TWO BITS: Dunlap’s back, Johnson’s training

1 » After a successful rookie season in which he notched 24 tackles and 9.5 sacks (second-most for a first-year player behind Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s 10), former Florida Gators now Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap has returned to Gainesville, FL to earn his degree from the University of Florida. Just 20 hours away from graduating with a degree in family, youth and community services along with a minor in business administration, Dunlap decided to take 12 credits in the spring 2011 semester and will likely complete the rest the next season his team misses the playoffs. “I felt like the longer you wait, the harder it is for you to come back,” Dunlap told The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu. “I just thought the transition would be a lot easier to do it now, to knock some of it out. The present is as good a time as any to get a degree. As hard as it was now to come back, I can imagine how hard it would be to come back a few years down the road.”

Dunlap also spoke to the Sun about his unfortunate arrest for driving under the influence before the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship game and how the mistake has adjusted his outlook on his personal and professional life. “That incident changed my whole life,” he said. “It made me respect the game a lot more. It showed me how everything can be taken from you by making one mistake, and not knowing whether you’ll be able to play again. I remember what Cris Carter once said. He said, ‘I will never again allow my life to be put in the hands of somebody else where they can make the decision whether I play football again or not.’ That’s the quote I thought of [when I was suspended]. I’m going to use that quote the rest of my career.”

2 » Though many of his former teammates will be participating in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2011 East-West Shrine Game, former Gators guard Carl Johnson will be headed to the Texas vs. The Nation collegiate all-star game set to be played on Feb. 5 in San Antonio, TX. He will eventually end up participating in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in February with hopes of improving his stock for the 2011 NFL Draft in April. Johnson spoke with the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser and provided these notable quotes (read what else he had to say).

PBP: How does Florida’s future look after a disappointing 2010 season?
CJ: “I think the team’s going to be six times better this year than last year. Some good guys didn’t get to play. At the skill positions, you need experience. [Quarterback John] Brantley has a year now. He knows the tempo. He knows what it’s like to face a team that’s trying to decapitate you. They’re going to be better. Now all these guys have experience, which helps a lot. I mean, when I first played, I was like a duck in a dirty pond — don’t know what’s underneath those feet.”

PBP: Was the 2010 freshman class better than people thought? How much impact could those players make this season?
CJ: “From what I saw of the freshmen — [wide receiver Quinton] Dunbar, to me, he’s dynamic. He should have played this year, but I’m not a coach. They have some certified ballers, Mack Brown, the running back, he’s going to be a beast. Trust me, they’re going to be good.”

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Hill, Trattou, All-Rookie

1 » A reliable source told OGGOA on Thursday that Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who announced on Monday that he would remain enrolled at the University of Florida for his senior season, is having second thoughts about his decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Prior to his announcement Monday, Jenkins was told that, due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he would most likely be selected in the second round of the draft. After doing some additional research into the matter throughout the week, Jenkins was given a first-round grade by a handful of NFL front office executives he contacted, according to our source. The deadline to declare for the draft is late Friday afternoon, leaving Jenkins with less than 24 hours (as of press time) to make a final decision he is comfortable with.

2 » As first reported by OGGOA on Jan. 5, Florida junior safety Will Hill was never confused about his decision – he will declare for the draft and officially submit his paperwork to UF on Friday. Speaking with the Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Hill explained that he made his decision mostly due to financial and family issues and hopes he will be selected in the first two days of the draft. “It took a while to come to that conclusion, but the thing that made me come out and try to go pro is I have a family,” Hill told the Post’s Jason Lieser. “It’s a priority of mine to help my family. I have [three] little ones to look after. I feel like this was the best decision for me and them.”

He also admitted that he did not perform up to his capabilities this past season with the Gators. “I had an up and down season. I was hurt, which people fail to realize. I had a bad shoulder and groin that was keeping me from competing,” he said. “I wish my junior year went better. Everybody wants to have that elite season. I learned a lot from it. I learned don’t take things for granted, every play counts. I know I missed tackles here and there due to injuries, but I put everything on the line.” The Post also reports that Hill has signed with Metro Sports Agency, is 30 credits away from graduating and is currently working out 48 hours per week at the TEST Football Academy.

3 » Florida senior defensive end Justin Trattou has decided to play in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game set to be played on Jan. 22 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. A captain for the Gators in 2010, Trattou finished the season with 57 tackles including 35 solo and a team-high 12 for a loss of yards. He is the fifth Florida senior to agree to play in a pre-draft game. Senior S Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey, senior punter/kicker Chas Henry and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Jan. 29 in Mobile, AL.

4 » Three former Gators – Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunalp – were named to the Sporting News 2010 NFL All-Rookie Team earlier in the week. Haden finished the season with 64 tackles, six interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack, while Dunlap contributed 24 tackles, 9.5 sacks (a Cincinnati rookie record) and recovered a fumble. Pouncey started every game at center for Pittsburgh.

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Review – Tim Tebow: Everything in Between

It is not often we get the chance to do entertainment reviews, though we always appreciate the opportunity. So when I found out that ESPN had chosen to send me a rough cut of Tim Tebow: Everything in Between (debuting on the network on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.), I was psyched to view it before the general public and review it for you.

With a four-minute trailer for the then-unsold film released in September by Fiction and XV Enterprises, I knew going into my viewing that the movie began after the conclusion of the 2010 Sugar Bowl and lasted until Tebow had his name called with the No. 25 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft just over three months later.

What I did not anticipate, however, was how comprehensive, expertly produced and well-edited the film would be. Two things I look for in any production – documentaries especially – are their ability to capture my attention and then whether or not they can hold that attention for their duration. Chase Heavener gives the viewer a brief yet broad behind-the-scenes look at the process Tebow went through to make the transition from Florida Gators legend to legitimate NFL prospect.

The viewer has the opportunity to see Tebow do everything from participating in interviews with Sports Illustrated and ESPN to conducting one of his own with his future agent Jimmy Sexton in a board room at the University of Florida.

“All this looks really good and is really fancy and is really nice. And ya’ll speak really well. But a lot of people around the country either believe in me or don’t believe in me. Or they say I can do this and I can’t do this,” Tebow says while fidgeting with a packet of information after listening to Sexton’s best sales pitch. “If you want to draft me then draft me. If you want to recruit me or you think I can be a quarterback, then I will be. If not, then don’t talk to me because I want somebody that wants me. And I want an agent that wants me and believes that I am going to be a quarterback and believes that I am going to be good at what I do. And why do you think I will be?”

From there the documentary takes you to D1 Sports Training in Nashville, TN, where Tebow threw so many passes while working on adjusting his mechanics that the gloves he was wearing were literally torn apart. The viewer observes as he struggles mightily at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and is pummeled with criticism from analysts including ESPN’s Todd McShay, who is portrayed throughout the film as the antagonist for Tebow’s protagonist.

Both his physical and mental toughness are tested continuously throughout his journey. Tebow trucks on through an infection during the Senior Bowl even finding humor when a doctor feeding a tube down his nose asks if it has even been broken. “Who knows? Probably,” he quips. The level of exertion he puts in to each and every workout – he says – is not matched by any other college football player in the country.

Tebow shows the ability to block out detractors by ignoring McShay, who he hears doubting his ability to play at the next level on a blasting television in the background while he signs dozens of autographs and is surrounded by friends, family and business associates. He also defends his decision to participate in the controversial Focus on the Family Super Bowl commercial alongside his mother.

“Whoever you are, you can at least respect that I have an opinion on [abortion] and that I believe in something and that I’m going to stand up for what I believe,” he says. “That’s something that I’m taking pride in, that I’m standing up or what I believe in, and I’m showing conviction about something. For me, that’s big.”

With the hard work and dedication complete, Tebow’s largest looming decision – one that garnered much media attention – was where he would actually watch the draft that would decide his professional future. Contrary to popular belief that delaying his decision was a publicity stunt, Tebow’s indecision less than 48 hours before the draft is put at the forefront as Sexton pleads for him to make a choice.

Sexton himself proves to be a pivotal figure in Tebow’s tale, especially in the film’s final scenes. He tells the family exactly how he has projected the draft, is met with trepidation when things do not go as smooth as planned, and then is as excited as a school boy when his original prediction – “My bet is Denver from 22 to 30.” – comes to fruition.

Whether you are a fan of Tebow’s or someone who feels a strong sense of disdain for him, the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time National Champion ends up in the role of the underdog by the documentary’s end. Being exposed to Tebow’s character on a more personal basis puts the viewer in a position where one would have to be stone cold inside not to be genuinely happy for him when he receives a phone call from the 303 area code as the story nears its end.

As comprehensive as Heavener’s film is, its short run time of 50 minutes (due to television programming restrictions) does his work an injustice. With three months of film collected there is bound to be at least another 20 minutes of compelling material that unfortunately must have hit the cutting room floor. It is worth holding out hope that an extended edition will be available in some form at a later date.

Tim Tebow: Everything in Between is the first in a series of shows set to be a part of ESPN’s Year of the Quarterback programming initiative, a year-long examination into the lives and careers of quarterbacks from high school to the pros.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Cowart
 

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2011 Outback Bowl post-game news and notes

With the 2011 Outback Bowl now in the books and the Florida Gators set to undergo a major shake-up on the coaching staff and within the program, this is as good of a time as any to share some news and notes that OGGOA picked up over the past weekend.

SENIOR BOWL PARTICIPANTS

A source close to the players told OGGOA on Saturday that senior safety Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl.

UPDATE: When rosters were officially announced on Sunday, punter/kicker Chas Henry has also accepted an invitation to play on Jan. 29.

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow – the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper both participated in the game last year.

JUNIORS DECLARING FOR THE DRAFT

Though nothing has been officially confirmed, most close to the program believe junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will indeed declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Jenkins, considered to be one of the top three defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) available, is projected as a first round pick even though he is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder (an injury he played with most of the season).

Also expected to declare is junior S Will Hill, who was projected to be a high pick before the season but has failed to live up to the expectations of both analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill out as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below Black (76) and 24 under Jenkins (92). In addition to his on-the-field problems, Hill is believed to have a poor attitude off the field and has been disciplined numerous times this past season. People he has spoken with personally have been told he will not be returning to Florida for his senior year.

WALKING OFF THE FIELD BEFORE CELEBRATING

Though a number of the Gators’ injured players – including those who were hurt during the game – remained on the field to celebrate after Florida’s 37-24 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions, a few healthy players ran directly into the locker room instead. Hill, redshirt senior wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams and redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose all hurried off the field. Though Hill is likely to declare for the draft and both Moore and Williams are leaving/graduating, Debose’s departure was curious.

Checking in on Debose, OGGOA has learned that he has been quite disappointed with his time at UF thus far, a feeling that is not surprising considering he missed his first season due to injury and was only used sparingly in 2010 as a kick returner even though he showed explosive ability and the Gators struggled offensively. A source close to the team told us that Debose does not practice nearly as hard as the other young receivers and truly does not have a full grasp of the playbook, something head coach Urban Meyer noted early in the season. Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill – Debose simply could have been exhausted or sick or feeling down after being benched due to muffing two kickoffs – his exit from the field so suddenly is worth noting.

With a new coaching staff coming in and the ability to get a fresh start with an offensive coordinator and position coach, Debose may be getting exactly what he needs.

TWO OTHER CURRENT COACHES ARE GONE

In addition to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin moving on, the Palm Beach Post has confirmed that co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater (surprisingly) and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni (not surprisingly) will not be retained. “I will not be back next year,” Heater told the paper. With reports that Florida has hired former player Aubrey Hill as their new WR coach, Azzanni’s departure is not as much of a shock as Heater’s.

QUARTERBACKING YOUR 2011 GATORS IS…

Perhaps the most important position on the field – quarterback – is the Gators biggest question from a personnel perspective going into next season. Though redshirt freshman QB Jordan Reed said he was perfectly fine with moving to tight end to start the season, he has showed some ability behind center and may hope to get that opportunity in a spread offense elsewhere. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley, who has publicly acknowledged he is considering transferring, will have a pro-style offense in place at Florida should he choose to stay. Their decisions could be independent or related depending what Muschamp has to say and what Brantley’s family helps him decide.

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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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SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

1 » Between critics, supporters and analysts, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow always has plenty of people talking about him. You can add former USC Trojans safety Taylor Mays to that list. Mays – who has grown close with Tebow after appearances at college football awards shows, 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2010 NFL Scouting Combinegot defensive when asked about his new friend’s ability to transition to the NFL. “I don’t understand it. He did everything right,” Mays said. “It’s not like everybody thought he was going to be the first quarterback taken, so I don’t understand why they’re killing him like that. You’re looking at one of the most established players in college football, ever. Ever! All these people they’re talking about don’t have half the credentials he does.”

2 » While Mays was defensive, New England sports writer Tom Curran went on the offensive against Tebow Wednesday. Curran opines that Tebow’s very public meeting with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is out of character for the team and was perhaps done in order to boost Tebow’s 2010 NFL Draft stock and, in some way, help out his friend and Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Side note: Tebow spent two days in Boston; he was not just there for a dinner. Curran also questions what Tebow is as a person. “I mean, how do we know the kid’s a virgin? He talks about it. And just as it’s his right to talk about it, it’s the right of observers to wonder what the motivations for doing so are,” Curran wrote. “Is he a football player? A spokesman? A vessel of the Lord? A well-crafted public relations creation? All of the above?”

Four more BITS on Erin Andrews’ ESPN contract and future as well as results from baseball, softball and lacrosse…after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

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Pats, Browns, ‘Skins taking closer look at Tebow

Having now competed in the 2010 Senior Bowl, 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and his school’s Pro Day, the only things left on former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow’s plate before the 2010 NFL Draft are workouts and interviews with individual teams.

As of March 8, only the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks had arranged individual workouts with Tebow. However, the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins can now be added to that list, according to SportingNews.

The Browns, which had their president, general manager and head coach in Gainesville for Florida’s Pro Day, are expected to draft Gators cornerback Joe Haden with their No. 7 overall selection on April 22. The team is also in need of a quarterback of the future with 35-year-old Jake Delhomme as their only legitimate starting option and possesses an early second-round pick.

One of the first teams to work out Florida players after their Pro Day every year, the Patriots – especially head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft – hold Gators head coach Urban Meyer and his players in high regard. In fact, the team also took a close look at tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Brandon Spikes on Thursday. (Spikes has reportedly also met with the Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin.) Tebow would fit well in New England as a back-up who could sit comfortably behind Tom Brady for a few years.

The Redskins, which recently signed former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman to a free agent contract, are still looking for a starter with incumbent Jason Cambell seemingly always on the hot seat. Head coach Mike Shanahan is a former Gators offensive coordinator, and his son Kyle holds that same position under his father.

Photo Credit: Jimmy DeFlippo/Sports Illustrated

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Deion Sanders is a believer in Tebow, not McShay

Former NFL player and future hall of famer Deion Sanders was quite complementary when speaking about former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow on Pardon the Interruptionn with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on Thursday. Sanders, who was interviewed by the duo on location in Miami, FL, for Super Bowl XLIV, indicated that you have to evaluate Tebow based on his career instead of what a few scouts may think.

“In Pee Wee football – he succeeded. In high school football – he was a winner. In college football – not only was he a winner and National Champion…Heisman Trophy! [He was] always at the race. He’s a winner,” Sanders exclaimed. “How can you discount a winner in regards to anything? If he were playing you in a game of checkers, I might pick him.”

When questioned by Wilbon about the flack Tebow has received recently for his workouts at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Sanders dismissed the critics. “They miss so much on the combine,” he continued. “They get a lot of it right, but it’s a lot of misses at the combine because it’s one guru who has a few credentials that says, ‘This guy has terrible mechanics.’ Well, who doesn’t? If you really look at a guy negatively…why don’t we start looking at what’s right about him instead of looking at what’s wrong with him?

At the start of the interview, Sanders was asked if he heard comments made about Tebow by former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann earlier in the day. In response, he scoffed and replied, “Did Joe say that for shock treatment?”

Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time First Team All-Pro selection, two-time Super Bowl Champion, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year and member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. With 53 career interceptions, he knows a thing or two about professional quarterbacks.

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