SIX BITS: NFL Draft, Tebow, PIT, Murphy, Brewer

1 » The attendees for the 2013 NFL Draft were officially announced on Wednesday and right at the top of the list was Florida Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. A guaranteed first-round pick who is expected to go somewhere in the top five overall, Floyd will be sitting at a table at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY waiting for league commissioner Roger Goodell to call his name on Thursday, April 25. Now all that is left to wonder is which team selects Floyd and whether or not he will give Goodell a bear hug after joining him on stage.

2 » Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is set to be recognized by Florida Governor Rick Scott with the Great Floridian Award, the state announced on Wednesday. The ceremony, which will be held on Friday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Verda Beach, FL, recognizes “outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.” Previous honorees include politicians, business leaders, veterans, Supreme Court Justices and philanthropists, among others. Tebow will join the 66 current “Great Floridians” and be honored alongside names like head coach Bobby Bowden, Governor Jeb Bush, inventor Thomas Edison, Stephen C. O’Connell and businessman Ben Hill Griffin, Jr.

3 » Competing in the first day of the 2013 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, former Gators guard Kenny Boynton finished his opening round game 2-for-6 (1-for-4 from three) with seven points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal and just one turnover in 20 minutes. Boynton came off the bench for Mike Duman Auto Sales, which fell 90-89 to Portsmouth Partnership. His team plays again on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. Former Florida G Mike Rosario, playing for the Portsmouth Sports Club, takes the court for the first time on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Read three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NFL Draft, Tebow, PIT, Murphy, Brewer

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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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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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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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TWO BITS: Hill’s turnaround, Taylor’s honor

1 » Life has been tough for former Florida Gators safety Will Hill ever since he left the team as a junior and declared for the 2011 NFL Draft. After going undrafted and not even receiving a sniff as a free agent, Hill spent most of the last year turning his life around and focusing on football. A new feature story by the New York Daily News details Hill’s turnaround, focusing on how he has changed both on the field (paying attention, concentrating on getting better) and off the field (no longer using drugs, being responsible). “I can’t just live carefree,” he told the paper. “I got worries now. My kids, these responsibilities. You have your fun, but it’s time for responsibility.” Signing with the New York Giants this offseason, Hill not only made the team but has impressed early and is already seeing extensive playing time. He has registered seven tackles (six solo) and a pass defense through four games already this season.

2 » Former Gators running back Fred Taylor was honored Sunday by the Jacksonville Jaguars, which inducted the franchise’s all-time leading rusher into the Pride of the Jaguars (ring of honor). Prior to his induction, Taylor sat down with the Florida Times-Union for a question-and-answer session that focused on his upbringing and time with Jacksonville. An excerpt from the interview can be found below as Taylor answers how he changed as a person and a player coming out of Florida and into the NFL.

“They saw a young man come in with gold teeth and leave with a helluva smile. At one point, I didn’t want to smile. The person I was back then was immature and unexposed. I wasn’t exposed to what you were supposed to be as an NFL player. My grandmother raised me the best she possibly could have. Whenever I went off course in my life, that was 100 percent me, that part of me that was being youthful and childish. When I got in the league, I was a good-natured, mild-mannered individual. I chose my friends, and sometimes we did things that was just us being young and having a good time together. As the years passed, I wanted to be better. Everyone has an opportunity to change. People know life is about growth, but not everybody wants to embrace it. I came to understand that what I am is what my legacy is going to be. I can only try to be the best I can with my imperfections.”

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Cut day a mixed bag for six former Gators

NFL franchises were forced to reduce their rosters to 53 players on Friday as the 2012 regular season draws closer. Six former Florida Gators were impacted by decisions their respective teams made with the results different for each player.

Receiving the good news were New York Giants safety Will Hill and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson, a pair of undrafted free agents who performed so well in training camp and during a preseason that they earned roster spots on their respective teams.

Hill, who went undrafted in 2011 and did not play in the NFL last season, was signed early in the offseason by the Giants and impressed the coaching staff so much (both on and off the field) that he will not only make the team but also see extensive playing time. He registered 15 tackles (12 solo) and a sack in four preseason games.

Thompson joined the Ravens along with former Gators quarterback John Brantley, who was cut early in the offseason. He led Baltimore in receptions, receiving yards in the first and fourth preseason games (scoring a touchdown in each) and had kickoff returns of 42 yards and 63 yards in the two games in-between.

Dealt the first bit of negative news was New England Patriots running back Jeff Demps, whose season is over after the team placed him on injured reserve. Demps signed with the Patriots two weeks ago and played in the team’s final two preseason games. He took nine carries for 55 yards, caught three balls for 31 yards, returned three kicks for 63 yards and brought back five punts for 65 yards.

He supposedly injured his knee during practice, but it was not at all believed to be serious. New England placing him on injured reserves keeps him under the team’s control (he signed a three-year contract) and gives him the entire season and offseason to get into football shape and learn the playbook. The move is basically a way of stashing a player by circumventing the waiver wire process.

Though New York decided to keep Hill, the Giants chose to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Marcus Thomas on Friday. Thomas signed a one-year deal on Aug. 16 but has now been cut just two weeks later and will look to catch on with another team.

Also looking for new homes now are tight end Cornelius Ingram, who spent the entire offseason with the Denver Broncos but was cut loose on Friday, and linebacker Brandon Hicks, who was hoping to catch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Other prominent Florida players who are also currently free agents include Brantley, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, DT Gerard Warren, tackle Phil Trautwein, defensive end Bobby McCray, DE Derrick Harvey, DE Jarvis Moss, DE Justin Trattou and cornerback Lito Sheppard. LB Andra Davis and RB Earnest Graham are close to retirement.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou was cut by the New York Giants on Thursday after missing all of training camp up to this point with a variety of injuries. Trattou was active for a number of games last season and won a ring last season as New York defeated New England 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.

» Speaking of the Giants, the team brought former Gators defensive tackle Marcus Thomas in for a visit Thursday. New York is looking to upgrade the interior of its defensive line and Thomas is one of the biggest names on the free agent market after failing to come to an agreement with the Denver Broncos, where he started 11 of the 12 games he played last season. Thomas recently tweeted that he would be willing to play “for practice squad money.”

» The New York Jets are rumored to be one of a handful of finalists bidding for the services of former Florida running back Jeff Demps, so of course quarterback Tim Tebow was asked about the possibility during training camp on Thursday. As expected, Tebow supported the potential addition of Demps but said he would not pressure him to join him with the Jets. “They asked me about him,” he said according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “Jeff is a great guy and a great player, and he’s someone that I was proud to play with in college. He did a great job for us, and I feel like wherever he goes, he’ll work hard at and do a good job for that team.”

» ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke with Yale head coach James Jones recently about his team getting an unusual visit from the UF basketball team this season. Jones “credited a Yale administrator who once worked at Florida as well as Gators head coach Billy Donovan” for creating the home-away-home series that gets a high-profile team to visit Yale. “Donovan…isn’t adverse to playing home games for players in odd places,” Katz wrote. “He once played at UNH for New Hampshire native Matt Bonner. This is a ‘home’ game for Rhode Island native Erik Murphy.”

Read nine more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

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