FOUR BITS: Williams, Haden, Gators on Patriots

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Jason Williams, a nine-year NBA veteran, has agreed to sign a one-year deal to return to the Orlando Magic for the 2010-11 season. He will be the third point guard on the roster behind starter Jameer Nelson and reserve Chris Duhon. Last season, Williams only averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 assists as a backup but achieved career-highs in field goal (.444) and three-point percentage (.380).

2 » Taking a look at the Cleveland Browns in training camp, ESPN’s Adam Schefter does not think it is likely that former Florida cornerback and Cleveland rookie Joe Haden will start this season. “[Eric] Wright and [Sheldon] Brown are the undisputed starters for now,” Schefter writes, “but Haden will be the nickel cornerback and a player the Browns believe they will rely on for years to come.”

3 » According to the Boston Herald former Gators star Jermaine Cunningham continues to work as an outside linebacker with the New England Patriots’ first unit during training camp. ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss believes Cunningham is the fastest player during the team’s pass-rush drills, and head coach Bill Belichick is also offering some praise. “Jermaine has picked up things very well,” Belichick said. “I think each day you can definitely see him getting better, more confident, understanding things that happened the day before and being able to process that.”

4 » Reiss also said that former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez looks like New England’s “most impressive rookie to date” and “the coaching staff is high on rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes.” Hernandez has “excellent hand-eye coordination, sticky hands, and practices with great effort,” Reiss writes.

Photo Credit: David Silverman/New England Patriots

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Browns nab Gators CB Joe Haden with No. 7 overall pick in first round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 1 – No. 7
Joe Haden, CB
Cleveland Browns


Height: 5’11” – Weight: 193 lbs.
Age: 20 – Class: Junior

Months of speculation came to an end Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns selected former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In attendance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY, Haden’s eyes swelled up when he received the phone call from Cleveland before he took the stage with gusto to take a picture with league commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Browns had been drooling over Haden since at least March 1, with general manager Tom Heckert making his intentions known rather publicly. “I think Haden is a heck of a football player,” Heckert said. “He’s probably one of the top corners, if not the top corner in the draft. He’s played at a big-time program, and they won a ton of games. He’s going to go early.”

Considering Haden has only been playing cornerback for three years (he set Maryland state high school records as a quarterback), his emergence as a shut-down corner in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference became the stuff of legends around the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which he completed with less than stellar reviews after posting slow 40-yard dash times.

Haden corrected his speed at Florida’s Pro Day, impressing those in attendance including almost the entire Cleveland front office. Team president Mike Holmgren and head coach Eric Mangini met with Haden shortly after his Pro Day for a private workout and invited him to visit the team facility on April 6.

If the team’s comments are any indication, Haden has a legitimate shot to start as a rookie in 2010 opposite CB Eric Wright with veteran Sheldon Brown moving to safety; should he not be ready right away, he could play in nickel and dime packages until he is able to step in to a starting role.

The fourth defensive player from the University of Florida to be drafted in the top 10, Haden is also the highest-selected Gators cornerback of all-time.

WHAT HADEN SAID
Press Conference Transcript
Press Conference Audio
“I am just trying to soak it all up. It’s crazy. Just a dream come true. I feel like this is like a blessing. I definitely had a good idea about that when I talked to [team president Mike] Holmgren. He definitely was telling me that they were really, really interested in taking me at No. 7. And once he told me that, it just made me have a sigh of relief. Then once I left my visit in Cleveland, I really didn’t have contact with anyone from Cleveland, so I didn’t know if they just stopped liking me or what happened so I just came in here didn’t know what was going on.”

WHAT THEY SAID
Press Conference Transcript
General manager Tom Hickert: “Joe was a guy we spent a lot of time with and evaluating. He’s a bigger corner that can really play the run, good cover ability. He’s a smart kid and he’s tough. He’s a guy we liked all along.”

Head coach Eric Mangini: “He did a great job the day he visited. You could feel the intensity, feel the passion, how much he cared about playing football and continue to improve. It was real. I don’t think there was anybody that met him that didn’t feel that way.”

Head coach Urban Meyer: “I’m happy for Joe and his family. He is one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. He came to Florida as an offensive skill player who never played cornerback. He approached the coaching staff about changing positions because he wanted to get on the field. Despite not playing cornerback in high school he developed into one of the best ever to play his position at the University of Florida and is now a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”

THINGS TO READ
– Haden Browns choice at No. 7
– Heckert, Mangini intrigued by Haden
– Cleveland Browns select Florida cornerback Joe Haden in 2010 NFL Draft
– Cleveland Browns don’t get their safety, so they go with the safe pick
– Joe Haden joins Cleveland Browns with strong endorsement from teammate Tim Tebow
– Cleveland Browns find a defensive playmaker, and that decision is hard to argue
– Browns don’t buy buzz, go ahead with Haden pick

VIDEO
Haden on stage at 2010 NFL Draft with Commissioner Roger Goodell

Heckert and Mangini talk about picking Haden

Cleveland Plain-Dealer writers discuss the Browns’ selection of Haden

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

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FOUR BITS: Rivers, Denson, Thompson, Haden

OGGOA STORY UPDATE » Assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino has interviewed for the Iona head coaching job, per FOX Sports.

1 » A week ago, OGGOA reported that the North Carolina Tar Heels and Florida Gators 2011 five-star guard commit Austin Rivers shared a mutual interest in each other. Now, Rivers’ consideration of UNC seems to have increased, and he is starting to lean away from Florida in favor of opening his recruitment back up. “It would be Duke, Florida and [North] Carolina,” Rivers told CarolinaBlue.com this week. “And just because I might open it back up doesn’t mean that Florida wouldn’t be one of my schools, because they would. I like Florida – a lot.” Should Rivers decommit in order to open up his recruitment, gaining his commitment back against the likes of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels would seemingly be tough for Gators head coach Billy Donovan.

2 » Tuesday, OGGOA mentioned three-star 2010 point guard recruit Chris Denson (Midland, GA) as a prospect Florida is going after to help fill out its incoming recruiting class. Denson spoke with GAVarsity.com Thursday and said that the Gators are one of the teams leading for his services. “I’d say the top of my list are Western Kentucky and Florida […] they’re closer to home and that’s a big part,” Denson said. The site does not list UF as having offered Denson a scholarship yet, instead pointing out that he has already received them from WKU, Buffalo and UNC-Greensboro. Perhaps an offer is all it would take to acquire the 6’2”, 180 lbs. PG.

Two more BITS on Deonte Thompson and Joe Haden…after the jump!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Rivers, Denson, Thompson, Haden

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