FOUR BITS: Andrades, Nixon, Saunders, baseball

1 » Preseason-ranked No. 13/17 Florida Gators baseball opened the 2013 season on Friday with its very first practice of the new campaign. For those unaware that he would be doing so, freshman wide receiver Raphael Andrades is practicing with the team as an outfielder and is on the official roster for this season. At 6’0 and 190 lbs., Andrades is an accomplished baseball player who was actually selected in the 36th round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. After being drafted by the Royals, Andrades took a trip out to Kansas City to take batting practice with the team and even hit a home run while doing so. The Royals were unable to sign him to a deal, which was no surprise whatsoever, but the Gators told Andrades during his recruitment that a roster spot on the baseball team was available if he felt like he could juggle both sports. He will wear No. 18 for the team and is the first student-athlete to participate in both sports since wide receiver/outfielder Riley Cooper (2007-09).

2 » While running back Mike Gillislee is turning heads during practices for the 2013 Senior Bowl, it appears as if offensive tackle Xavier Nixon is diverting eyes away from his play. According to the National Football Post‘s Russ Lande, Nixon is one of eight players that has struggled the most over the last few days.

From the first practice it was clear that Nixon was over-matched athletically playing offensive tackle. He could not kick-slide out in time to protect the corner vs speed rushers and lacked the feet and agility to re-direct and adjust to fast pass rush moves back inside. His lack of quickness also hindered his ability to get into good run blocking position and often led to him grabbing and holding his man. Nixon slid inside and played some guard this week and was more effective there, but his struggles to bend knees and block with leverage hindered him there too. Nixon is not going to be a high draft pick, but will likely be selected late because of his size, long arms and experience starting three plus seasons at Florida.

Measurements are also in for both players from day one of Senior Bowl practices:
– Gillislee: 5’11 1/4″, 207 lbs., 8.75 in. hands, 30.75 in. arms, 74.25 in. wingspan
– Nixon: 6’5 1/2″, 311 lbs., 10.25 in. hands, 33.75 in. arms, 80.75 in. wingspan

The 2013 Senior Bowl will be played on Saturday at 4 p.m. and air live on NFL Network.

3 » Former Florida safety De’Ante Saunders has decided to transfer to Tennessee State. According to the Orlando Sentinel‘s Chris Hays, Saunders is already enrolled at TSU. He is the second UF player to move on to the program in the last 12 months as tight end A.C. Leonard chose to transfer before the season. As Tennessee State is an FCS school, Saunders (like Leonard was) is able to play immediately and does not have to sit out the NCAA-mandated redshirt season he would’ve had to if he transferred to another FBS school. Leonard had great success at TSU in 2012, leading the team in receiving with 733 yards and six touchdowns in just 10 games; he has one year of eligibility remaining while Saunders has two more seasons of college football left.

4 » Head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan met with the media on Friday to take an early look at the Gators baseball team heading into the season. Though Florida will once again have solid pitching and defense, the offense is undergoing a makeover with so many home run hitters no longer with the program. “I do feel good about our offense. It’s just there’s going to be some ups and downs,” he said. “There’s going to be a learning curve, but we certainly have the personnel to be OK. Our offense is going to be different this year. … Our personnel is different. It is what it is. It certainly can be as successful, we’re just going to have to do it a different way.”

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FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

1 » No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball has been getting a lot of love since dismantling Missouri on Saturday. Florida has plowed through the first four games of its Southeastern Conference schedule and is starting to look like one of the most dominant teams in the country. Enter John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus (via ESPN Insider [$]), who contended over the weekend that the Gators are “the real No. 1” team in the country at this point. As he wrote on Jan. 20, Florida is putting forward “an unheard-of 0.42 points per possession [differential]” statistic during SEC play, which is double what some former national title teams have been able to achieve. Despite the Gators playing against some talent-poor teams in the early going, Gasaway notes that “we’ve never seen a number as silly as 0.42 after 254 possessions of conference play.” In other words, when all is said and done, UF may have found the offense necessary to go along with its impressive defense, a combination that could send it blasting its way through the SEC and into a top seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. KenPom.com certainly thinks so, as it has the team as at least a seven-point favorite in every game for the remainder of the regular season.

2 » Former Florida golfer Brian Gay qualified for the 2013 Masters on Sunday when he won the 2013 Humana Challenge by registering a birdie on the second playoff hole. The victory was his fourth on the PGA Tour and at 41-years-old, he will be back at Augusta National for just the second time in his long career. He finished with a nine-under 63 but struggled through his final round. Gay birdied nine of the first 13 holes before registering par on holes 14-18. He had a chance to win on 18 but missed a birdie putt; luckily, Gay’s two playoff hole birdies made up for the miss.

Read the rest of this post…including two BITS and two VIDEOS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

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FOUR BITS: Quinn, Tebow, bowls, Fisch

1 » According to ESPN insider Adam Schefter, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s new contract with the Seattle Seahawks is for three years and $5.7 million, or approximately $1.9 million per season. Quinn was set to earn just over $500,000 with the Florida Gators in 2013 though he likely would have received a raise.

2 » It has long been known that quarterback Tim Tebow will not be with the New York Jets next season. Even with that being the case, everyone involved with the decision to bring him in continues to do whatever is in their power to distance themselves from him. According to ESPNNewYork.com, team owner Woody Johnson – who fawned over Tebow when the franchise first acquired him from Denver – is the latest to pull this maneuver. He reportedly told former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist, who interviewed for the Jets vacancy, that the trade was “forced” on him and that he only “jumped on board” after the football personnel department convinced him it was a good idea. “They realized it was divisive and hard on the locker room, and they wanted an exit strategy,” he said.

3 » Former Florida safety Josh Evans and kicker Caleb Sturgis competed in the 2013 East-West Shrine Game over the weekend. Evans played sparingly on defense and special teams, but Sturgis accounted for seven of the East’s 13 points in the 28-13 loss as he connected on an extra point as well as field goals from 48 yards and 38 yards. Linebacker Lerentee McCray was invited to the game but chose not to participate as he continues to heal from the 2012 season. Similarly, LB Jon Bostic pulled out of the 2013 Senior Bowl set for Saturday at 4 p.m. Running back Mike Gillislee and left tackle Xavier Nixon will be the only two Gators participating in the game.

4 » Though two former Florida players have already lost their NFL head coaching gigs this offseason, another person with ties to the Gators has picked up a new job. Jedd Fisch, a graduate assistant at Florida from 1999-2000, was named the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday. Fisch has been coaching since starting out in the high school ranks in 1997 and was most recently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Miami (FL).

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Eight Gators seniors in all-star bowl games

A total of eight Florida Gators seniors will be participating in all-star bowl games in the month of January. Below is a list of each game and the players that are set to compete.

2013 Under Armour Senior Bowl (Mobile, AL)
Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. live on NFL Network
» Linebacker Jon Bostic
» Running back Mike Gillislee
» Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon

2013 East-West Shrine Game (St. Petersburg, FL)
Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. live on NFL Network
» Safety Josh Evans (#24)
» Linebacker Lerentee McCray (#34)
» Kicker Caleb Sturgis (#17)

2013 Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game (Tucson, AZ)
Friday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. live on ESPN3.com
» Wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. (#10)
» Wide receiver Omarius Hines (#5)

OGGOA will present practice and game notes from each contest. Be sure to check the schedule at the top of the right side bar each week for date and time remainders.

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Moultrie, Fowler, Donovan

1 » Despite well-documented problems off the field (marijuana arrests) and a number of questions about his maturity (four children under the age of four supposedly by three different women), former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins continues to be a hot name for teams looking for secondary talent in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Detroit Lions have recently emerged as a team in serious contention for Jenkins’s services with the No. 23 overall pick. However, the team and its front office are undoubtedly doing their due diligence on Jenkins. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions met with Jenkins at the 2012 Under Armour Senior Bowl and “are expected to host him on a visit” soon. When asked about him in particular, general manager Martin Mayhew played coy: “Wouldn’t you like to know that?” he said. “Like I said, we’ve got a lot of work to do in the process, and we haven’t done it all.”

2 » Florida senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie picked up a second weekly award on Tuesday as she was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week for her dominant performance the prior weekend. Moultrie went 8/11 with two home runs, three doubles, four RBIs, six runs and a stolen base as UF swept Arkansas on the road. She was also named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts.

3 » In a question-and-answer session with ESPN, Gators five-star defensive end/Buck linebacker commitment Dante Fowler, Jr. divulged some specifics about his personality and excitement to don the orange and blue sooner than later. Fowler noted not only that he recently got some advice from junior Buck LB Ronald Powell but also that he is “actually like a big teddy bear” instead of a “big, mean person” that some think he is just because he plays football. “People might say that I’m kind of shy because I put my head down when I talk and stuff,” he said. “But I’m a big teddy bear. My favorite TV show is iCarly. I’m going to be a big teddy bear off the field, but on the field I’m all business.”

4 » USA Today has released a compiled list of the salaries of the 68 head coaches participating in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida’s Billy Donovan came in No. 4 on the list in terms of total pay, earning $3.64 million for 2011-12 with a maximum bonus of $454,000. Though Donovan’s salary and bonuses are high, they are very much in-line with what Kansas’ Bill Self ($3.63M, $425K max bonus) and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo ($3.60M, $425K max bonus) bring in annually. The only men above Donovan are Kentucky’s John Calipari ($5.39M, $850K max bonus), Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($4.81M, $575K max bonus) and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($4.70M). Alabama’s Anthony Grant ($1.84M, $415K max bonus) is ranked No. 18 on the list and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart ($1.21M, $621K max bonus) checks in at No. 30.

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Two Gators practicing for 2012 Senior Bowl

Two players representing the Florida Gators are currently in Mobile, AL practicing for 2012 Senior Bowl. Weigh-ins and the first day of practice took place on Monday, additional practices will take place Tuesday-Thursday, a walk-through will occur Friday and the game will be played at 3 p.m. on Saturday airing live on NFL Network.

Running back Chris Rainey, playing for the South team, checked in at 5’8 3/8″ and 178 lbs. with 9 1/2 in. hands, a 30 3/4 in. arm length and a 72 1/4 in. wingspan.

Rainey is seeing time as a rusher, wide receiver and kick returner and told the Idaho Statesman that the game will not be close. “I’m glad to be part of this. I just know it’s going to be a blowout this Saturday,” he said.

According to CBS Sports, he was also the only player singled out and praised by head coach Mike Shanahan on Tuesday. Shanahan that he was “just impressed with the way he’s handling himself the first couple of days. […] He’s picked things up very quickly. You’re never really sure how people adapt to a system. And I’m not his agent, but I do want a little piece of the action.”

Rainey has signed with Joel Segal of Lagardere Unlimited, the agency that also represents all of his former Lakeland teammates including Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh), Mike Pouncey (Miami) and Ahmad Black (Tampa Bay) as well as a bevy of other Gators in the NFL.

South team defensive tackle Jaye Howard also caught the eyes of a number of scouts and general managers over the first three days after coming in at 6’3″ and 292 lbs. with 10 1/8 in. hands, 32 1/8 in. arms and a 78 3/8 in. wingspan.

Signed with Drew Rosenhaus of Rosenhaus Sports Representation, Howard is trying to make his way up draft boards. SI.com‘s Tony Pauline was impressed with his efforts Tuesday, saying he “made several nice plays” and noticably “fires off the snap and is able to penetrate the line of scrimmage.”

Former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who spent last season with North Alabama and has signed with Ben Dogra of Creative Artists Agency, came in at 5/9 6/8″ and 191 lbs. with 8 1/4 in. hands, 30 3/8 in. arms and a 74 1/4 in. wingspan.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s No. 2 cornerback available in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins is trying to prove that his character concerns are a thing of the past in order to make his way into the bottom of the first round.

“I just go in, that’s who I am, tell them what happened and be honest,” Jenkins said when speaking with reporters, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I did it. I made a mistake. I take full responsibility for it. […] I’m sure I’ll have to deal with it, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t have nothing to hide. I just go in and they ask me the questions and I give it to them and I’m honest and I look them in the eye and talk to them and let them know that I am honest and I learned from my mistakes.”

His performance so far in practice for the South team may go a long way towards him accomplishing that goal. “He’s fast, easily stays downfield with opponents and […] looks as though his ball skills have improved. Scouts have to be thinking first round for Jenkins after his performance,” Pauline explained.

Jenkins has already interviewed with a mystery team, Minnesota, Oakland, Dallas and Miami, the latter of which also met with Rainey at the Senior Bowl.

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TWO BITS: Senior Bowl, transfer destinations

1 » A pair of Florida Gators – redshirt seniors running back Chris Rainey and defensive tackle Jaye Howard – have officially accepted invitations to participate in the 2012 Senior Bowl, the organization announced on Wednesday. The duo will play on the South roster and are the only Florida players currently invited/committed to the event. “It feels good. I know a lot of great players have come to this game and I’m glad I’m invited and hope to do the best that I can to compete with the other greats,” Rainey said in the event’s official release. “The first thing I’m going to tell the scouts and coaches is that I want to be on special teams. They are going to have to set up some scheme for me to block a punt or do whatever they want me to do on special teams, because I love special teams and that’s the number one thing that wins games.”

Howard said he is playing in the game because he wants to “prove that I’m one of the elite defenders in this class this year and it’s a business trip for me.” He continued, “I’m quick, I can run all over the field and chase plays down. I want to prove that I can play several positions on the defensive line, not just d-tackle. I can play the end, nose guard—everything on the d-line, so I can bring that to a system.” The Senior Bowl will be played on Jan. 28 and air live on NFL Network beginning at 4 p.m. Practices will also be televised during the week leading up to the game on the same network.

2 » Four former Gators who decided to transfer this season have already chosen their new destinations, according to various reports. Defensive back Joshua Shaw has chosen to head closer to home (Palmdale, CA) and picked UCLA where he will sit out a season per NCAA transfer rules, while linebacker Dee Finley announced that he will play for Tuskegee, a HBCU, beginning next year. Two Florida players are expected to be heading to Louisville to play for former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Tight end Gerald Christian told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he will be going to Louisville, while multiple reports over the last two weeks have wide receiver Robert Clark planning to join him. Like Shaw, each will have to sit out one year due to NCAA transfer regulations and will be eligible to play beginning in 2013.

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FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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