SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

1 » Former Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino earned his first career MLB start on Wednesday for the Seattle Mariners, opening the game behind the plate and batting sixth. Zunino went 1/4 with a strikeout in the game, registering his first big-league hit during his second at-bat. Had Nick Franklin not held up at third base, Zunino also would have registered his first career RBI.

2 » Billy Horschel is the only former Gators golfer competing in the 2013 U.S. Open this weekend and plans to make a statement with his attire. Should Horschel make it to Sunday, which is likely considering he is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings at this time, he will don a dark pair of pants featuring octopi. Really. See here.

3 » Though no further information was provided, U.S. Women’s National Team star striker Abby Wambach on Wednesday tweeted out this picture of her hanging out with New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. “Hey @BrandonSpikes55 nice chillin’ with you. Gators nation forever. No doubt! #newpatsfan,” she wrote on Twitter.

Check out three more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Zunino, Horschel, Wambach, Elam

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SIX BITS: Masters, Brissett, Booth, Tebow, PIT

1 » Only one of the two Florida Gators golfers competing in the 2013 Masters moved on to weekend play. After hitting an even 72 in the opening round on Thursday, Brian Gay shot a +2 (74) on Friday and is currently tied for 37th, three strokes above the cut line. Senior T.J. Vogel, who earned a spot in the major as an amateur event winner, was not as fortunate. He shot a +5 (77) on Thursday but was able to bring his score down with a +3 (75) on Friday. Vogel missed the cut by four strokes, ending his special weekend earlier than he would hoped. “I just had a good time,” he said Thursday after his first round. “This experience, I can’t even explain even in words. I’m just having such a great time playing in front of so many people and it’s just a really cool feeling when you know you hita great shot and you got people cheering for you. And I’m not used to that yet. It’s just really cool.”

2 » Former Florida QB Jacoby Brissett sounds more than slightly perturbed that he lost the starting job to Jeff Driskel last season. In a feature penned by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, Brissett indicates that he did not receive a fair shot to start for the Gators before throwing a barb at Driskel for his performance in the last game of the season. “It wasn’t right,” he said of the competition. “In the saying that God don’t like ugly, it came up to us in the Sugar Bowl when we couldn’t throw to save our life.” He then took a second shot at Driskel, basically questioning his former teammate’s work ethic while explaining why it was Brissett who should have started at Florida. “Just my competitiveness, I don’t think it was matched with that other guy,” he said. “The willingness to put in that extra work to win.”

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Masters, Zunino, baseball, Elam, Horford

1 » A pair of Florida Gators will be competing at the 2013 Masters this week at Augusta National Golf Club, one of whom is a current University of Florida student and a member of the school’s golf team. Senior T.J. Vogel, a 22-year old amateur, will be playing in his first ever major and has decided to properly take in the moment. Over the weekend, he and his caddie arranged his schedule so he could “bump” into Tiger Woods during an early-morning tee time. “I basically ran into him and we talked for a few minutes,” he said according to the Orlando Sentinel. Vogel has been playing at Augusta as much as possible in preparation for the Masters and will get his big opportunity starting on Thursday. He will be joined in Augusta by former Gators golfer Brian Gay, who has played as a professional since 1994 and has four PGA Tour wins but has never finished better than 20th in a major (2008 PGA Championship).

2 » Former Florida catcher Mike Zunino, the highest-drafted baseball player in school history (No. 3 in the 2012 MLB Draft), is breaking out in a major way while playing minor league baseball for the Seattle Mariners. Currently assigned to the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A), Zunino is simply crushing the ball. On Tuesday night, Zunino smacked a grand slam and has now hit a homer in three-straight games. He has hit four home runs in five games and boasts a MiLB-high 16 RBI while batting .429 and slugging an absurd 1.238 with an on-base percentage of 1.696.

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Masters, Zunino, baseball, Elam, Horford

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FOUR BITS: New uniforms?, Floyd, Doering, PGA

1 » Three-star Florida Gators offensive lineman commit Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL) updated the avatar on his Twitter account recently with the picture below (left), which appears to who a modified version of the football uniform with thicker numbers in a different font. As can be seen by the comparison picture next to it (right), the different font is significantly thicker and the design appears adjusted so that there is a thinner outline in both blue and orange around the numbers. To each their own as far as design tastes go, but this number change looks to go along with Florida’s total transition to a new font for the entire sports program. Uniform changes across college football are mostly headed in a modern and streamlined direction; UF looks to be going for the opposite if this big block style has indeed been adopted for the uniforms, too.

UPDATE – Jan. 29: OGGOA has confirmed with a source close to the program and an incoming player that these are indeed the new uniforms for 2013 and are being shown to recruits and players as what they will be wearing next season. The jersey, which appear to feature a sweatbox under the numbers similar to what is used on NFL jerseys, is also made of a lighter more breathable material that Nike uses in its shoes. There are no changes being made to the pants or helmet at this time.

2 » Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is quickly rocketing up the ranks as more and more scouts get a chance to watch his film. Floyd, who was originally thought to be a low first-round pick when he declared early, now has an opportunity to go in the top 15 of the 2013 NFL Draft in April. Former general manager Scott Pioli told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King recently that Floyd is one of the juniors available at this time. King then went on to list him as the third-best overall because of his “position and scheme flexibility,” competitiveness, toughness and ability to be “consistently disruptive in the pass rush” as well as “the type of player who makes those around him better by making the offense concentrate so much on stopping him.”

3 » The Gainesville Sun on Monday published a feature by Robbie Andreu about future Florida preferred walk-on wide receiver Case Harrison and how former Gators walk-on WR Chris Doering, a family friend, is serving as a mentor as he gets prepared to join the team. “Obviously there are a lot of similarities between the two of us,” Doering said. “[Walking on] is a difficult process. There are not a whole lot of walk-ons that are given an opportunity. I think I can certainly tell him some of the valuable things I learned along the way at Florida to be a successful walk-on. I can give him some insight that would allow him to compete immediately. I can help him with advice off the field and tips on the field.” Like Doering was when he joined the Gators, Harrison is a life-long fan and local product. “When you’re talking about guys like me and Case, you’re talking about guys that are already fully invested in Florida football before they even get there.”

4 » Saturday at the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open was University Day with golfers dressing up in school colors before teeing off. Though play was mostly suspended due to rain and fog, former Florida golfers Billy Horschel (who began the day in second place just a few shots behind Tiger Woods) and Camilo Villegas donned orange and blue. Villegas also competed in the University Challenge – which consisted of four players hitting “shots from the North No. 4 tee box at a square grid 40 yards away that included 20 glass panes,” according to The San Diego Union-Tribune – and wound up winning $10,000 for the school as a Gators pane was the only one left remaining at the end of the competition. Horschel posted a third-round 76 on Sunday which dropped him far down the leaderboard as Woods’s advantage grew over the course of the day.

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FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

1 » No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball has been getting a lot of love since dismantling Missouri on Saturday. Florida has plowed through the first four games of its Southeastern Conference schedule and is starting to look like one of the most dominant teams in the country. Enter John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus (via ESPN Insider [$]), who contended over the weekend that the Gators are “the real No. 1” team in the country at this point. As he wrote on Jan. 20, Florida is putting forward “an unheard-of 0.42 points per possession [differential]” statistic during SEC play, which is double what some former national title teams have been able to achieve. Despite the Gators playing against some talent-poor teams in the early going, Gasaway notes that “we’ve never seen a number as silly as 0.42 after 254 possessions of conference play.” In other words, when all is said and done, UF may have found the offense necessary to go along with its impressive defense, a combination that could send it blasting its way through the SEC and into a top seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. KenPom.com certainly thinks so, as it has the team as at least a seven-point favorite in every game for the remainder of the regular season.

2 » Former Florida golfer Brian Gay qualified for the 2013 Masters on Sunday when he won the 2013 Humana Challenge by registering a birdie on the second playoff hole. The victory was his fourth on the PGA Tour and at 41-years-old, he will be back at Augusta National for just the second time in his long career. He finished with a nine-under 63 but struggled through his final round. Gay birdied nine of the first 13 holes before registering par on holes 14-18. He had a chance to win on 18 but missed a birdie putt; luckily, Gay’s two playoff hole birdies made up for the miss.

Read the rest of this post…including two BITS and two VIDEOS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

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Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Hunter, Every, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (31-9, 11-7 SEC) won their second-straight weekend series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (24-17, 8-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won the series opener 3-2 in 16 innings on Friday before dropping Saturday’s contest 5-3 and needing a victory Sunday to clinch the series. The Gators started with a 1-0 lead via a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) in the bottom of the second, tied the game 2-2 in the fourth thanks to a RBI double by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and fell behind 3-2 in the top of the sixth after the Bulldogs rallied. However, Florida would match and exceed that rally in the bottom frame, scoring four runs including three coming from a homer to right by Pigott (3/3, HR, 4 RBI, R, BB) to take a 6-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K) got the start for the Gators but struggled with his command in the fourth. Florida’s bullpen allowed two more earned runs over the next 2.2 innings but was able to close out the contest with 3.1 scoreless innings including junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez striking out three of the five batters he faced. Senior RHP Greg Larson improved to 6-0 with the victory, and junior RHP Austin Maddox notched his 11th save of the season.

2 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics may have come up just short of winning the overall national championship on Saturday but that did not stop freshman Kytra Hunter from picking up her second individual 2012 NCAA Championship on Sunday. Hunter, who won the NCAA all-around title (first in school history) on Friday with a final score of 39.725, captured the NCAA vault title on Sunday with a score of 9.8750. Hunter also came within a hair (0.0125) of taking the floor exercise championship as well.

3 » Speaking of heartbreaking losses, former Florida golfer Matt Every (-7) finished two spots back of Ben Curtis (-9) in the 2012 Valero Texas Open on Sunday, losing out on the title and a $1.116 million championship purse. Every did, however, bring home $545,600 for tying for second place and was not the only former Gators golfer to win big money as Brian Gay (-5) tied for fourth and banked $244,125 and Billy Horschel (+14) came in 75th and won $12,090.

4 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons – averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 56-of-62 games as a rookie so far – was recently profiled in the video below. Hours after this initial posting Parsons posted one of the best lines of his young NBA career, scoring a personal-best 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block.

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Gator Bites for Monday, April 16

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.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah continues to play a major role for his team, posting a line of 20 points and 17 rebounds (13 offensive) on Sunday night to help lead Chicago past Detroit in overtime. Noah now has 21 double-doubles on the season though that was his first in the month of April.

» Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford told OGGOA on Friday that it is “realistic” to believe that he will be able to return to his team for the playoffs after tearing his pectoral early in the season. Horford, who has missed almost the entire shortened season, said he doubts he will be at 100 percent when the playoffs begin because he will not have the proper time to practice and condition. However, he hopes to be able to contribute in some way and help his team win.

» Unlike Horford, Golden State Warriors F/C David Lee will not see a basketball court again this year. Lee, whose Warriors are out of the playoffs and vying for a better draft slot, will be benched for the remainder of the season after injuring his groin last week. He was already dealing with a hip injury and will be rested mostly for precautionary reasons. Lee averaged nearly a double-double this season, posting totals of 20.1 points and 9.6 boards per game.

» Julie Quittner of Gainesville Television Network sent over a copy of her interview with former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey that aired on Friday. In the piece, Quittner asks Rainey directly about the allegations made recently in a Sporting News column about former Florida head coach Urban Meyer. Below are a few standout questions/answers from the interview:

Did you see the incident when Billy Gonzales was apparently choked by Percy Harvin at practice and apparently he wasn’t disciplined for it? Is that a situation where maybe guys like that got away with certain things?
Rainey: “I heard that story from players; I ain’t never saw it and just like I said, players like that…certain players even the coaches are scared of and there are certain players that the players were scared of but you can’t just answer a question like that because they’re good in sports and you just can’t do nothing about it.

What do you mean by scared?
Rainey: “Scared, like a player if you’re scared of another player…just like that. Coaches can be scared of players.”

What do you have to say to the fact that [safety Bryan Thomas] said at one point that the program got “out of control”?
Rainey: “It wasn’t ever ‘out of control’ they just were scared of certain players and when the younger guys can’t do nothing but watch and see, you’re scared for your life too, so you just got to be quiet because if you say the wrong thing, you might get beat up from him or get in trouble by a coach.”

Do you remember incidents here that happened with [those elite players] specifically that you can remember them getting special treatment or something being covered up for them?
Rainey: “I don’t remember everything being covered up, but I just know a lot of stuff that happened through my college career…like you see people doing bad stuff off the field, fights, getting in trouble in school, whatever it is but if they made it to the NFL, they made it. It’s too late now.”

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 16

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