FOUR BITS: Meyer, Merklein, Harvin, Miami

1 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for a question-and-answer session with CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler (believe it or not) that was published on Friday. In the piece, he mentions the Florida Gators on a few occasions, the highlights of which are below. Check out the other topics by clicking here.

On why ‘no question’ he would still be at Florida if health issues never surfaced
“I realized not too long after [around February 2011]. I called Jeremy [Foley] and said, ‘I made a mistake.’ Once I felt like everything was under control, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I do?’ I just told Jeremy as a friend in conversation. The talk was more about one day getting back into it. He was very supportive. Then I started at ESPN and had a ball with that, but is that enough? Is that what I was called to do? I planned to take more than a year [off] though.”

On regrets for the way his Florida tenure ended
“I didn’t at first. I thought we did a good job. We did our best. I look back now, the way it ended was certainly a regret. Does that mean it haunts me? Not at all. I’ve always felt our job is to do a good job and do it the right way, do it ethically and for the best interest of the student-athlete — check, check, check. I’ll always be associated with the school, and my great friends are there and all that. Absolutely none with that. It just wasn’t a normal way to move on. There would have been if I would have stayed out. I was worried about survival for a little bit.”

2 » Florida brought back a huge name in Gators tennis on Friday when the school announced that Mark Merklein has returned to the program as an assistant coach with the men’s team. Merklein, a two-time national champion (doubles in 1993, singles in 1994) and the 1994 SEC Player of the Year, earned four All-American nominations and three All-SEC nods while at Florida and was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. Considered by many to be the best men’s tennis player in school history, Merklein wound up competing as a professional for 12 years and even serving as a volunteer assistant for the Gators from 1998-2002 while he was on the tour. He was the head coach of the USTA Player Development Center for six seasons (2006-11) before being hired by Michigan as an assistant coach for the past two years (2012-13). “When I left I even said to everyone, including Mr. [Jeremy] Foley, that it was a goal of mine to one day come back and coach and win national championships,” Merklein said in a school release. “I’ve said it so much now, it’s time to actually do it and put the work in. I’m excited to do that alongside [head coach Bryan Shelton].”

3 » Wide receiver Percy Harvin has only been employed by the Seattle Seahawks for a few weeks now, but he is already turning heads at the team’s facility. According to The Seattle Times, Harvin’s teammates and coaches have already begun taking notice, and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is ecstatic about the potential of Seattle’s offense this season. “His talent level is unbelievable, off the charts,” said Wilson of Harvin. “He brings an explosive mentality to the game, which a lot of our guys already have. But to have him is truly tremendous. He’s a guy that’s been one of the best football players in the National Football League for the past several years.” Harvin also told the paper that he expect to play some running back on occasion and will likely be back for kickoff returns.

4 » ESPN’s decision to kick-off Florida second football game of the season, on the road against the Miami Hurricanes, at noon has caused quite a stir amongst fans over the past 24 hours. The Gators and Hurricanes will square off on Sept. 7 in Miami Gardens, FL at Sun Life Stadium in a game which everyone involved assumed would be played at night, likely at 8 p.m. Instead, Florida-Miami will take place under the extreme heat of the South Florida sun with kickoff just after noon, earlier than any UF-UM game has been played since at least 1987. The Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro did some digging to learn why ESPN chose that time slot.

According to the network, ABC will be airing a NASCAR race at 8 p.m. while ESPN is broadcasting Notre Dame-Michigan. The 3:30 p.m. slot on ABC will be used for regional games (those in Florida will see Oregon at Virginia). Hurricanes AD Blake James apparently tweeted that Miami “requested and lobbied” for the 8 p.m. slot, while ESPN spokesman Mike Humes pointed out that the network values its noon window. “We average probably around three million viewers for that time slot. So it wasn’t like, ‘Let’s put the worst game on at noon.’ The noon window does really well with fans,” he said. “We view this as a great matchup. Scheduling games is like putting together different puzzles with different time zones and commitments, and this was the best window.”

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Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young resigns

After serving two years as assistant defensive line coach for the Florida Gators, former 14-year NFL veteran Bryant Young has decided to resign from his post with the team.

Florida announced Young’s resignation on Wednesday afternoon, noting that he is stepping away from the program “for non-football reasons.”

“After heavy consideration and giving over two decades to the game of football, I have made a personal decision to resign from my position at the University of Florida in order to pursue more time with my family,” Young said in a school release.

“I am humbled by and grateful for the opportunity I have had to positively influence the hardworking student-athletes and young men whom I will surely miss,” he continued.

“However, I have come to the realization that it is time to invest more in my family during this fleeting season in life. I have truly loved my time being a Gator, enjoyed a great working relationship with Coach [Will] Muschamp and will also miss the dedicated staff at this University. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity and support I have received from Coach Muschamp, Jeremy Foley and the entire athletic department.”

Young was a member of Muschamp’s original coaching staff and served as a defensive line coach (specializing on defensive tackles) alongside then-defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn left to become defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks after the 2012 season and now Young has decided to move on as well.

“We are very thankful for Coach Young’s contributions to the program and I respect his decision. This is strictly a personal decision and has nothing to do with NCAA compliance, but just an opportunity to evaluate his future path,” Muschamp said. “I always have, and will continue to be very supportive of Coach Young and his family. Our entire staff will be there for him to provide any assistance and guidance in the future. We wish he and his family nothing but the best.”

Young spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers where he was coached by Quinn. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time NFL All-Pro, Super Bowl XXIX champion and the league’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1999.

It is unlikely that the Gators hire a replacement for Young as Muschamp brought in Brad Lawing as the team’s new assistant head coach and defensive line coach in January. However, Florida does now have a coaching spot open on the roster. Muschamp could hire someone to coordinate special teams as those duties are currently being handled by the coaching staff as a whole.

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SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

1 » Despite ending their 2013 NCAA Tournament run in the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, Florida Gators basketball was placed at No. 9 in the final USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll of the 2012-13 season. Florida was not the only Elite Eight team to fall outside the top eight of the poll, however, as Marquette checked in at No. 11 in the final rankings. Indiana (Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse) and Kansas (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan) took the two other spots in the top eight. The Gators also checked in at No. 9 and No. 10 in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively, after losing in the Elite Eight. Florida will likely enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the preseason top-10.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-2, 10-1 SEC) ran through its competition over the weekend, extending their winning streaks to 10 consecutive team matches and 30-straight individual matches. Florida swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-10, 4-6 SEC) and Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-12, 1-10 SEC) in a pair of home showdowns over the weekend at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won all 11 matches and had the opportunity to celebrate Senior Day against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Seniors No. 1 Lauren Embree and No. 125 Caroline Hitimana were each unable to finish their singles matches due to Florida registering a quick 4-0 victory but both won their doubles contests. The No. 20 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen picked up an 8-2 win, while Hitimana and junior Alex Cercone won 8-0.

On Monday, head coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree at his press conference, making note of her incredible career and tremendous work ethic. “You want to know why Lauren Embree is the best college player to ever play the game?” he asked rhetorically. “It was Monday morning at 8:30, and after a weekend full of matches and practices, she runs to the courts, hits serves for 30 minutes, then I show up and we go at it [on the court] for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00, she’s done with two workouts already while the rest of tennis America is still sleeping. That’s why we’re good and that’s why she’s good. She sets the tone, the bar is high, and I think everybody feeds off of it. We’ve just been blessed to have that for four years. Frankly, it’s just amazing.” The Gators women’s tennis program is hoping to win its third-straight national title.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

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FOUR BITS: Corps Classic, Beal, Donovan, Harvin

1 » Though nothing at all is finalized, the City of Jacksonville is working towards holding the Navy-Marine Corps Classic for a second-straight season and hopes to reach a deal with the U.S. Navy to do so at some point over the next few months. “The City of Jacksonville would like to continue the game and is working on a proposal to the Navy that includes several options for the 2013 Navy-Marine Corps Classic,” executive director Alan Verlander told OGGOA last Thursday. The proposal set to be delivered to the Navy includes contingencies and/or solutions to avoid the condensation issue that ended the 2012 game at halftime last year. The City of Jacksonville has also had “very preliminary” talks with programs about potentially participating in the game (with the Florida Gators being an obvious preference as the local team) but is waiting until the conclusion of March Madness before continuing to gauge interest from said teams.

2 » Grantland’s Zach Lowe sat down with Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal for a wide-ranging interview about his rookie season. In the question-and-answer session, Beal discusses his ankle injuries, playing with John Wall, watching Florida in the postseason, playing in the NBA and where he feels most comfortable on the court.

3 » Head coach Billy Donovan deciding to stick with the Gators rather than try his hand at an NBA career or leave Florida for Kentucky began what Yahoo! Sports’s Dan Wetzel describes as a trend of “choosing happiness over climbing the ladder.” In this piece published over the weekend, Wetzel looks at how Donovan may have set forth a path that other young head coaches like Butler’s Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonweath’s Shaka Smart are now following – turning down big-time coaching jobs like UCLA to build a program from the ground up at a school where they feel comfortable and happy. “I think there was a day when it was a different world, but I think that world has changed,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the feature. “Obviously Billy had a lot of opportunities and for a brief moment there he took one at the NBA, but he’ll ask you, ‘What’s wrong with being happy?’ And at the end of the day he woke up and said, ‘We’re happy at Florida. We don’t have to do anything different.’”

4 » The Seattle Seahawks trading for wide receiver Percy Harvin (and signing him to a six-year, $67 million deal with $14.5 million fully guaranteed) was a big win for both parties. While Harvin is certainly excited about his new home, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was beaming at the thought of having Harvin in the fold. “My mind started racing,” Bevell told NFL.com’s Albert Breer. “You start thinking about all the things you can do with a player like that. And now the hard part is to harness that talent.” Bevell went on to explain that he never saw Harvin as selfish or difficult during his time with Minnesota (he was the coordinator there from 2006-10) but rather someone who was very competitive and wanted “you to show him how he can help you win.” Suddenly, one of the most exciting teams in the NFL, which boasted one of the best defenses in the league, may have an offense that can match.

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16 Gator Bites for Wednesday, March 20

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Though President Barack Obama‘s official 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket will be released on Wednesday at 9 a.m. on ESPN, the network released his Final Four late Tuesday night. President Obama chose the Florida Gators to win the South Region and also has Louisville, Indiana and Ohio State advancing to the Final Four.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a hellacious experience during his team’s game on Monday evening. With 5.7 seconds left in overtime and Chicago trailing Denver by a single point, Noah got in perfect position underneath the basket and tipped in what otherwise would have been a missed shot. Though Noah scored the apparent game-winner and the referees did not call interference on the play, they checked the replay and eventually reversed their decision. The problem? Referees are only allowed to use replay to review on-court calls of interference, not to check on non-calls. Take a look at the video below to see what transpired on Monday.

Read 14 more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 16 Gator Bites for Wednesday, March 20

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FOUR BITS: Dunker (again), Harvin, Rainey, Tebow

1 » Less than two months after being arrested for third-degree felony grand theft of a motor vehicle and second-degree misdemeanor driving with a suspended license, Florida Gators redshirt freshman guard Jessamen Dunker was cited by the Gainesville Police Department on March 6 for speeding and once again driving with a suspended license. His total fees for the two offenses are $277, according to Alachua County Court records. Dunker’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, claimed in court back in January that Dunker paid $600 for the scooter he is accused of stealing. The player was released while the State Attorney’s Office determines whether or not it will file formal charges against him. Head coach Will Muschamp suspended Dunker from all team activities on Jan. 18 and reiterated Tuesday that he remains indefinitely suspended. The most recent citation received by Dunker is his third brush with the law since arriving in Gainesville, FL. On Nov. 14, 2012, he was cited for driving without a seat belt and reportedly directed multiple expletives at the officer that pulled him over. Dunker’s latest written arrest was first reported by The Miami Herald‘s Matt Watts.

2 » Signing a brand new six-year, $67 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks on Monday (which included a $12 million signing bonus and $25.5 million guaranteed), wide receiver Percy Harvin has been all smiles as he gets acquainted with his new team. Another bit of good news that Harvin announced on Tuesday was that he is migraine-free for the first time in his life and that the ailment has not returned after the Mayo Clinc diagnosed him with sleep apnea. “I haven’t had a migraine in two years now,” he said at his official press conference on Tuesday. “Been fully healthy from that aspect so everything’s been good. I’m gonna knock on wood that nothing resurfaces, but it’s all been great.”

3 » Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey, who was released from the team in January after he was arrested for simple battery (a charge that was later thrown out), was at Florida’s Pro Day on Tuesday as he is in Gainesville for the offseason living with his girlfriend while his agent tries to get him back in the league. Reports out of Pro Day were that Rainey and the Pittsburgh contingent – which included general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin – did not speak or come near each other during the event. The media caught up with Rainey after the workouts were over. “I’m just being patient man, that’s all,” he said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “I’m just wanting my agent to give me that phone call. [...] I guess they probably wanted to teach everybody else a lesson or something [by cutting me].”

4 » The New York Jets were supposed to have cut quarterback Tim Tebow by the time NFL free agency opened on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Except now more than 24 hours has passed and Tebow remains on the team’s roster. Stemming from comments made by the team’s new general manager that indicated Tebow may very well remain on the team and compete for the quarterback job this season comes a story from the New York Daily News that quotes new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg (father of Gators redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg) saying he has already spoken with Tebow and believes he can contribute to the offense – if he remains on the team, of course. “We had a long discussion,” Mornhinweg said. “He’s got my thoughts on the situation and he has some thoughts as well. If he’s on this football team, which he is right now, then I would do it a certain way and try to utilize all of our players that can help us win a football game.”

“First of all, he would be taking reps at quarterback and then some of his other skills could certainly help a football team,”he continued. “What he did in Denver, that was something else. So, the man can play football. So, how do you utilize him would certainly be the key. So, he’s on our football team right now. It’s my duty and responsibility to have some thoughts on how he could help us win the next football game. So I have put an awful lot of thought into that. He certainly has some skill to do that. I will say. He’s got some quarterback skills. As a quarterback, the gut instincts are real important and he certainly has that…. Just talking in general [about] quarterbacks, the decision making is key as well as the accuracy and timing. He certainly has some of that. That’ll be interesting to see exactly where he’s at.”

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Minnesota trades WR Percy Harvin to Seattle

After four tumultuous years playing for the Minnesota Vikings, former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was traded on Monday to the Seattle Seahawks for a compensation package including the team’s No. 25 overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and other draft selections.

The trade is contingent on Harvin passing Seattle’s physical and agreeing to a new multi-year contract with the Seahawks. The Vikings also received a 2013 seventh-round pick as well as a 2014 “mid-round pick.”

Harvin, Minnesota’s leading receiver in each of the last three seasons, is scheduled to earn just $2.755 million in the final year of his rookie contract and has made life difficult for the Vikings as of late over demands to be featured more in the offense and paid like one of the top receivers in the league.

He reportedly threatened to walk out on the team last offseason and has gotten into heated exchanges with former head coach Brad Childress and current head coach Leslie Frazier over his four years with Minnesota.

Harvin has missed 10 games in his NFL career including seven-straight to conclude the 2012 season. The injury issues he had with the Gators have continued with the Vikings as he suffered a string of violent migraine headaches in 2010 that are apparently now under control and severely injured his ankle last season.

Despite the red flags, Harvin remains a game-changing player who has scored 29 touchdowns (receiving, rushing, returning) in four seasons while averaging 11.8 yards per reception, 6.4 yards per rush and 27.8 yards per kick return.

Harvin was the consensus 2009 Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected as both a Pro Bowler and All-Pro (as a specialist) following his rookie campaign. He also holds Minnesota’s single-season record for combined yardage (2,081) and the Vikings franchise record for career kickoff returns (five).

His 104-yard kickoff return in 2011 is the longest non-scoring play in NFL history and no player since Harvin’s rookie season of 2009 has returned more kickoffs for touchdowns.

The trade, which was first reported by FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, is expected to be completed within 48 hours once Harvin passes his physical and signs a new contract.

Photo Credit: Reuters

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FOUR BITS: Uniforms, Elam, Young, Hargreaves

1 » Likely spurred by a picture posted by a 2013 commitment that spread around the internet and OGGOA‘s sourced report on Tuesday, the Florida Gators confirmed Wednesday that the team will indeed be wearing slightly different uniforms for the 2013 season. As described by the school’s website, Florida will be wearing a new style of Nike jerseys that are made of a more breathable fabric, only being used by select schools and “could also be used in the NFL one day.” The Gators will debut them in the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut on April 6. Florida also confirmed, as OGGOA reported Tuesday, that “the fonts for the numbers have changed to reflect the font used in UF’s official athletics brand identity” and that the sides of the jerseys are now mesh to increase “breathability to help reduce heat.” The main part of the jersey number (white) is thicker with the colored lining around it slightly smaller.

2 » Gators safety Matt Elam and kicker Caleb Sturgis will both be competing in the 2013 Quicken Loans All-Star Football Challenge. The event, which is being held for the 15th year in a row, features five separate skills competitions and a total of 20 participants (four in each individual event). Elam will compete in the Skechers GoRun Hands Competition against Texas S Kenny Vaccario, Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and USC WR Robert Woods. Sturgis will look to outlast FSU’s Dustin Hopkins, Nebraska’s Brent Maher and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brett Baer in the Speed Kick. The All-Star Football Challenge was held on Tuesday but will not be aired until Saturday, Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. on ESPN2. Encore showings will air on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. (ESPN2), Feb. 17 at noon (ESPN2) and April 14 at 4 p.m. (ESPN).

3 » So much for Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young possibly joining defensive coordinator Dan Quinn with the Seattle Seahawks. Shortly after the defensive line coach position became available in Seattle, Quinn and head coach Pete Carroll filled it with New Orleans assistant DL coach Travis Jones on Tuesday. As it turns out, Jones was on the same Miami coaching staff with Quinn and Gators head coach Will Muschamp. Also like Muschamp, he is a Georgia graduate.

4 » With National Signing Day just over a week away, Gators five-star defensive back commit Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL) sat down with the Tampa Bay Times and detailed his entire recruitment, noting how certain teams pitched him and why it was difficult to ultimately make his decision with so many options in front of him. Hargreaves talks about everything from the intimidation of Alabama’s Nick Saban to why he was turned off to the idea of attending Ohio State.

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