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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Florida spring practice will be closed to public

The Will Muschamp era of Florida Gators football will begin with a measure put in place that even former head coach Urban Meyer did not institute during his time in the orange and blue: 2011 spring practice will be closed to the public.

“With a new coaching staff here teaching our system, we feel like minimizing our distractions is important,’’ Muschamp said in an official statement. “We realize that there is high interest from the fans, and we are extremely appreciative of the support that The Gator Nation gives us. We hope that they understand that this decision has been made in the interest of helping our program be successful on Saturdays this fall by allowing our team to learn and develop together in this type of environment.

“We also respect that the media have a job to do and understand that this creates a challenge for them, so we ask for their patience with us as we work through our first spring practice here at Florida.’’

Fans will be able to get their first look at the new Gators team on April 9 at the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game. The event will air live on Sun Sports beginning at noon. Tickets are free for students, Gator Boosters and members of the Alumni Association and F Club. A limited number of free tickets are available to the public; otherwise the cost is $5 per person.

Florida also announced Wednesday that Pro Day will be held for those players hoping to be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft on March 15 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Among those expected to participated, according to UF, are center Mike Pouncey, safety Ahmad Black, punter Chas Henry and guard Carl Johnson.

OGGOA has previously been informed that running back Emmanuel Moody, defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou will also be participating along with a number of other former seniors/graduates.

In the past, Pro Day had been open to both the public and the media. This time around, only the media will be allowed to attend.

“Pro Day is an extremely important day for the career hopes of these players, and they’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy preparing for it,” Florida associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain said in a release.

“We feel that creating a more private environment and minimizing potential distractions will help give them the best chance to perform up to their potential. We also feel like it’s become more important than ever for us to monitor who is around our team and student-athletes, and taking this step provides us an even greater ability to manage that.”

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DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

Having returned home to New Jersey now that his Florida Gators career has come to a close, defensive end Justin Trattou took some time out from training for upcoming NFL workouts to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging interview.

Trattou, who plans to return to Gainesville, FL to showcase his talents for NFL scouts and coaches at Florida’s Pro Day, recounted his collegiate career and looked ahead to his future during our conversation. Check it out below!

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You made all-state as a junior and senior and won the New Jersey state title in your final season. What was it like to see four years of hard work pay off?
JUSTIN TRATTOU: “It was definitely a huge accomplishment. My senior year, me and those guys, we went to the state championship in my sophomore and junior year and lost both times. That senior year we went 12-0, ran the table and then blew out St. Peters 41-0. That was a great way to go out. And then I ended up going to the All-American game and did well there, so it was definitely a good way to go into college.”

AS: For a while you were committed to Notre Dame, but you eventually switched to Florida. What made you change your mind, and how did all that come about?
JT: “After my season ended, I kind of just committed to get it out of the way and concentrate on my senior year. I didn’t want to be bothered by people. After I won the state championship and everything was all good, I started looking around again. Took a visit down to Florida and immediately fell in love with the place – The Swamp and the whole atmosphere. I knew that was the place for me.”

AS: Was it tough telling Notre Dame that you had switched?
JT: “At the end of the day, I’m the one that has to live it out. I didn’t owe anybody anything, so it was definitely my choice.”

AS: During your recruitment, Charlie Weis was the Notre Dame head coach. Obviously he’s now the offensive coordinator at Florida. Can you talk about the type of recruiter he was – his demeanor in your home, how he spoke to you, etc?
JT: “It was always good. Obviously I ended up committing there, so… He was definitely good. For me personally, I just wanted to go to Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Justin Trattou…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

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FOUR BITS: Crowder, Gonzales, Fox, Andrews

You can view the rest of the pictures from this photoshoot right here.

1 » Before returning to coach in college, new Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spent a season coordinating the defense under Nick Saban in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. As a rookie third-round draft choice, former Gators linebacker Channing Crowder played for Muschamp and was thrilled to learn he was hired to lead his alma mater. “He’s an energetic dude. I’m excited for him,’’ Crowder told writer Andy Kent, who related his thoughts to the University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter. “He’s a proven defensive coordinator and he knows defense. When he was here I want to say we were the No. 3 or No. 4 defense in the league. He’s just a smart dude and he’s going to be a young head coach. He’s going to bring energy to the team. Urban [Meyer] was a great coach but he was more of that laid-back, dictator type. Will’s going to get in there and get dirty with the guys and I think he’s going to be great for Florida. […] Now he’s going to be in the spotlight at Florida, especially coming into the situation he’s coming into with a proven program. I think it was a great hire and I think he’ll bring a lot of excitement.’’

2 » Passed over for Steve Addazio for the open offensive coordinator position with the Gators, Billy Gonzales left his post as wide receivers coach under Meyer to join the LSU Tigers staff for the same position with the enhanced title of “passing game coordinator.” Though the Tigers are now searching for a new offensive coordinator, ESPN‘s Bruce Feldman reports that head coach Les Miles will be looking to fill the position with someone outside the program. It should be noted that, contrary to Feldman’s report, there are rumors that Gonzales is the frontrunner for the position. Those have not yet been confirmed.

3 » Denver Broncos president John Elway announced Thursday afternoon that he and the organization have decided to hire veteran John Fox as the team’s next head coach. Fox, who will be faced with a number of important decisions in his first year including deciding whether or not Tim Tebow is his starting quarterback, had glowing things to say about the Heisman Trophy winner before the 2010 NFL Draft. “[Tebow] had a very, very good workout,” Fox said last March at Florida’s Pro Day. “He doesn’t lack in the work ethic department, so whatever needs to be done, he’ll do. I definitely saw some adjustment and I thought he executed very well.” He said later that Tebow is “a guy that has a great work ethic … that if there’s something that needs to be fixed, he can fix it.” Asked about his talent compared to his intangibles, Fox referenced another quarterback who was overlooked by some. “Did you ever watch Bernie Kosar play?” Fox said at a league meeting last year. “Bernie might not appreciate it, but I call it as I see it. He won a lot of games. So it’s not all just how pretty they are [or] how big.”

4 » Former Florida dazzler and current ESPN reporter Erin Andrews has signed an endorsement deal with Reebok to promote the company’s ZigTech brand. Joining names like Peyton Manning, Chad Ochocinco, John Wall and Sidney Crosby, Andrews will pitch the company’s footwear and apparel while helping to expand the ZigTech brand’s reach to a female audience. “I’m very excited to be the first female to become part of Reebok’s ZigTech campaign,” she said in an official statement. “I have been athletic all my life, and I’m thrilled to be working out in the same footwear and apparel that helps these athletes perform at the top of their game.”

Photo Credit: Reebok

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FOUR BITS: Bruns’ award, Dunlap, James, Wright

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse’s freshman attacker Ashley Bruns was named the 2010 American Lacrosse Conference Rookie of the Year on Tuesday. Bruns, one of the top recruits in the country, led Florida’s inaugural lacrosse team in goals (44) and assists (30) while taking home numerous honors over the course of the season. She also earned a spot on the All-ALC Second Team along with teammates freshman midfielders Brittany Dashiell and Jamie Reeg.

2 » Former Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap is already finding a level of comfort with the Cincinnati Bengals. He knows exactly what the team expects of him and hopes to exceed their projections. “They drafted me to be a pass rusher. That’s definitely something I want to be the best at on the team, so I can be that guy,” said Dunlap according to “I’m just working on that and working on becoming an NFL player. […] It’s a passing league. If you can be a dominant pass rusher, you can be one of the dominant players in the league.”

3 » By all appearances, former Florida kick returner Brandon James had a rough year in 2010, culminating with a season-ending injury that kept him out of the postseason. Unable to compete at most pre-draft workouts, James was counting on his college production and workout at the Gators’ second Pro Day to fuel interest. The Indianapolis Colts recognized his talent, signing him to an undrafted free agent contract after the 2010 NFL Draft completed. Now, James believes he can greatly impact the former Super Bowl champions (at least) on special teams. “That’s an area I can help in,” he told the Indianapolis Star. “If not making big plays, then putting [the offense] in good field position. If you put the offense at the 40- or 50-yard line, the chances [of scoring] are a lot greater than if it starts at the 18 or 20. That’s what I feel like I’m here for.” In order to remain “here,” James will have to beat out Indiana’s Ray Fisher, a seventh-round pick who is also attempting to make the team as the primary returner.

4 » Though he spent a good amount of time at Florida as a strong safety, Major Wright is already competing for the starting free safety job with the Chicago Bears, according to the Daily Herald. Wright, the Bears’ third-round selection, is ready and raring to go. “I was like, ‘Wow my dream’s come true,’” he said. “I dreamed about this when I was younger and it’s here. Now I just have to go out and hustle and just stay focused.”

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

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Tebow makes rounds on Denver radio Tuesday

Now that he has survived his first minicamp with the Denver Broncos, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is, according to a radio show producer, back in Tennessee working out until the team reconvenes in a few weeks. To keep Tebowmania going throughout Colorado, he called in to two radio talk shows Tuesday morning, each interview having to be pushed back because of a personal workout.

With Gary and Vic of ESPN 1600 waiting for him to call in at 7:40 a.m. (MDT), his publicist moved him back to 8:30 a.m., eliciting the following joking banter from the hosts during the commercial break: “Jesus has him at 8:00, Mary Magdalene has him at 8:15, and he’s building an orphanage at 8:20.” Upon his call-in about an hour later, they told a producer off the air to “start a conversation with him…talk about rosary beads or something.” However, before he went back-and-forth with Gary and Vic, Tebow spoke to the guys with The Score on AM 1510 at 8:20 a.m.

After the break are some notable quotes from his two radio appearances:
Continue Reading » Tebow makes rounds on Denver radio Tuesday

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Gators WR Riley Cooper falls to fifth round of 2010 NFL Draft, picked up by Eagles with pick No. 159

Round 5 – No. 159
Riley Cooper, WR
Philadelphia Eagles

Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 222 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior

His solid showings at the 2010 Senior Bowl, 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and University of Florida‘s Pro Day left many believing he would be taken in the second day of the 2010 NFL Draft. Instead, former Florida Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper fell until the fifth round before being scooped up by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 159 overall selection.

Marred with injuries at the beginning of his Florida career, Cooper left the Gators with 81 receptions for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He started every game his senior season, hauling in 51 balls for 961 yards and nine scores as the team’s top wide receiver.

The selection of Cooper marks the second-straight year Philadelphia has picked a Florida pass catcher in the fifth round. The Eagles chose tight end Cornelius Ingram (who sat out the season after re-injuring his ACL) with the No. 153 overall pick in 2009.

Cooper was the ninth former Gator selected this year’s draft (tops of any school), and the seventh Florida receiver chosen since 2006.

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Major upgrade for Bears as Wright is only Gators’ player taken in third round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 3 – No. 75
Major Wright, S
Chicago Bears

Height: 5’11” – Weight: 206 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Junior

The Chicago Bears waited patiently for almost two full days before making their first selection of the 2010 NFL Draft, using the No. 75 overall pick in the third round to select former Florida Gators safety Major Wright.

He was the first Florida player at his position to be drafted since Reggie Nelson (No. 21, Jacksonville Jaguars – 2007) and goes to a team which hopes he can step in and play right away.

“You hate to talk about rookies being one of the starters right away,” Chicago head coach Lovie Smith said when discussing Wright, “but […] he’s our first pick. We’re expecting big things from him.”

Wright was explosive for the Gators in 2008 but experienced reduced playing time in 2009 when the team decided to utilize three safeties. His decision to declare for the draft was seen as a mistake by many in Gator Nation, but his stock rose with each passing event as he was impressive at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and Florida’s Pro Day.

He is the first Gators player to be selected by the Bears since the team took three former University of Florida student-athletes in 2003: quarterback Rex Grossman (first round), defensive tackle Ian Scott and safety Todd Johnson (both fourth round).

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