SIX BITS: Young, Orr, Horford, Spikes, Donovan

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to insist he is not too worried about sophomore center Patric Young’s ankle, noting Monday that team doctors have determined he is not in jeopardy of aggravating or worsening the injury though he will “deal with periodically some discomfort and he’s going to have to work his way through that.” “He’s fine right now,” Donovan said. “I don’t expect him to miss practice. He’s not complaining of anything. It could flare up. Patric’s never really I think ever had a sprained ankle. He’s never really dealt with this before so it’s all new to him.” Young himself said that doctors have told him the tendinitis has to do with the lining of his joints and that he does not have any tears or sprains. “It was just from overuse or something like that. It’s just a nagging thing, like a lot of pain whenever I try to just move or walk, lateral movements really affect it,” he said. “I still can’t really jump too well off my right foot and not too well off of two feet. When it comes time for the game, I’m normally ready and it doesn’t really bother me. After a certain level, I have to pass the threshold of pain and then I don’t feel it anymore.” It is unknown whether or not Donovan intends to start Young for the first time in three games on Thursday at Ole Miss.

2 » Gators redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr, who received a written arrest on Jan. 10 and was given a notice to appear in court for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, has agreed to deferred prosecution with the State Attorney’s Office, according to Florida Today. As a result of the agreement, Orr will pay $50 in court costs and either an additional $150 fine or perform 12.5 hours of community service. Orr was the fifth player to be charged with possession of marijuana since head coach Will Muschamp took over in Jan. 2011. “At the end of the day a mistake was made, and I’ve learned from it,” he tweeted on Jan. 19. Orr played in all 13 games in 2011, registering 10 tackles, a sack and a pass defense.

3 » There is not much to talk about in regards to Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford now that he is out at least until the end of April with a torn labrum. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped an interesting note about Horford in his Friday column, explaining that he is “a likely down-the-road top contender to succeed” Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Derek Fisher as president of the players’ union two years from now when the latter’s contract expires. Known for his personable yet serious character, Horford is already heavily involved with the league serving as one of the NBA’s biggest international ambassadors. A shift into a role like this would seem natural to many who know him, and Horford himself even tweeted “Maybe…” when a fan asked if he was up for the gig on Jan. 22.

4 » Media shy New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes got on the phone with WEEI radio in Boston, MA following his team’s victory in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Spikes told the hosts that the win was “a dream come true, a childhood dream” and he was “just trying to take it all in right now and enjoy it tonight with my teammates and family.” Missing the majority of the season with a knee injury, Spikes was proud that his late-game interception was able to impact the team. “I don’t want to let nobody down. I want to take my responsibilities and just make a play, and I’ve done that,” he said. There are plenty of Spikes fans in the Patriots organization including owner Robert Kraft, who took the phone and discussed Spikes during the segment (which can be heard in full here). “Do you know how lucky we are to have Brandon Spikes on the team? He’s the man; he’s the man. He told me we were going to win that game and when he made that interception that was so cool,” Kraft beamed. “He told me he was going to do it for Myra [Kraft’s deceased wife]. [...] I love having this man on our team.”

5 » Donovan has been quite pleased with guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal all year long, even as the youngster was going through a tough slump toward the end of the non-conference slate. In regards to Boynton, Donovan has seen the notiable improvement in his shot and knows that it will continue to progress and not regress as the season goes on. He’s also pleased that Boynton is driving to the basket, taking pull-up jumpers and getting to the free throw line on a more consistent basis. With Beal, Donovan is happy to see that he has continued his quick maturing process. “When you’re a talented offensive player and when you’re on the court, a lot of times your scoring has a direct [correlation on] the outcome of the game when you’re in high school and your team needs you to score,” he explained. “Sometimes your identity gets wrapped up in scoring. He’s starting to figure out right now that there’s so much more he can do.”

6 » The University of Florida and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that outfielder Kelsey Bruder (softball) and catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named the 2011 Ben Hill Griffin Award winners. The honor, which is given to “the top male and female student-athletes…is based primarily on athletic achievement” but academics and extra-curricular activities are also considered. Bruder and Zunino were each named SEC Player of the Year in 2011 and led their teams to the 2011 NCAA College World Series in their respective sports. It was the first time in school history that Florida had SEC Players of the Year in softball and baseball simultaneously.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Joyer, Spikes, Williams

1 » Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan confirmed to UF’s Chris Harry on Thursday that sophomore center Patric Young will indeed be playing Saturday against LSU though he does not know if he will be in the starting lineup for the game. Harry also caught up with Young, who said his ankle tendinitis hurt so much that “when it was hurting the worst, I really couldn’t jump off two feet.” He knows that he can impact his team even if not on the court. “You can be a vocal and encouraging presence for your teammates,” he said. Florida’s trainer Dave Werner, asked by Harry about Young’s injury, said that it is going to be “a discomfort that he’s going to need to play through [so he] might as well get used to it.”

2 » UF’s Scott Carter dropped a tidbit about a football player Friday, noting that Gators freshman fullback Hunter Joyer will compete in his first collegiate track and field meet on Sunday. Joyer will participate in the shot put at the Gator Invite in Gainesville, FL. He is one of three Florida football players who will do double duty with the track and field squad this year as senior running back/junior sprinter Jeff Demps and redshirt junior wide receiver/senior jumper Frankie Hammond, Jr. will also participate.

3 » Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently spoke with the Boston Globe and gave his opinions about a number of players on the New England Patriots. He called linebacker Brandon Spikes “arguably the most physical and violent inside linebacker” in the NFL and believes his return to the field recently is a big boost for New England’s defense. Spikes was criticized out of Florida for his speed and many assumed he would not be drafted until the fourth or fifth round, but head coach Bill Belichick recognized his talent and selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the No. 62 overall pick.

4 » The Gators were supposed to have seven enrollees join the team in January but instead just six of Florida’s 2012 commitments were able to join the squad on time. Three-star defensive end Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, GA) had his admission delayed as he waited to see if the NCAA Clearinghouse would accept his early graduation. The organization recently denied him the ability to enroll early and ruled that he must retake three classes in order to get better grades. UF still expects him to be part of the 2012 class and join the program in the summer.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Divisional Rd.

With the 2011 regular season complete, six former Florida Gators participated in Divisional action during the second round of the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday.

A total of nine former Florida players were on the main rosters of four of the eight teams that participated in this round, but two were inactive and one was forced to sit out due to injury. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished over the weekend.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots^: Four receptions for 55 yards, touchdown (targets: 6, long: 20); five carries for 61 yards (long: 43); solo tackle

Continue Reading » Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Divisional Rd.

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ESPN going all-in with QB Tim Tebow (again)

ESPN announced early Thursday that the network has decided to spend another full hour of SportsCenter (11 a.m. – 12 p.m.) highlighting, discussing and debating one man – Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

The hour, which is expected to feature at least 10 separate segments on Tebow, will cover the NFL’s most debated player from a number of angles.

There will be a report with George Smith live from Denver; a highlight package from the Broncos’ loss to the New England Patriots in Week 15; a segment of people Tebowing across the nation; analysis by Mel Kiper, Jr.; a comparison between Tebowmania and other hysterias (Beatlemania, Fernandomania, Hulkamania); sound clips from Tebow this season; a look at the business end of Tebow; a flashback clip to the pep talk he gave the guys on the College Basketball GameDay set back in college; recent comments from Charles Barkley on Tebow; a “roundtable examining what makes Tebow so popular and polarizing” with Mike Greenberg, Herm Edwards, Hugh Douglas and Trevor Matich giving their opinions; and a ‘You Don’t Know Tim Tebow’ game show.

OGGOA will feature live coverage of TebowCenter for the entire one-hour period on Thursday via Twitter with a complete recap here on OnlyGators.com.

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FOUR BITS: Bell, Spikes, Tebow / D1, Ross

1 » OGGOA learned Thursday from a source close to the head coach that the Jacksonville DolphinsKerwin Bell has not received any offer from the Florida Gators to either be the team’s quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, despite reports to the contrary. Bell, who has maintained privately that he would not leave his post at Jacksonville solely for a position coach job, has however been contacted by at least one other institution on a preliminary basis. A former Florida quarterback, Bell has made quite the impression in the coaching profession after building the Trinity Catholic High School football program from the ground up and winning two Pioneer Football League titles in five years with the Dolphins. The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday evening, citing “multiple sources familiar with Florida’s interest” in Bell, that he is “no longer under consideration” for a job with the Gators.

2 » Out for seven games (and eight weeks) with a sprained MCL, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes (notoriously media shy) met with reporters Thursday and spoke about how he is playing since returning to the field. “I never really got hurt like that [before], so it was kind of a burden,” he said. “But with my teammates pushing me every day, I just had to come out and do what I do and when my number’s called, I just want to come out and perform.”

3 » Having trained at D1 Sports Training prior to participating in his NFL workouts and being selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is set to invest in the organization’s first location inside the state of Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, talks between D1 and Tebow are ongoing and things “are nearly wrapped up to sign him at or near the end of the Broncos’ season.” Tebow, who purchased a stake in a D1 location in Savannah, GA last year, will be joined by Chipper Jones, Chris Jericho and Derrick Brooks in this new venture, the Times reports. The Florida location of D1 will be in Citrus Park in what was once a Circuit City; the company has spent approximately $1.7 million renovating the facility with membership costing $150-250 per month.

4 » Former Florida women’s basketball coach Carol Ross has been selected as the next head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Ross, who led the Gators from 1990-2002, will be reunited with former Florida great and 14-year veteran forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who will play her 11th season with the Sparks divided over two stints with the team. Ross was an assistant with the Atlanta Dream for the last three seasons and helped the team reach consecutive WNBA Finals (2010-11). “Carol is a proven winner with an incredible track record at both the collegiate and pro levels. She has groomed many women for great WNBA careers,” Los Angeles general manager Penny Toler said in the press release announcing the hire. “We’re confident Carol is the ideal coach to lead the Sparks to our next championship.”

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TWO BITS: Siler re-signed, Warren loves playing; EXTRA: Wambach, Lochte in Gatorade spot

1 » Despite missing the entire 2011 after rupturing his Achilles, linebacker Brandon Siler was re-signed by the Kansas City Chiefs over the weekend to a one-year deal with a total compensation of $750,000 that will keep him off of the market in 2012. Siler agreed to a one-year contract with Kansas City in the 2011 offseason, his agent David Canter told OGGOA, in order to prove that he was deserving of a multi-year deal with another team. He never had that opportunity, however, due to being injured before a single down of the regular season was ever played. Siler joined the Chiefs after spending four years with San Diego where he amassed 123 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. After playing solely as a reserve in 2007 and 2008, Siler started seven games in 2009 and five in 2010. He only played in 12 total games in 2010 due to injury.

2 » New England Patriots defensive tackle Gerard Warren loves football and so far the NFL has loved him back. Participating in his 11th season this year, Warren took a look back at much of his career this week with the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport. In his feature, Rapoport covers a story about Warren knowing C.J. Spiller when he was just a water boy at Florida, his giving back to the community, and how much love he has for his fellow players. Warren, who said he does not plan to retire “until they tear [the uniform] off me,” said, “The game is my life. This is my life. Sixty minutes, overtime, you can have hatred. Once the game is over with, you come back to being human beings again.”

Extra BIT » Former Gators striker Abby Wambach and former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte are featured in a new Gatorade commercial set to debut during the 2012 Rose Bowl. The duo are two of a number of athletes shown in the advertisement, which promotes a variety of the company’s products while introducing a new tagline: Win From Within. Lochte’s portion of the commercial, which features him in a Gators cap for one shot, was filmed at the pool at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

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Pouncey named to second-straight Pro Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey became the third Florida Gators player in as many seasons to be named to the primary NFL Pro Bowl roster.

He was selected as a starter for the AFC this year after being picked as the backup for Nick Mangold of the New York Jets last season.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and Pouncey earned Pro Bowl nominations 2009 and 2010, respectively. Harvin started for the NFC as a kick return specialist, while Pouncey did not play due to being on a Super Bowl team.

Pouncey is the 20th former Florida player to be picked for the Pro Bowl; his nomination in 2010 made him the fifth to receive the honor in his rookie season (Cris Collinsworth, Jevon Kearse, Emmitt Smith, Harvin). Former Gators have made a total of 57 appearances in the game and have participated in 35 of 42 total Pro Bowls.

The Denver Post reports that former Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is a second alternate for the AFC. Should two of New England’s Tom Brady, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and San Diego’s Philip Rivers not participate in the game, Tebow would get the nod and take the trip to Honolulu, HI.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is the primary alternate behind New England teammate Rob Gronkowski and San Diego’s Antonio Gates.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Tebow, transfers, Humphrey

1 » Though he has been garnered similar honors by other outlets, Florida Gators redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was awarded a spot on the 2011 Associated Press All-American Team on Wednesday. Sturgis was placed on the second team while Texas A&M K Randy Bullock earned the first-team nomination. He was similarly given a second-team nod on the 2011 Walter Camp All-American list and recently was a finalist (but did not win) the 2011 Lou Groza Award, as announced last Thursday. Named unanimously to the All-SEC first-team by coaches and AP voters, Sturgis accounted for 91 points this season, going 21-for-25 on field goals and 28-for-28 on extra points.

2 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow appears to be going head-to-head with a former teammate every week. After taking on Minnesota (with wide receiver Percy Harvin) two weeks ago and Chicago (with safety Major Wright) last week, Tebow will play the New England Patriots on Sunday, where he will square off with linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez. The latter told the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport on Thursday that he still supports and believe in his former teammate. “He keeps plays alive, and he’s winning,” Hernandez said. “[He was] a leader. I’m sure he still is. He brought a lot of energy to the game. When someone has energy, you take from it.” Tebow shared his admiration for Hernandez as well. “He makes any quarterback he’s with look at lot better,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal player, one of those guys when you need competitive excellence and you need someone to step up and make a big play, he’s always ready and willing. I’m just proud of him for what he’s done as an NFL player and what he did with me at Florida.”

3 » Two former Gators are on their way to Louisville, KY and could be one step closer to playing with former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, now head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. According to a number of reports, transfers tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark will be visiting the school beginning Friday as they search for a spot to spend their final two years of eligibility. Each will have to redshirt the 2012 season and will be eligible to resume playing college football in 2013.

4 » Back in the United States, former Gators guard Lee Humphrey is now playing for the Rio Grande Vipers of the NBA Development League. The official minor league team of the NBA’s Houston Rockets (which drafted forward Chandler Parsons this year), the Vipers are nine games into the season and have Humphrey playing 29.1 minutes per game, second-most on the team. Though he’s had some big moments already this year, Humphrey is averaging just 11.8 points and 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown.

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