4 BITS: Larson avoids jail, Pouncey gets fined

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson will not serve any jail time in South Dakota even though his 120-day suspended sentence was revoked earlier this week by Minnehaha County Judge John Schlimgen due to Larson’s arrest in Florida on April 10. According to KSFY ABC, Judge Schlimgen re-invoked Larson’s suspended sentence due and gave him two more years of probation. Larson’s jail sentence will remain suspended as long as he stays out of trouble and follows a number of terms and conditions set forth by the Minnehaha County State Attorney’s Office. If he violates his probation again, chances are the judge will not be as lenient next time. Larson remains indefinitely suspended from the Gators basketball team because his legal status had not yet been decided until Friday. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely reinstate him soon, as he did with junior F Erik Murphy after his case was settled.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was fined $7,500 by the NFL on Friday due to an unnecessary roughness call he got Sunday against Houston. Pouncey was fined for what the NFL determined was a late hit, though Pouncey said he did not hear the whistle and will not let the fine affect him. “I’m not changing how I play,” he said.

3 » Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was praised by Pro Football Focus as the second-highest rated player at his position in the league. Dunlap does not have a sack yet this season after registering 9.5 in 2010 (including 8.5 in the final six games). He does, however lead Cincinnati with eight quarterback pressures, which is a great sign for the player. “Once you get one usually you get on a roll. Right now though the first one is the toughest,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’m getting quarterback hits and pressures. Eventually they are going to turn into sacks.”

4 » On the injury front, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (sprained MCL) returned to practice for the first time on Thursday since getting hurt in Week 2. He is considered “on track” to play. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy, who has yet to play this year due to a sports hernia/groin injury, resumed practicing this week but was limited. Murphy, a starter in 2010 who was looking like Oakland’s most promising receiver, has fallen on the depth chart due to his absence and will have to work his way back up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham was injured during practice on Thursday. Graham hurt his hamstring and is questionable to play on Saturday. Though he may not be raking in the scores, he has been an integral part of Tampa Bay’s offense up to this point.

Updating the item above, Hernandez is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report, Murphy will miss one more week, and Pittsburgh’s new left tackle Max Starks has earned the starting role for Sunday’s game.

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FOUR BITS: Larson faces jail, Starks returns to Steelers, Noah spotted, Hill arrested

1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson may have had his legal matter settled in the state of Florida (he accepted deferred prosecution for his misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges) but how his actions will impact his legal status in South Dakota is another story. According to Keoland.com, Larson’s 120-day suspended jail sentence may be invoked due to him violating the law. “Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan filed a motion this week asking a Sioux Falls judge to drop the suspended sentence and consider jail time on the prescription drug charges from last year,” the website reports. “A court date has been set for Friday. That’s when it will be up to a judge to decide if Larson serves any or all of those 120 days.”

2 » After nearly three months away from football, former Gators offensive tackle Max Starks has officially been re-signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same team that cut him shortly after the lockout ended due to concerns over his weight and status following offseason neck surgery. Starks, a favorite of the front office but reportedly a problem for the coaching staff, returned Wednesday and found his old No. 78 jersey hanging in his locker. “It was good to see everybody and everybody was happy to see me,” he told the Steelers’ website. “It was like old times. There are a lot of old faces and some new faces. It’s comfortable and it’s home. I am happy to be back.” OGGOA spoke with Starks a few weeks ago in an exclusive interview that will be published on the website in the coming days. He hopes to returns to the NFL gridiron as soon as Sunday.

3 » Back in Gainesville, FL working out with fellow former Florida forward Al Horford while the NBA lockout continues, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was caught by TMZ on Tuesday…having some fun in a pool. No, not that kind of fun. If you care to see two pictures of Noah playing beer pong, you can click here.

4 » Former Gators power forward Dametri Hill was arrested on Tuesday for not paying child support and for two previous charges of marijuana possession. According to the St. Petersburg Times, police caught up with Hill at the Tampa International Airport booked him with a warrant for contempt of court. After leaving Florida, Hill played with the San Antonio Spurs for a short time before pursuing professional basketball in seven countries over a 14-year period. He has recently participated in basketball camps as a coach and had hoped to continue living around the game.

Extra BIT » The University of Florida announced Wednesday that the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will take place on April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It will be a busy day on campus at UF with a track and field meet, baseball game and softball game also taking place.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Jaeckel, cheer, Jenkins

1 » Florida Gators sophomore forward/center Patric Young, one of the most important pieces to the team’s 2011-12 season, was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list on Monday. The Wooden Award is presented each year to the nation’s most outstanding college basketball player and is awarded after the postseason has concluded. Every player in the nation is eligible to win except freshmen, medical redshirts and transfers. Young is one of seven players representing the Southeastern Conference on the watch list and the only one from Florida.

2 » Gators senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel picked up a pair of prestigious weekly honors after standout performances over the weekend. Jaeckel was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and was honored with the AVCA National Player of the Week award just one day later. Over the course of two road games against Auburn and Georgia, Jaeckel totaled 29 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and two service aces. Florida swept both opponents 3-0 and is now 11-3 with a 4-1 record in SEC competition so far this season.

3 » UF cheerleader Tarin Moses wrote a Sideline Report blog for AmericanCheerleaders.com, which takes readers through a day in the life of a member of the Gators’ spirit squad before, during and after a big contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Though the majority of Florida fans already know of the traditions Moses writes about, the entry is an interesting look at the game from her perspective.

4 » Former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, playing his final collegiate season with the North Alabama Lions after transferring due to multiple rules violations, was named the Gulf Coast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday because he had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal during his team’s game on Saturday. It was Jenkins’s third touchdown of the season (punt return, fumble return), and he is also third on North Alabama with 33 tackles through five games. The Lions have started the 2011 season 5-0.

Extra BIT » Offensive tackle Max Starks has not played a game in the NFL this season after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers when the lockout ended this summer. Due to a massive amount of injuries and an intense need for a player who knows the system, Pittsburgh flew Starks in to work out for the team on Tuesday, NFL.com‘s Jason LaCanfora reports. Starks was originally cut by the Steelers due to weight issues and concerns stemming from offseason neck surgery. When asked last week if Starks was an option to return, head coach Mike Tomlin flat-out said no.

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FOUR BITS: Leak, Harvin, Starks, Gilbert

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak has yet to find a permanent team to play with as a professional. After playing only one preseason game in the NFL, he has spent the last four years in the CFL with three different teams. His running around in the great white north has finally coming to an end if a report from the Florida Times-Union is to be believed. According to the paper, the Jacksonville Sharks of the AFL are planning to sign Leak to be the team’s new starting quarterback. The ArenaBowl XXIV Champions, Jacksonville will be losing its 41-year-old veteran quarterback Aaron Garcia to another team and is looking for someone to come in and take his place. Should Leak sign with the Sharks, he will be the third former Gators player on the team in as many years, following cornerback Dee Webb and wide receiver Dallas Baker.

2 » After missing one day of practice last week due to a stomach illness supposedly caused by the flu, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin ended up playing in his team’s game on Sunday but did not last the entire contest. After getting hit in the gut during the fourth quarter, Harvin sat out the final five minutes of regulation as well as the overtime period as he watched his team fall to Detroit. Before leaving, Harvin caught three passes for 47 yards, returned two kickoffs for 47 yards and ran the ball twice for 41 yards. He is expected to return to practice this week and should not suffer any further setbacks.

3 » Out of work all season after being cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers just after the NFL lockout ended, former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks continues to look for a new team. According to 1500 ESPN Radio out of Minnesota, the Vikings met with Starks on Monday as they need to fill a reserve tackle position on their team. Starks, who recovered all offseason from a neck injury that he suffered in November, apparently had weight and conditioning issues when he reported to Steelers camp.

4 » Pittsburgh’s offensive line looked like a MASH unit Sunday evening after a bunch of starters and reserves were injured throughout the course of their game at Indianapolis. Rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who moved into a starting role with the team due to an injury to another player, hurt his shoulder during the game and was sent to the sideline. When the reserve left tackle was forced to leave the game, an injured Gilbert wound up reentering for the remainder of the contest. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Gilbert “looks like he’ll be OK” to play next week barring any setbacks. Even though the team is in need of another reserve tackle, NBC Sports reports that Starks has been ruled out as a possibility.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Harvin, Reed, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators center Maurkice Pouncey had a great rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Earning the starting job from day one, Pouncey helped his team advance all the way to the Super Bowl, which he ended up missing due to injury. He had another unique opportunity this past Saturday as he and 12 of his Pittsburgh teammates worked as actors for the third installment of the new group of Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises. Pouncey and the rest of the Steelers were cast as football players and went through some motions on Heinz Field while surrounded by thousands of extras in the stands as fans. They are on the field against a Gotham team coached by Bill Cowher. “From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be like a pregame, warming-up type thing,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before the filming. “I don’t know the whole concept. There’s a Gotham team, a football game. We’ll be wearing uniforms. It will be fun.”

2 » A standout performer at Minnesota Vikings training camp thus far, wide receiver Percy Harvin is also becoming more of a leader. “I’ll tell you there is no way that I would have predicted over this lockout that Percy would have come back taking a leadership role that he has,” head coach Leslie Frazier told the Associated Press. “From the moment the lockout was lifted and we could contact players, it’s been refreshing just talking to him and just seeing his attitude about this season. The fact that he’s leading, he’s talking to other players, explaining to them what needs to be done, how things are done.” Not only is Harvin stepping up, he is also feeling much better after being plagued with migraines throughout his entire football career. Free from them for the last seven months and confident that doctors have finally found a solution, Harvin could be poised for a breakout season even though he’s already won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and scored a ton of touchdowns in his young career.

3 » Gators redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed finally feels like he is coming into his own at his new position. Moved to tight end from quarterback heading into 2010, Reed was forced to move back behind center in order to help run Florida’s offense. A year later, he is once again prepared to try his hand at blocking and catching. “I’m excited about being the tight end,” Reed told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “It’s been a lot easier on me than last year, knowing that I’ve just got to worry about one position.” To help with his transition, he has sought out assistance from former Gators TE Aaron Hernandez. “We still talk all the time,” he said. “He tells me to watch film and learn the defense and coverages and it will be easier for me.”

4 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps was named to the watch list for the 2011 Paul Hornung Award on Monday. The award, presented to the nation’s most versatile college football player at the end of the year, was given for the first time in 2010. Demps and redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey were on last season’s watch list but neither ended up being one of the three finalists. The former has also been named to the 2011 Doak Walker Award watch list for the country’s top running back.

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FOUR BITS: Crowder, Pouncey, Starks, swimming

1 » The Miami Dolphins cut veteran linebacker Channing Crowder over the weekend, ending his six-year run with the team that selected him in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. With declining production, bad knees and a contract that would have counted for $5 million against the 2011 salary cap, Crowder leaving was nevertheless a tough decision for head coach Tony Sparano, who (as the rest of the team did) viewed him as a defensive leader. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Sparano said. “It’s still hard for me. But it’s football. It happens.”

2 » Miami may make another personnel move that could affect a former Florida Gators player on its roster. The Dolphins are looking at bringing in veteran center Shaun O’Hara; he is already in South Florida for an official meeting with the club. Should O’Hara be signed, first-round pick Mike Pouncey will likely be forced to move to right guard for the 2011 season. O’Hara’s signing, however, would not be an indictment on Pouncey’s ability but rather a necessity due to the team’s lack of top-notch guard play. Richie Incognito will be starting on the left side for Miami, but the Dolphins are not pleased with the performance of 2010 third-round pick John Jerry on the right side, hence necessitating plugging in Pouncey for the time being. Check out this recent one-on-one interview with Pouncey after his first day of practice.

3 » Though he was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers late last week, tackle Max Starks was proud to hear that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sported his oversized No. 78 jersey to practice the next day to honor his former teammate. “Max and I were the last two from my draft class,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “His locker has always been next to mine for the past seven years. So I saw his jersey there and I wore it in honor of Max.” Starks, who put on some weight in the offseason and is dealing with neck issues, is hoping to catch on with a club soon in order to have a full preseason and continue playing in the league. He had signed a four-year, $26.3 million deal with Pittsburgh in 2009 and was two years into his contract before being cut.

4 » Florida captured another pair of gold medals on Sunday at the conclusion of the World Swimming Championships. Former Gators standout Ryan Lochte and current Florida swimmer Elizabeth Beisel each won the 400-meter individual relay for their respective gender. Lochte’s gold was his fifth of the event and, coupled with a world record and two head-to-head defeats of Michael Phelps, rounded out an outstanding performance for possibly the United States’ best bet for medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Beisel, who will return to the Gators for her sophomore year with the team, captured her third international gold with her victory.

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Florida’s 2011 NFL draftees all under contract

With Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey agreeing to a four-year, $9.3 million deal with the team late Saturday evening, all four former Florida Gators selected in the 2011 NFL Draft have officially been signed by their respective clubs.

Pouncey, who missed the first two days of practice while his agents and Miami’s brass were working out his deal, was pleased to announce to fans that he would finally be lacing up his cleats on Sunday.

“Thanks for all the support,” he wrote on Twitter around midnight, “the deal is done see you all at practice tomorrow.”

Due to the brand new collective bargaining agreement, Pouncey’s rookie contract is significantly less than his brother’s was one year ago even though the former was selected three slots higher. Center Maurkice Pouncey was chosen with the 18th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and signed a five-year, $17.96 million deal. Mike’s contract is fully guaranteed while Maurkice’s included $10.35 million of guaranteed money.

Also signing with his team this week was Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert, who agreed to a $3.227 million deal including an $847,000 signing bonus. A second-round pick, Gilbert hopes to join Maurkice on Pittsburgh’s starting offensive line this season and spent the lockout getting tips from him while learning about the offense.

“It’s been pretty straightforward,” Gilbert told the Beaverton County Times late in the week. “It’s just trying to switch over the language of the offense and little stuff here and there that I never ran in college. The older guys are taking me under their wing and showing me how to do it the right way.”

Florida’s two late round picks – safety Ahmad Black (fifth round) and guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round) – each signed four-year deals with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins, respectively.

Black told the New York Times that he knows he has his work cut out for him and is still getting acclimated to the professional game. He is willing to start from the bottom and work is way up to a starting role.

“It’s a little bit different than college,” Black said on Friday. “Coming from Florida with coach [Urban] Meyer, he always stressed special teams so it’s nothing new to me. A lot of guys think since they started in college, they will start here. That’s definitely not the case. I’m going to earn my role on special teams to work my way on the defense.”

OGGOA will keep you up-to-date with all four rookies (as well as all of the undrafted free agents who signed with teams) through training camp and the 2011 regular season.

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Ex-Gators the center of NFL moves this week

Updated on July 29 at 2 p.m.

One day after defensive end Jarvis Moss re-signed with the Oakland Raiders for one year and $1.25 million, a trio of former Florida Gators football players found out there would be changers to their respective NFL careers.

The flurry of happenings started early when Denver Broncos wide receiver Jabar Gaffney learned he had been traded to the Washington Redskins in exchange for DE Jeremy Jarmon. Gaffney likely would have seen a reduction in field time and may even have been cut from the Denver roster had the team not found a suitor for his services.

Going into his 10th NFL season, he posted career-highs in receptions (65) and yards (875) in 2010 during his second year with the Broncos. Gaffney previously spent four seasons with Houston and three with New England.

San Francisco 49ers DE Ray McDonald, who impressed in a reserve role during the 2010 season, re-upped with the team that selected him with the No. 97 overall pick in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft to the tune of five years and $20 million. McDonald recorded 19 tackles and an interception (which he returned for a touchdown) one year ago and will move into a starting role with the ball club.

He received $7 million guaranteed in the deal after saying earlier this summer that he was tired of coming off the bench. “I know I’m an every-down player, a starter,” he said, “and that’s what I’m looking to do this year. I’m not looking to back up anybody.”

The news was not as pleasant for Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Max Starks, who was informed by the team late Wednesday that his services will no longer be needed just two years after signing a four-year, $26.3 million contract that included $10 million in guaranteed money.

Likely a cap casualty due to his release saving the team $5.14 million in salary, Starks could rejoin the team at a reduced rate, though he may be able to sign a larger contract elsewhere. The 2004 third-round pick is a two-time Super Bowl champion who traveled to the big dance three times and started in 68 of 95 career games.

Positive news came early Thursday morning for Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson, who announced via his Twitter account that he agreed to terms to return to the team. Details of his new contract are currently unknown.

Former first-round pick defensive end Derrick Harvey and linebacker Channing Crowder concluded the week by finding themselves out of work after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, respectively. After three disappointing seasons, Harvey only racked up eight sacks in 47 games (32 starts) for Jacksonville. Crowder, who was selected in the third-round of the 2005 NFL Draft, amassed 469 tackles but only 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in six seasons with Miami.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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