was picked up by New York as an undrafted free agent this summer.

“I received a doctor’s prescription for Adderall prior to signing with the Giants. Shortly after signing with the team, I was in a meeting with [director of player development] Charles Way, who reviewed the list of the league’s banned substances. I knew at that point that this may be an issue. I was tested and the results came back that Adderall was in my system. I appealed but lost the appeal. I accept full responsibility for this situation, and it won’t happen again. The Giants have given me a great opportunity when nobody else would, and I don’t take that for granted. I feel badly this has happened. I will work hard and stay in great shape these next four weeks so I can come back and contribute to this team after my suspension.”

Hill was undrafted after leaving the Florida Gators as a junior in 2011 due to a combination of immaturity and his use of illegal drugs, namely marijuana. He went a long way to fixing that negative reputation over the last year and was signed by the Giants after wowing the team with his character off the field and ability on the field.

Ironically enough, Hill’s suspension comes on the same day that fellow former Florida defensive back Joe Haden, now a member of the Cleveland Browns, completed his four-game suspension for using the same substance.

Haden was found with Adderall in his system during a preseason test but unlike Hill never had a prescription for the drug. He allegedly used it as an upper during an offseason vacation in Las Vegas, NV.

“I would like to apologize to my fans, Haden Nation, the Cleveland Browns organization, front office, all the coaches. I hurt a lot of people. I hurt myself for sure. But I hurt a lot of people with the decision I made, and I just want everybody to know that I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he said Monday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “There’s no script. Nobody told me what to say. I just feel that and I want everybody to know that it was a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, but my mistake happened to hurt a lot more people than I thought.”

Haden and Hill join New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes as three former Gators that have received NFL suspensions over the last three years for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substance. Spikes was suspended for the final four games of his rookie season in 2010 after testing positive for an ingredient that was contained in his ADHD medication.

Hill will be eligible to return to New York’s active roster on Nov. 5.

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FOUR BITS: Gaffney, Brewer, LaCaze, ESPNU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, an 11-year NFL veteran who was cut by the New England Patriots during the preseason, signed with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and officially joined his fifth professional franchise. Gaffney has only missed five regular season games while employed (all in 2006) and is the type of durable, veteran presence that Miami has desperately needed. He is also coming off the best two years production-wise. Gaffney set career-highs with 65 receptions for 875 yards with Denver in 2010 and eclipsed those numbers with 68 receptions for 947 yards (and a career-high-tying five touchdowns) with Washington last season.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (and some of his teammates) made their acting debuts this year by making cameos as football players during the acclaimed film “The Dark Knight Rises.” As it turns out, Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer will also be featured in a movie though his is set to be released on Jan. 25, 2013. In a new trailer for the ensemble comedy “Movie 43” released by Comedy Central, Brewer is shown as a basketball player being coached up by Terrence Howard. The film – which features a start-studded cast including names like Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Kate Winslet (along with some well-known comedy stars) – will undoubtedly receive at least an R rating for language, nudity, sexual situations, etc. The “red band” trailer below, which features a line from Brewer, contains adult content and explicit language. (Hat tip to John B.)

3 » It appears as if Florida has added a second competitor from the 2012 London Olympics to its coaching staffs as former Gators steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze announced on Twitter that she has signed up to be a volunteer coach with the track & field program. LaCaze, who raced for Australia but did not medal in the Olympics, joins British swimmer and world record holder Gemma Spofforth, who was announced as a volunteer assistant by Florida last week. Spofforth, who graduated in 2010, competed in two Olympics and is now retired from the sport. LaCaze graduated this past spring and is planning to make a go of it for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

4 » ESPNU on Tuesday aired a special All Access program that took a look at the Gators football team as it worked through its bye last week. If you missed the show, ESPN informed OGGOA that it will re-air twice more this week on Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 6:30 a.m. Though the program did not provide much in the way of new information (similar clips have been featured in previous ESPN specials), it was an interesting look behind the scenes this season.

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