Gators add 23-year-old quarterback Chris Wilkes

The competition at back-up quarterback for the Florida Gators will get even more interesting this summer as the program now has not one but two new players set to enroll to compete for the job behind junior starter Jeff Driskel.

According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays, 23-year-old signal caller Chris Wilkes (Orlando, FL) gave a pledge to head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday after the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut.

Wilkes (6’4”, 225 lbs.), originally a member of the 2008 recruiting class, was rated by Rivals at the time as a two-star quarterback. He had committed to play for Ole Miss but instead chose to try his hand at professional baseball. Wilkes was selected by the San Diego Padres with the No. 675 overall pick in the 22nd round of the 2008 MLB Draft.

In five seasons in the minor leagues, Wilkes, a right-handed pitcher, compiled a 16-13 record with a 3.57 ERA, 2.43 K/BB ratio and five saves. He went 7-1 as a rookie in 2008 but posted a 9-12 record over the duration of his career.

Wilkes is not the first quarterback to sign with a major program later in life after trying his hand at baseball. Two well-known players who have taken a similar path include Florida State’s Chris Weinke and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden. He will walk on.

Also enrolling this summer at Florida is three-star freshman Max Staver (Brentwood, TN). Both players will complete with redshirt junior Tyler Murphy and redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg for the second- and third-string quarterback jobs.

A portion of ESPN’s scouting report on Wilkes from 2008:

This young man is a ways away from being what he could be, but he has the measurables and a monster of an arm for coaches to work with and develop. Wilkes has a cannon for an arm and can make all the throws anywhere on the field. […] He is a big, strong pocket passer with adequate athleticism, but needs to be protected to be at his best. He shows great velocity on all throws and can fit the ball into tight spots. […] Flashes the ability to throw on time and read progressions. At this stage, he is all arm and Wilkes must learn to be a quarterback. He lacks great feet and quickness in his drop and set up. Can be heavy footed a bit. Is not a guy that will create much on his own and when he gets rushed, he will hold onto the ball too long. As much as you like his arm, he will spray the ball around and can be erratic. Must improve footwork to improve accuracy. Isn’t consistent yet in his production.

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Florida RHP Karsten Whitson out for 2013 season

Florida Gators junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson will not play college baseball in 2013 after undergoing a shoulder procedure on Thursday, according to Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA.

Renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure in order to clean up the joint and relieve pain that bothered Whitson since his freshman season.

The silver lining in this situation is that Whitson didn’t have major arm surgery. University of Florida doctors were unable to find any shoulder or labrum damage, and Andrews came to the same conclusion. Andrews, however, cleaned up a few areas in Whitson’s shoulder, the procedure carried out without needing to cut on him, or full-blown surgery.

Kent Whitson, the player’s father, told Rogers that his son is “relieved” after having the procedure and that Andrews gave him “a thumbs up” when all was said and done.

“Whitson’s rehabilitation will take at least four months, just in the time for the MLB draft,” Rogers reports. “But while that may indicate Whitson could sign the dotted line with a professional organization this summer, the Whitsons believe it would need to be a perfect situation for him to do so.”

He also noted on Twitter that “Whitson said his son is fully prepared to return to Florida as a redshirt junior next season if things don’t work out.”

The Gators announced Wednesday that Whitson was sidelined indefinitely with “shoulder fatigue.” Baseball America reported shortly thereafter that he would be consulting with Andrews about the next step to take in order to heal his shoulder. UF not has confirmed Whitson’s season-ending procedure but head coach Kevin O’Sullivan discussed the news with Rogers on Thursday.

“We’re very disappointed that Karsten won’t be able to pitch for us this season. But on the other side of it, we’re very excited he’s going to be 100 percent at the end of this process,” he said. “We look forward to getting him back on the mound in ’14.”

Whitson originally joined Florida before the 2011 season rather than signing a $2.1 million contract offer from the San Diego Padres, which selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.

He went 8-0 with a 2.45 ERA as a freshman starter, registering 8.51 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, Whitson pitched just 33.1 innings during a sophomore campaign in which he was severely limited due to injury. He concluded the 2012 season with a 4-0 record, 3.51 ERA, 5.40 K/9 and 1.11 K/BB.

A hard-throwing pitcher, Whitson can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and compliments that pitch with a devastating slider. He was slotted to be the Gators’ No. 2 pitcher in 2013, and his absence will be a huge loss for a program currently in rebuilding mode.

Photo Credit: Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY Sports

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SIX BITS: Whitson, Dickey, Wilbekin, Maye

1 » Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, who concluded his freshman campaign with an 8-1 record, 2.40 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings, was named a first-team Freshman All-American by Baseball America on Wednesday. Starting 19 games for Florida, Whitson was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft and snubbed the San Diego Padres contract offer of nearly $2 million to spend what he hopes are three successful years in college.

2 » Former Gators quarterback and outfielder Gavin Dickey is making strides playing baseball and recently found out that he is on a record hitting streak for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the non-MLB affiliated American Association baseball league. Now on a 21-game hitting streak, Dickey learned of his achievement via a Facebook message from a fan, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. Dickey, who hit .268 as a minor leaguer for the Seattle Mariners (which selected him in the 12th round of the 2006 MLB Draft), signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason but only lasted with the team for a month. “It’s still about going out and having fun, competing and winning,” he said.

3 » Impressed with what sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin accomplished with the Florida basketball team as a 17-year-old true freshman last season? If his brother has his way, the Gators may see a similar output from a number member of the clan in two years. A sophomore at The Rock high school in Gainesville, FL, Mitchell Wilbekin told The Gainesville Sun that he is 100 percent dedicated to playing for Florida…if head coach Billy Donovan offers him a scholarship. “I’d love to be a Gator,” the younger Wilbekin told the paper. “If they offered me, I’d definitely go there.” The Sun describes him as “on track to be the highest-rated Gainesville-area basketball recruit in more than a decade” and notes that the 2014 recruit recently drained six treys and scored 21 points in only three quarters of shooting at a recent showcase.

4 » Four-star safety Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL) confirmed once again this week that the Gators are his leader, telling ESPNU’s Corey Long that they are above two of Florida’s rivals – Florida State and Alabama. “The fact that I’ve been up there numerous times and have a great relationship with the coaches is what puts them out front,” he said. “I’m excited about the upcoming future of the program and I feel like they are going to have a pretty good year. Being part of the SEC is something I’ve always wanted to do and I think UF is a great place for me to take my next step and that’s the reason it’s the top school on my list. It’s a place where I feel comfortable at.” Maye still wants to take official visits to FSU and UA and will not commit until he has seen more schools.

5 » In a recent poll of 848 Floridians conducted by Public Policy Polling, the Gators received 30 percent of the vote when the respondents were asked to pick their favorite in-state college football program. Behind them, in order, were Florida State (19 percent), Central Florida (11 percent), Miami (nine percent) and South Florida (six percent).

6 » Four Florida football players – senior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt seniors RB Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and sophomore RB Trey Burton were announced as part of the offensive watch list for the 2011 College Football Performance Awards. The CFPAs are handed out based on objective scientific analysis rather than voting.

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TWO BITS: Draftees staying? Fagan awarded.

1 » Of Florida Gators baseball’s four high school signees drafted in the first four rounds of the 2011 MLB Draft, at least two are expected to enroll in school and delay their professional debut three more years. One of them, right-handed pitcher Kyle Smith told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that college is most definitely in his future. “It’s a long shot I sign,” Smith told Porter. “I’m very committed to the University of Florida.” Smith was selected by the Kansas City Royls with the No. 126 overall pick in the fourth round. Porter previously noted that Smith’s advisor, who also works with RHP Michael Kelly (the No. 48 overall pick in the second round by the San Diego Padres), believes both players will be wearing orange and blue next year. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” he said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment.”

2 » Only a freshman, third baseman Kasey Fagan had a strong year for Gators softball, starting all 68 games she played and accounting for 41 hits, 43 runs, 22 RBI, 30 walks and 16 stolen bases. Her sister, shortstop/catcher Sami Fagan has committed to and will join Florida next season and hopes to have just as much early success. With the older Fagan capturing the Gatorade Softball Player of the Year award for the state of Florida twice (and the national award just last year), her younger sister has plenty to live up to…and did just that Thursday when she was honored with the 2011 version of the state award. According to The Gainesville Sun, Sami hit .693 last season, has a .629 mark for her high school career and notched a state-record 63-game hitting streak over the course of her sophomore and junior years.

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Record 11 Gators selected in 2011 MLB Draft

A school record 11 current members of the Florida Gators baseball team were selected by professional organizations on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the second and third days of the 50-round 2011 MLB Draft.

Junior LHP Nick Maronde – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior OF (1B) Preston Tucker – Round 16, Pick 498 – Colorado Rockies
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Junior RHP Greg Larson – Round 29, Pick 885 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Senior OF Bryson Smith – Round 34, Pick 1,045 – Cincinnati Reds
Junior OF Tyler Thompson – Round 46, Pick 1,387 – Washington Nationals

The vast majority – if not all – of the underclassmen picked in the draft are expected to return to school to both graduate and improve their standing for 2012.

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two in the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

The advisor for Kelly and Smith, Jason Wood of Arland Sports, told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that he expects both players to turn down the large signing bonus they would get for agreeing to forego their college careers and instead enroll at Florida. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” Wood said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment. It’s a compliment to go as high as he did. The Padres are a great organization, and he’s honored to be drafted.”

More Gators are expected to be picked in the draft, which runs for 50 total rounds and concludes on Wednesday.

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Nine Gators selected on day two of MLB Draft

Nine current members of the Florida Gators baseball team were selected by professional organizations Tuesday on the second day of the 2011 MLB Draft.

Junior LHP Nick Mardone – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior OF (1B) Preston Tucker – Round 16, Pick 498 – Colorado Rockies
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Junior RHP Greg Larson – Round 29, Pick 885 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two in the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

The advisor for Kelly and Smith, Jason Wood of Arland Sports, told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that he expects both players to turn down the large signing bonus they would get for agreeing to forego their college careers and instead enroll at Florida. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” Wood said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment. It’s a compliment to go as high as he did. The Padres are a great organization, and he’s honored to be drafted.”

More Gators are expected to be picked in the draft, which runs for 50 total rounds and concludes on Wednesday.

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TWO BITS: Werner DUI dropped, recruits drafted

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner, arrested by Gainesville police on April 12 for driving under the influence, had his case dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office. Werner passed two breath tests, blowing below the legal limit of 0.08 twice, but officers on site said he failed field sobriety tests and arrested him on site. After reviewing video of Werner’s tests, available here courtesy of First Coast News, state attorneys determined there was not enough evidence to pursue the case further. “The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence to sustain conviction,” SAO spokesman Spencer Mann told FCN. “The video doesn’t support what we believe could sustain a conviction. We think he did pretty well on the field sobriety test.” Werner was initially pulled over while driving his girlfriend’s car, which had a tail light out and its high beams on.

2 » Though no Gators were selected Monday in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, two of Florida’s signees were chosen in the compensation round. Right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly (Boca Raton, FL) was picked No. 48 overall by the San Diego Padres, and RHP Hudson Boyd (Fort Myers, FL) went No. 55 to the Minnesota Twins. It is unknown if either will sign with their respective MLB club, though selections that high in the draft are often offered a significant sum of money to skip college for minor league and – hopefully eventually – major league ball.

In addition to the UF’s other signees, 12 Gators are currently eligible to be drafted. Junior pitchers Nick Maronde and Anthony DeSclafani – and junior right fielder Preston Tucker – should be selected the highest out of the remaining pool. Other Florida players who could be picked include seniors second baseman Josh Adams and center fielder Bryson Smith and juniors RHP Matt Campbell, RHP Greg Larson, left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis, RHP Justin Poovey, RHP Tommy Toledo and left fielder Tyler Thompson.

Below is a video of Kelly courtesy of MLB.com:

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SIX BITS: soccer-NCAA, volleyball-SEC, Whitson

1 » Opening up the 2010 NCAA Tournament at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL, on Friday, No. 5 Florida Gators soccer (19-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) scorched the Mercer Bears (10-9-1, 7-3 A-Sun) 3-0. Redshirt sophomore midfielder McKenzie Barney (15’, 73’) and junior MF/forward Tahnai Annis (48’) scored Florida’s three goals as the Gators out-shot the Bears 16-7. Unfortunately…

2 » Florida was not so fortunate in second-round action, taking the Duke Blue Devils (11-7-4, 7-3 ACC) into penalty kicks after the teams were held scoreless through regulation and two overtimes. In PKs, the Gators (19-2-3, 9-1-1 Sec) fell to the Blue Devils 4-2. Duke made all of its attempts while Florida only received goals from Barney and redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine with Annis’ saved and junior F Lindsay Thompson’s attempt going wide. The Gators end the 2010 season having won both the Southeastern Conference Championship and regular season title.

3 » In better news for the University of Florida, the No. 1 Florida volleyball team (24-1, 17-0 SEC) clinched at least a share of the 2010 SEC regular season title on Sunday by defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-17, 2-15 SEC) 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-17) on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was impressive once again, leading the Gators with 10 kills and no errors along with 15 assists and seven digs. She notched her 12th-straight double-double and has been having an impressive season. Florida’s seniors also got in on the action with OH Callie Rivers, middle-back Lauren Bledsoe and libero Erin Fleming combining for 18 kills, 15 digs and six blocks on Sunday. UF has three more regular season matches – all on the road – before the 2010 SEC Tournament begins.

Three more BITS including an interesting piece on a Florida baseball commit…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: soccer-NCAA, volleyball-SEC, Whitson

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