Dolphins nab Gators C/G Mike Pouncey with No. 15 overall pick in first round of 2011 NFL Draft

Round 1 – No. 15
Mike Pouncey, C/G
Miami Dolphins


Height: 6’5″ – Weight: 303 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Senior

Upon returning to the Florida Gators for his senior season, center/guard Mike Pouncey declared that his goal was to learn how to snap the ball so he could become a first-round pick and selected than his brother. Waiting patientely in the green room at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY, Pouncey learned Thursday evening that his goal had been accomplished when he received a phone call from the Miami Dolphins, who decided to select him No. 15 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“I just think it was a perfect fit. I think they were just trying to hide it from other teams that they were interested in me,” he said while on the phone with local media Thursday night. “I mean, I was kind of shocked that they didn’t bring me in or work me out. But I was hoping on draft day that they picked me and I’m glad they did.”

A starter at Florida for three seasons, Pouncey may be able to line up from day one for Miami, a team desperately in need of assistance in the interior of their offensive line. Pouncey can start at guard right away and could, like his brother, have the opportunity to win the center job during training camp, seeing as the Dolphins re-signed starting left guard Richie Incognito in the offseason and selected John Jerry in the third round of last year’s draft to play right guard.

“I’m just going to go out there and work as hard as I can, learn both positions,” he said. “And it’s up to coach [Tony] Sparano and my teammates what position I’ll be playing.”

Pouncey is the first Gators player selected by the Dolphins since then-head coach Nick Saban picked linebacker Channing Crowder in the third round of the 2005 draft.

He was chosen three slots ahead of his brother, center Maurkice Pouncey, who was selected No. 18 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. Maurkice started every game except the Super Bowl (injury) and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

“Obviously I know that I’m coming in with big expectations because of all the success that my brother’s had but I’m just going to go out there and earn the respect of my teammates and try to earn a spot on that team,” Pouncey said.

The 43rd Florida player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, he is the fifth consecutive first-round pick for the Gators and 12th in the last 15 years.

WHAT POUNCEY SAID
VIDEO: Roger Goodell announces the pick
Conference Call Transcript
Interview with Finsiders (radio)
Press Conference on Friday

WHAT THEY SAID
Dolphins Conference Call Video/Transcript

Head coach Will Muschamp: “I’m happy for Mike that he is getting the chance to realize a lifelong dream. I didn’t coach Mike, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet him and you can tell that he has a passion for the game. I wish him the best of luck.”

» OGGOA’s 2011 NFL Draft Live Blog – Click here!

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OGGOA’s comprehensive 2011 NFL Draft Preview

Legalities surrounding the lockout may still be looming, but the 2011 NFL Draft will begin without a hitch Thursday night (ESPN, NFL Network) and run through April 30 as more than a dozen former Florida Gators hope to see their childhood dreams come true.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting Florida’s players may not be as excited about the event this time around considering there will be a significant drop-off from the nation-leading nine players that were selected in 2010 (including a school-record three in the first round and six in the first two rounds).

Few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft – trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player brings to the table differently than analysts and commentators do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, we will stick with what likely will happen.

» Center/guard Mike Pouncey will be the only first-round pick, selected before his brother was and headed to one of five teams.

Unless a team decides that they desperately need a center and plans to trade into the top half of the first round in order to jump a handful of other teams, Pouncey will likely be headed to either the Miami Dolphins (15) or New York Giants (19) at their respective draft slots or to one of three teams that would have to trade down/up for him: Dallas Cowboys (9), Chicago Bears (29) or Pittsburgh Steelers (31). The top-rated interior lineman in the draft, Pouncey continues to garner high praise and has plenty of teams around the league looking in his direction.

» Florida will not have another player selected until at least the third round.

There was talk for a while that tackle Marcus Gilbert may be moving into the category of a late second-round selection but that has died down recently. However, he is the only player on the team who has actually climbed up draft boards since the season ended. His size is undeniable and scouts were impressed with his agility and strength. Gilbert projects as either a right tackle or guard in the NFL with many scouts believing he might perform better in the latter position. He will likely be selected sometime in the third round and may very well be one of only two Gators picked in the first two days of the draft.

» The future of Florida’s secondary standouts is not very “safe.”

Like linebacker Brandon Spikes in 2010, strong safety Ahmad Black has seen his stock slide going into the draft due to concerns about his speed. Unlike Spikes last year, Black also has scouts worried about his lack of prototypical NFL size and how his immense talent will be able to translate to the big stage. As Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow knows, all it takes is one team to believe in you. And whether former head coach Urban Meyer is in Bill Belichick’s ear once again (the New England Patriots drafted three Gators in 2010) or a team simply realizes that Black has a high football IQ and can significantly impact a game if given an opportunity, he will likely have someone take a chance on him in the third or fourth round.

Though free safety Will Hill has the prototypical size and speed that Black lacks, those around the league have realized he is missing perhaps even more important things like football IQ and character. His athleticism is undeniable, but there are too many question marks about him (including, simply, his talent level) for a team to take a risk on him early. Hill will be picked on the third day – if he is at all.

» Punter Chas Henry will be drafted later than he should be.

When it comes to specialists, just being picked in the NFL Draft is usually an honor. Sometimes one has so much upside that they are selected extremely early (see kicker Sebastian Janikowski [No. 17 overall, 2000] and P Ray Guy [No. 23 overall, 1973]), but most of the time they are just lucky to be chosen in a middle round. Though Henry was the best collegiate punter in 2010 (and arguably 2009, too), his draft position will be based strictly on team need. His ability to serve as a viable back-up kicker should provide him a bit of additional value but chances are he is picked late on the third day.

» The vast majority of Gators will be undrafted free agents.

Due to red flags ranging from injuries to lack of production, the rest of Florida’s draft-eligible players may not know where they are headed for days, weeks or months depending how NFL teams decide to handle undrafted free agent signings in the face of the (recently lifted) lockout.

Offensive lineman Carl Johnson and Maurice Hurt; running back Emmanuel Moody; wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams; defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens; defensive tackles Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine; linebackers A.J. Jones, Brandon Hicks and Lorenzo Edwards; and long snapper John Fairbanks could all be picked up after the draft concludes. There is the chance that a select few (Johnson, Hurt, Moody, Moore, Trattou) could be selected in the sixth or seventh round due to potential long-term upside.

For LIVE COVERAGE of the 2011 NFL Draft, be sure to join us back here at OGGOA beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. and running through the conclusion of the event on Saturday.

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TWO BITS: Pounceys together? Jenkins to NFL?

1 » Though Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey continues to believe he will be selected higher in the 2011 NFL Draft than his brother was one year earlier, another opportunity (once believed to be likely before being dismissed as the opposite) has arisen. According to the NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, the Pittsburgh Steelers (who drafted Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey just last season) “will exhaust all realistic possible scenarios to trade up” for Pouncey. “Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has given an edict to his personnel department to explore all realistic trade options for Pouncey,” La Canfora writes, so the team is “prepared to acquire him should he ‘start to slip.’” Pittsburgh (with the No. 31 overall pick) would probably have to give up a good amount to trade up to where Pouncey will likely be drafted (No. 15-19).

2 » Dismissed from the Florida football team on Tuesday, Gators senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has already begun pursuing another opportunity, according to Sports Illustrated’s NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline. Rather than redshirt the 2011 season to potentially play for another top school next year or transfer to a junior college or lower division program this season, Jenkins is currently “looking for an agent” for the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft set for July. Players normally enter the Supplemental Draft due to athletic, disciplinary or eligibility reasons. Pauline writes that “calls have already been made[to agents] on [his] behalf.” Though Jenkins now has character concerns, he will undoubtedly find a NFL home before all is said and done.

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TWO BITS: Pouncey’s entourage, Hill’s issues

1 » Florida Gators center/guard Mike Pouncey already knew his answer when the higher-ups called to officially invite him to the 2011 NFL Draft. Now just days away, Pouncey is preparing to be a first-round selection and had to choose who would be joining him in the green room. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Shannon Owens, Pouncey will be accompanied by his agent, parents, brother (Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey), former teammate (New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez) and former position coach (Temple Owls head coach Steve Addazio).

2 » Plenty of NFL scouts speak to reporters under the condition of anonymity before the draft, and one did just that when discussing the mindset of Florida safety Will Hill with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently. “The guy is ignorant and crazy,” the scout said when discussing Hill’s questionable off-the-field character. “I wouldn’t touch him.” Though he is still compared favorably to fellow Gators S Ahmad Black due strictly to his prototypical size and speed, the immense character concerns surrounding Hill could very well see him go undrafted or picked much later than Black in the draft.

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FOUR BITS: Two days of ESPN, Pitino’s new job

1 » The Florida Gators were all over ESPN on Wednesday with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and senior C Mike Pouncey making appearances. Below are videos of the interviews conducted with Haden and the Pounceys on First Take by Jay Crawford and Dana Jacobson:

2 » The Gators-on-ESPN theme will continue Thursday with head coach Will Muschamp being put through the “car wash” ringer in Bristol, CT. His Thursday schedule, according to the University of Florida is as follows:

10:20 a.m – SportsCenter (LIVE, ESPN)
11:05 a.m. – First Take (LIVE, ESPN2)
11:45 a.m. – The Herd (LIVE, ESPN Radio)
1:00 p.m. – ESPN U College Football podcast with Ivan Maisel
3:30 p.m. – College Football Live – (taped, ESPN2)
4:00 p.m. – SportsNation (taped, ESPN2)
4:10 p.m. – SportsCenter (LIVE)
1-4 p.m. – Scott Van Pet Radio Show (taped, ESPN Radio)

3 » Though former Florida assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino will indeed be leaving the Gators for a job under his father with the Louisville Cardinals (if a deal can be worked out), he will not be named the head coach-in-waiting, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal’s C.L. Brown. “That’s not the way I operate,” athletic director Tom Jurich said. “I would never put that kidn of pressure on him, and I don’t think Rick [Pitino] would want that kind of pressure on him.” The older Pitino said his son rejoining his staff is” far from official” though it is in the works.

4 » Former Florida basketball assistant Lewis Preston will be named head coach at Kennesaw State Owls, according to FOX Sports. Preston has been an assistant with the Penn State Nittany Lions since 2008.

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Gators C Mike Pouncey will attend NFL Draft

Planning to follow in his brother’s footsteps of being a first-round selection, former Florida Gators center/guard Mike Pouncey has accepted an invitation from the league to attend the 2011 NFL Draft on April 28 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY.

Pouncey has let it known that his goal is to be picked ahead of his brother Maurkice Pouncey, who was selected No. 18 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. He is considered the top interior offensive lineman in the draft and has been projected by analysts to potentially go as high as No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins.

Since showcasing his talent for coaches and scouts at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, IN and Pro Day in Gainesville, FL, Pouncey has been conducting private workouts with teams potentially interested in drafting him and will continue to do so as draft day approaches.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, softball, lacrosse, WNIT

1 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has signed an endorsement deal with Core Synergy, a company that sells wristbands of titanium and silicone rubber that claim to hold a positive charge that reverses “the effect of pain in the body caused by negative energy fields. Other athlete “ambassadors” of the product include Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick and Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk.

2 » No. 2/3 Florida Gators softball (27-1, 4-0 SEC) tore the cover off the ball on Wednesday, defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) 8-0 and 18-1 in a doubleheader at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Senior first baseman Megan Bush (2-5, HR, 5 RBI, R, 2 BB) hit a grand slam in the opening game and tied a school record with a still active 16-game hitting streak. However, her offensive production paled in comparison to senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (6-7, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 R) who blew up with a home run in each game. She also knocked in nearly more than third of the team’s 26 combined runs. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (13-1) drew the start in both games, earning a pair of wins while tossing 9.0 innings, striking out four and only giving up six hits and a single unearned run.

3 » No. 8/10 Florida lacrosse (7-1) saw success earlier in the week with a dominating 18-6 victory over the Colgate Raiders (3-4) on Tuesday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell scored five goals and registered six points in the contest, both career-highs. She was joined by three other Gators (sophomores M Kitty Cullen, attacker Ashley Bruns and A Janine Hiller) as a foursome of players who registered hat tricks in the win.

4 » Florida women’s basketball, which finished the season a lackluster 18-14, earned a berth to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and will face the UMBC Retrievers (20-11) in first-round action on Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be hosted at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, marking UF’s 17th postseason berth in 19 seasons.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Black, Hill, soccer commits

1 » Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey has heard the doubters, but he is steadfast in believing a few things: (1) he’s better than his brother, (2) staying another year at UF had a positive affect on him and (3) he will be drafted higher than No. 18 overall [where the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Maurkice Pouncey in 2010]. “I think I block in the open field better, but like I said, we’re the same player,” Mike quipped during the media session at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. He also told CBS’s Len Pasquarelli that not being picked before his brother would cause him great anxiety. “I won’t sleep, man, if I don’t go higher than he did,” he said. “I mean, I came back to [the Gators] for a reason. It’s not like we have a bet or anything. He keeps saying, like, ‘OK, you can go 19th [overall]. That would really be good.’ But I want to be higher, if possible. That would be good, too.” Pouncey also discussed his early season struggles. “There was a lot of [focus] on the bad shotgun snaps at the beginning of the year,” he noted. “But things got a lot better as the year went on. And people were looking at one or two snaps out of the 70 that I played, and making a judgment on them. Scouts, they’re looking at all 70 plays and grading them. Judge me on a whole game. I think I can play.”

2 » Florida safety Ahmad Black is sick of having his size criticized, especially when scouts only have positive things to say about all of his other attributes. Nevertheless, he has not let the insults get him down and continues to push ahead toward his goal of starting in an NFL secondary sooner than later. “It’s frustrating,” he said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “At the end of the day, it’s about making plays, You’ve got the big guy that’s fast and can make plays and you just want to make more plays than that guy. I get to the ball, I’m fast. At the end of the day, I get what they’re saying. But can he make plays or can he not? That’s how I live. Teams may pass on me because of my size, but the team that picks me up will definitely have something good.”

3 » Black was not the only Gators safety to depart this season; junior Will Hill left a year early to pursue his dream of playing football professionally while providing for his family. Before the combine, Hill was the subject of a feature story by the Newark Star-Ledger. In it he noted that he was concerned with how teams perceived his character. “How are they going to judge me as a person, see me as a person?” Hill said. “Character issues are a big thing in the NFL and that can make or break you, so that’s the biggest pressure.” The writer speaks with a number of people close to Hill to get a fuller picture about the type of person he is both on and off the field. The paper also spoke with ESPN’s Todd McShay, who had this to say about Hill’s future:

“He’s going to be asked a lot of questions. He’s going to have to answer them sincerely and NFL teams are going to have to feel comfortable with him. When you’re one of the top 30, 40, 50 players, teams are going to overlook more than when it comes to guys who are somewhere in the 100s, 150-250 overall — it’s like anything in life. And with Will Hill, obviously, there are some of those questions.”

4 » Florida soccer, which finished the 2010 season ranked No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC, announced Monday that 13 players will be joining the team as part of the 2011 recruiting class. Joining the Gators in the fall are forwards Tessa Andujar (San Clemente, CA) and Jillian Graff (Medina, OH); defenders Savannah Berry (Encinitas, CA), Annie Bobbitt (Fleming Island, FL), Kim Sapienza (Gainesville, FL), Lauren Silver (Delray Beach, FL) and Taylor Thigpen (Jacksonville, FL); midfielders Lindsey Cooper (Seminole, FL), Katrina Gutsche (Valrico, FL), Jennifer Larrick (Westford, MA), Havana Solaun (Gainesville, FL) and Annie Speese (Augusta, GA); and goalkeeper Taylor Burke (Medina, OH). Cooper is the sister of former Gators star wide receiver Riley Cooper, and Burke signed her National Letter of Intent with the track & field team so she will not count against soccer’s scholarship limit. For more information on the newest Florida student-athletes, click here.

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