TWO BITS: volleyball wins, Crowder on helmets

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators volleyball (17-1, 10-0 SEC) improved to 9-1 against top 25 opponents this season with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-20) shutout victory over the No. 21 Tennessee Volunteers (15-5, 7-4 SEC) on Wednesday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Florida junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the Gators with a team-high 12 kills. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy contributed a match-high 15 digs along with seven kills and 17 assists, while senior OH Callie Rivers added nine kills and seven digs. Florida is rated No. 1 in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and has won 12-straight matches since falling to then-No. 1 Penn State on Sept. 10.

2 » Former Gators linebacker Channing Crowder of the Miami Dolphins, spoke out Wednesday when asked about the NFL’s decision to seriously crack down and possibly suspend players for helmet-to-helmet hits. “If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me,” Crowder said. “They give me a helmet, I’m going to use it. If I’m knocked out, I don’t know where I’m at, I can’t say my name, now I can’t play football. If I get hit in the head and black out for a second and now I get back up dizzy, OK, I’m ready to go.” Crowder believes the NFL is “making a big deal about nothing, adding, “They want to save the receivers and quarterbacks because they sell all the jerseys. They don’t give a damn at all about the defensive players because we don’t sell as many jerseys as them. If they want to change football to a graceful sport, change it all the way to a graceful sport. Don’t try to save the quarterbacks and receivers because they make the money, which that’s what they’re doing.”

Extra BIT » Over the summer we here on OGGOA covered former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s journey with World Wrestling Entertainment as he “competed” on the WWE NXT television program created to find the company’s next breakout star. Though he was eliminated early on, Bullard’s background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers; he even did a Gator Chomp at the top of the entrance ramp before entering the ring. As his in-ring character Titus O’Neil, Bullard returns to Gainesville on Friday, Oct. 29 as he competes with current and future WWE superstars in a Florida Championship Wrestling event at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. A member of UF’s Hall of Fame, O’Neil was also a Student Body Vice President in 2000.

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TWO BITS: Vols WR arrested, Bullard profiled

1 » Four-star wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers (Calhoun, GA) was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after getting into a fight early Friday morning with “seven to 10” of his Tennessee Volunteers teammates at a nightclub in Knoxville, TN. “I don’t know why. I don’t know what happened, but several of the guys started beating up the other customer,” club co-owner Sandy Morton said. “I want to guess there was seven to 10 guys beating up this one gentleman. […] My husband saw them picking up bar stools and starting to swing them. […] There happened to be a friend of ours who was an off-duty police officer outside. He tried to help, and he ended up getting knocked out in the street and proceeded to be kicked while he was down on the ground.” Rogers, who was first committed to Georgia before swinging to Tennessee, was recruited heavily by the Florida Gators for quite some time.

UPDATE: Sophomore safety Darren Myles, Jr. was also charged in the incident after being arrested for assaulting a University of Tennessee police officer and both resisting and evading arrest. Rogers was released on $1,000 hours after being arrested. More arrests are expected after conversations are held and tapes are reviewed.

2 » As readers of OGGOA are aware, we have been keeping you up-to-date with the trials and tribulations of former Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard – now known as Titus O’Neil to wrestling fans – in his quest to become a professional wrestler with the WWE. The Gainesville Sun was able to get a hold of Bullard and discuss a number of topics related to his new endeavor.

On joining WWE: “It’s the largest sports-entertainment company in the world. That’s what drives me. I want to compete at the highest level. I didn’t get in it to just go halfway. I’m in it to try to compete at the highest level I can.”

On his character: “My character is basically me being myself. What the WWE wants you to do is be yourself and then turn it up two or three notches when you are on camera.”

On his decision to wrestle: “I was always amazed at the physical things that they can do in a small amount of space. The entertainment aspect of it also appealed to me.”

On Tim Tebow as a pro wrestler: “I think [he] could pretty much do whatever he sets out to do. I’ve had the chance to talk to him a few times. He’s an amazing human being.”

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FOUR BITS: Young going for gold, Pagan thinking, Gilbert leading, Bullard eliminated from WWE

1 » Competing with the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men, Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL) already wow’ed his coaches and is now impressing his opponents, too. Below are his stat lines thus far:

– June 26 vs. Virgin Islands – 5/7 for 11 points, nine rebounds in 10 minutes
– June 27 vs. Mexico – 2/4 for four points, eight rebounds, two blocks in 20 minutes
– June 28 vs. Argentina – 4/5 for 11 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes
– June 29 vs. Canada – 1/2 for two points, one rebound, one block in 10 minutes

Young will join his team in the tournament gold medal game on Wednesday at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antoinio, TX, against Brazil. Also of note is former Gators five-star guard commit Austin Rivers (Winter Park, FL), who set a FIBA record with nine consecutive three-pointers in the USA’s defeat of Canada. Rivers went 3/6 from the field and 9/12 from beyond the arc while posting a tournament-high 35 points.

2 » Almost immediately after committing to Florida, there were rumors that four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, NC) may change his mind. The Gators’ second-best 2011 recruit overall behind quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), Pagan committed back in April, telling Rivals that head coach Urban Meyer “stood up, did a little dance and gave me a hug” when he accepted the scholarship offer. “I decided that I definitely wanted to lock in my spot with the Gators and be part of this team,” he said in April. “I think I’m firm [with my decision]. I don’t plan on taking any more visits or seeing anywhere else. I’m sure people say it all the time, but this feels like home. Florida makes me feel like I am at home.” Now Pagan calls himself “about 50 percent on Florida, but the commitment is still there. It’s strong,” adding that he will “announce whether I’m going to Florida or look elsewhere before the season starts” on Aug. 27.

3 » Florida Today caught up with Florida redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and picked his brain about a few topics including what happened at the end of last season. “We had guys thinking they were better than they were and weren’t playing up to their potential,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got this saying, ‘No primos and no rock stars. Go out and do your job.’ Everybody is going to work the same amount, and there aren’t going to be any superstars on the team. I think everybody – especially after watching that SEC game in Atlanta – everybody has fire and desire to handle things in a different way because my feeling is, I didn’t think we were that ready. We had a good game plan in and we had the players to beat Alabama, but we weren’t ready to go out there and get the job done because I guess we had been there before. That’s what it seemed like to me. We weren’t as focused. That week of practice wasn’t as it usually had been. It was different.” As for this year? “It’s our time. It’s our team,” he said. “That’s what [the seniors] go by. So anything that goes on, they say this is your team; you have to make the decision; you have to be the leaders; you have to step up. It’s our responsibility. I think we have the guys still who can do the same thing — get back there — because we have a talented group coming back. I think we can be better.”

4 » Former Gators defensive end Thaddeus Bullard‘s (ring name Titus O’Neil) mission to become World Wrestling Entertainment’s next breakout star ended on Tuesday as he was eliminated from the WWE NXT television program. O’Neil, whose background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida was played up heavily by the producers/announcers, did a Gator Chomp when at the top of the entrance rap and was quite powerful in the ring. However, as some might agree, he was one of the least dynamic personalities on the show and was scripted to both lose matches and make mistakes throughout his short time on WWE television.

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times

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FOUR BITS: Watch lists, honors, Saunders, WWE

1 » Preseason watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation’s top defensive player) and the Outland Trophy (nation’s top interior lineman) were released by the Football Writers Association of America on Monday, and four Florida Gators football players made the respective lists. Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins (Nagurski), senior center Mike Pouncey (Outland), redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson (Outland) and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Omar Hunter (Outland) are just a few players initially being considered for the awards.

2 » Former Florida All-American linebacker Scot Brantley, the uncle of redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, was honored by the Tampa Gator Club at their 16th annual scholarship dinner on Tuesday. Head basketball coach Billy Donovan was the guest speaker at the event.

3 » Gators four-star athlete De’Ante “Pop” Saunders did not waver much when initially deciding to commit to the team. Now, months later, he remains just as solid and is happy that the recruiting process is not annoying him like it is some of his friends. “My phone doesn’t ring at all,” Saunders told the Orlando Sentinel’s Andrew Carter. “It’s perfect. Because I see other guys that don’t know where they’re going when it’s about time to sign. Like last year, I had a few friends that didn’t know where they were going but it’s good for me since I already knew.”

4 » Former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (ring name Titus O’Neil) continued his mission to become World Wrestling Entertainment’s next breakout star on Tuesday by making his third appearance on WWE NXT on SyFy. O’Neil, whose background as a football player and master’s degree recipient from the University of Florida is played up heavily by the producers/announcers, does a Gator Chomp when at the top of the entrance rap and is quite powerful in the ring. Even his assigned professional mentor, Zack Ryder, sported the orange and blue on Tuesday, though it did not help O’Neil who lost his second-straight match. OGGOA will follow along with Bullard’s journey over the next few months as he attempts to “win” a full-time contract and pay-per-view title match.

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FOUR BITS: Harvey, Bullard on NXT, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Derrick Harvey has been underwhelming since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Having only compiled 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the league, he is taking the coaching staff’s belief in him to heart by shedding some weight and becoming a more athletic player. “I thought bigger was better,” Harvey told the Florida Times-Union. “Speed is better. You’ve got to be rushing all day, and you can’t be 280 [pounds] rushing in this heat. […] It’s all on me. I’ve got to perform.” General manager Gene Smith agrees. “I think a couple of things are evident out there,” he said. “He’s probably in the best shape of his life, and he’s lighter this year, so I think you’re seeing some quickness off the snap. And he has better bend coming off the corner. He has shown better flexibility, better quickness and has been better at getting to the quarterback than in any OTAs since he’s been here.

Three more BITS on Thaddeus Bullard’s debut on WWE NXT, 2010 baseball signees picked in the MLB Draft and Tim Tebow…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Harvey, Bullard on NXT, Tebow

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TWO BITS: Pouncey’s desire. Is Bullard NXT?

1 » OGGOA has extensively covered former Florida Gators center Maurkice Pouncey’s transition to the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers, including his lining up at right guard while he waits for his true position to open up along the offensive line. ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli profiled Pouncey last week, nothing that he truly has the chance to be something special in the NFL. “He’s the kind of guy where, if he makes a mistake on a play, he’s immediately right over to you to get [an explanation],” offensive line coach Sean Kugler said. “You’ve got to tell him, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll go over that.’ He really wants to be good; he’s into it.”

2 » The name “Titus O’Neil” may not be familiar to Gators fans, but perhaps Thaddeus Bullard rings a bell. While Bullard is a former Florida defensive end, O’Neil is a professional wrestler about to make a splash as one of the newest members of World Wrestling Entertainment‘s NXT television program. Fact is – they are one and the same. Bullard, now 33, was one of the nation’s top defensive linemen coming out of high school in 1995. Unfortunately, his football career never really panned out after registering 56 tackles in 47 games with the Gators as a back-up from 1997-2000. After playing in the Arena Football League for three years, he decided to try his hand at sports entertainment and began competing with Florida Championship Wrestling in 2009. The now-named O’Neil has been called up from FCW to WWE and is set to take part in the second season of the company’s NXT brand – a faux-reality show attempting to find WWE’s next breakout star. OGGOA will follow along with Bullard’s journey over the next few months as he attempts to “win” a full-time contract and pay-per-view title match.

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