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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Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share with our readers – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, we present a special post: Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» With the NFL lockout now in the books, the Florida Gators four selections in the 2011 NFL Draft will be reporting to work for the first time on Thursday. Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (first round, No. 15), Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (second round, No. 63), Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, No. 151 and Washington Redskins guard Maurice Hurt (seventh round, No. 217 are all on teams who will be eligible to workout immediately.

» While that foursome is ready and raring to go, Florida also has a number of undrafted free agents hoping to be picked up by teams looking to supplement their roster. Among those available are defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. OGGOA will update you if and when these players are picked up by teams.

» The WNBA held its 2011 All-Star game over the weekend and also announced its Top 15 Players of All Time at the event. Though she was nominated and up for selection to the list, former Gators forward DeLisha Milton-Jones was not picked by fans for the honor. The six-time champion (two Olympic gold medals, two WNBA titles, two Euroleague titles) is currently averaging 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There are 11 more Gator Bites including updates on Calathes, UF-FSU, Beal, Alvarez, Wambach, LeCount, ultimate Frisbee and Bostic…after the break!
Continue Reading » Eleven Gator Bites for Monday, July 25th

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Pounceys go through the ESPN car wash

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and soon-to-be-official Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey visited the ESPN studios in Bristol, CT to participate in the famed “car wash,” which consists of making appearances on nearly every live and taped program to air on television and radio during the course of the day.

The twins and former Florida Gators offensive linemen began the day by appearing on First Take before heading over to the main studio for SportsCenter. They also dropped by the Scott Van Pelt Show, ESPN Rise, the Doug Gottlieb Show, SportsNation and NFL Live (among other shows) before departing.

Being interviewed on the Scott Van Pelt Show: Listen

Playing a game on First Take:

Talking about a number of topics on SportsCenter:

Meeting U.S. women’s soccer stars goalkeeper Hope Solo and striker Alex Morgan:

Planking on the set of NFL Live:

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TWO BITS: Rainey robbed, Baker in CFL?

1 » The residence shared by Florida Gators redshirt seniors running back Chris Rainey and cornerback Moses Jenkins was burglarized Sunday morning, and both players had expensive items missing upon returning. According to The Gainesville Sun, Rainey’s BCS National Championship Ring was the most prominent item stolen; however, also taken when the house was “ransacked” were a television, PlayStation gaming system, Gucci duffel bag and 10 pairs of Jenkins’s shoes.

2 » Former Florida wide receiver Dallas Baker has found his way to the Canadian Football League and is currently taking part in workouts with the Montreal Alouettes. Though he is not officially on the roster yet, Baker is hoping to make an impression during the team’s exhibition finale on Wednesday and play in the CFL next year. “I feel like my career’s on the line,” Baker told the Montreal Gazette. “I have to go out and do all the details – catch every pass, complete my blocking assignments and give 110 percent every play. Even without the injury you have something to prove every day. No one remembers what you did on your last play. To me, every day is like a job interview.”

The former Pittsburgh Steelers pass catcher just wants a chance to prove he can play, even if it is not in the United States on the big stage of the NFL. “We all have dreams of being a star in the NFL and are prepared to do what it takes,” Baker said. “But I could have played 10 more years on special teams in the NFL and never made a catch, and I would have been able to sleep at night.”

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FOUR BITS: No. 1, Parsons, Spikes, Pouncey

1 » Combining the accomplishments of football and basketball teams nationally thus far during the BCS era, Rivals.com has listed the Florida Gators as the top overall program in the country. With 81 total points (44.5 from football and 36.5 from basketball based on their specific scoring system), Florida is 12 points ahead of the runner-up (Ohio State, 69) and out in front by 16 points over No. 3 overall (Texas, 65).

2 » Working his way up draft boards, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently training on the West Coast in preparation for the 2011 NBA Draft. ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford recently got to watch him practice along with a number of other prospects and came away impressed, bumping him up to potential first-round pick status.

Parsons really surprised me. I knew he was skilled and athletic for a 6-foot-10 player. But he showed aggressiveness that I just hadn’t seen at Florida. […] He showed the ability to take [Paul] George off the dribble to the rim, rise up and hit jumpers over George’s freakishly long arms and most importantly he made a number of spell-binding passes to [Malcolm] Thomas. Parsons’ decision-making in the sets was fantastic. So was his shooting. He was hitting just about every shot he took and showed range out to the NBA 3-point line.

3 » Taking a look at players who are “soon to be stars” in the AFC East, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson thoroughly discussed New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes’s future in a blog post on ESPN on Thursday:

Brandon Spikes is the perfect fit as the heavier take-on inside linebacker in Bill Belichick’s 3-4 scheme. Pass coverage — particularly man coverage against tight ends and swifter running backs — will probably always be a problem for Spikes, but what Spikes does, he does very well. This guy stops the run. And he stops the run very well. Spikes is a downhill player who is very quick to react. He does his best work between the tackles and as a fantastic take-on linebacker. He is also the ideal complement to Jerod Mayo, who is more of the athletic free-lancing type. Spikes rarely plays a bad game and is a model of consistency — even at such a young age (23).

4 » Choosing to workout up north with his brother and some of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, Miami Dolphins center/guard Mike Pouncey is trying to get in shape so he is read if/when the lockout is lifted. “I’m just doing offensive line drills with the guys, and I’ll be going down to Miami in two weeks to do that stuff with my offensive line,” Pouncey told the Palm Beach Post’s Ben Volin. “But I’ve been talking to Jake [Long], [Richie] Incognito and Vernon [Carey]. I can’t wait to get down there and learn from them.” Volin also spoke with his mother, Lisa Webster, who noted that her son is fueled by some of the shots he’s taken from NFL Draft analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, who say he is not the same caliber player his brother center Maurkice Pouncey has become. “It pisses him off. They’re so competitive,” she said.

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Two former Gators selected in 2011 UFL Draft

The 2011 NFL Draft came and went last weekend with four former Florida Gators selected during the three-day event.

Center Mike Pouncey was chosen by the Miami Dolphins in the first round, tackle Marcus Gilbert was picked in the second round and is headed to join Pouncey’s brother with the Pittsburgh Steelers, safety Ahmad Black had to wait until the fifth round to be selected by his childhood favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Washington Redskins gave guard Maurice Hurt a chance in the seventh round.

The United Football League held its third draft on Monday with two former Florida players earning unique opportunities.

Cornerback Reynaldo Hill, a four-year NFL veteran (Tennessee Titans, 2005-08), was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the first round by the Omaha Nighthawks. Hill was a seventh round pick by Tennessee in 2005 but has been out of the league for years.

Defensive tackle Ian Scott, a seven-year veteran and fourth round pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2003 NFL Draft, was chosen No. 30 overall in the sixth round by the Virginia Destroyers and head coach Marty Schottenheimer. After playing for Chicago (2003-06), Scott had a short stint with the Philadelphia Eagles (2007) before finishing his career with the San Diego Chargers (2008-09).

The duo join former Gators guard Tavares Washington in the UFL; Washington has played the last two seasons for the Las Vegas Locomotives.

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