SIX BITS: Speights, Beal, Cooper, Reed, Caldwell

1 » Former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights was arrested early Tuesday morning for driving under the influence in Tampa, Florida. According to the Bay Area News Group, Speights blew Breathalyzer tests of .103 and .106, well above Florida’s legal limit of .080. He was initially pulled over for “failure to yield right of way while pulling out of a driveway” and subsequently failed roadside field sobriety tests before having the alcohol content of his breath examined. Speights, on the second year of a fully-guaranteed three-year, $10.97 million contract with the Golden State Warriors, has been charged with a second-degree misdemeanor but was released on $500 bond. He was celebrating his 27th birthday on Monday.

2 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was one of three players cut by USA Basketball on Monday as the organization reduced its roster to 16 ahead of the 2014 World Cup of Basketball. Now on a break, USA Basketball will resume its training camp on Aug. 13. It will have approximately two weeks to trim four more players from the roster ahead of the international event. Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons is one of the 16 players still competing for spots and the only former Gators player still in camp.

3 » Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper has missed consecutive practices with a foot injury and was seen in a walking boot at his team’s last practice. Cooper had a career year in 2013, hauling in 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns; he is expected to see his role increase in 2014 now that DeSean Jackson is no longer with the franchise. Prior to stepping on the field last season, Cooper found himself surrounded by controversy off the field when a leaked tape of him screaming a racial slur at a security guard made national news. He recently said that it still haunts him to this day. “Obviously, I was very embarrassed. I’m still embarrassed about the situation,” he told NFL Network’s Michael Irvin last week. “Words hurt, and I’m crushed by it. But it felt good to know my teammates were supporting me. … It meant a lot to me. That was a huge deal, nationwide. That is a big deal. And to have the support from the guys that know you, it means a lot.”

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SIX BITS: Miami, Cunningham, Starks, Dolphins

1 » ESPN announced on Monday that the Florida Gators will help kick off the network’s annual 24-hour college basketball marathon when they host the Miami Hurricanes on Monday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. live on ESPNU. Florida is one of four Southeastern Conference teams that will participate in the event, joining Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina. The two featured contests for the marathon include a doubleheader on Nov. 18 featuring Duke vs. Michigan State at 7 p.m. and UK vs. Kansas at 9 p.m.

2 » For the third time in the last two offseasons, a former Gators football player has been sidelined for the entire season after suffering an injury during practice. The New York Jets announced on Saturday that linebacker Jermaine Cunningham suffered a torn Achilles and will miss the entire 2014 campaign. Cut in training camp last year by the New England Patriots, Cunningham was not picked up by the Jets until November. He played in two games for New York without registering a tackle and was considered on the roster bubble for 2014 entering team workouts.

3 » The Arizona Cardinals on Friday announced the signing of former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks, who barely played in the NFL in 2013 after spending less than a month on the roster of the St. Louis Rams. A 10-year veteran who has started 96 games in his career, Starks is well-known by head coach Bruce Arians, his former offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whether Starks ultimately makes the team out of training camp remains to be seen.

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Seven Gators agree to undrafted free agent deals

Updated on Thursday, May 22 at 3:30 p.m.

Former Florida Gators cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, wide receiver Solomon Patton, “tight end” Trey Burton, center Jonotthan Harrison, defensive tackle Damien Jacobs and linebacker Darrin Kitchens each agreed to undrafted free agent deals with teams shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft.

Purifoy and Roberson, who were both expected to be selected in the draft, wound up agreeing to deals with teams just 250 miles away from each other on Monday. Purifoy (#7) inked a deal with the Indianapolis Colts, the team announced, while Roberson (#47) reached an agreement with the St. Louis Rams.

Purifoy joins running back Chris Rainey, offensive tackle Xavier Nixon (a 2013 undrafted free agent) and Harrison (#72), who was picked up after the draft, on the Colts.

Roberson links up fellow former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins on the Rams after inking a three-year, $1.55 million deal including a $15,000 signing bonus.

Patton (#86) was snagged as a priority free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he will join wide receiver Louis Murphy and running back Jeff Demps. He signed a three-year, $1.54 million contract with a $9,000 signing bonus.

Burton (#47) was quick to come to an agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles and will be teammates with WR Riley Cooper and CB Jaylen Watkins, the team’s selection with the first pick of the fourth round, No. 101 overall.

He also signed a three-year, $1.54 million deal, receiving a $7,500 signing bonus as part of $20,000 in total guaranteed money from the Eagles.

The Buffalo Bills did not have a single Florida player on their team entering the 2014 offseason but will enter minicamp with three, signing veteran LB Brandon Spikes and adding both Jacobs and Kitchens as undrafted free agents.

Gators offensive lineman Kyle Koehne was not picked up by a team but did receive a tryout with the Atlanta Falcons.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wambach, Beal, Johnson

1 » A rash of quarterback injuries has shaken the NFL over the first half of the season, and there are also a number of floundering teams in serious need of a boost, but former Florida Gators signal caller Tim Tebow nevertheless remains a free agent. Sunday night, NFL.com‘s Mike Silver reported that the St. Louis Rams had “at least internally discussed the possibility of signing” Tebow though nothing was imminent and it was unlikely to happen. This report came after starting QB Sam Bradford was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury (he will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL). CBSSports.com‘s Jason LaCanfora later tweeted that the Rams have “no desire” to bring in Tebow and that head coach Jeff Fisher “would not consider it.” Instead, St. Louis will go with Kellen Clemens, a career 51.8 percent passer with seven passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions over eight seasons (including 12 starts). The biggest news story involving Tebow over the last few weeks included some shirtless pictures taken while he was on vacation with his family in Hawaii.

As Tebow hopes to have a future in football, it may be another sport entirely where he can make the greatest impact. According to TheMMQB.com, USA Rugby is extremely interested in having Tebow join the program and compete on behalf of the United States in the Olympics (assuming he picks up the sport well). Writer Jenny Vrentas crunches some numbers, with some help from a company named Atlantic Standard, and notes that Tebow’s athleticism is simply off the charts, which makes him a player the rugby community would covet.

Check out three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!

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FOUR BITS: NFL, Donovan, Mooney, Parsons

1 » The names of a few former Florida Gators popped up on the NFL transaction wire this week. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and wide receiver David Nelson were signed by the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, respectively, on Tuesday. Cunningham was released by the New England Patriots after never even suiting up for the team during the offseason, and Nelson was cut by the Cleveland Browns after his knee flared up during the preseason.

On the other side of the coin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived safety Ahmad Black (who started for them this season), and the St. Louis Rams cut offensive tackle Max Starks, who was signed just two weeks ago.

2 » ESPN’s Andy Katz noted on Wednesday that Gators head coach Billy Donovan has decided not to take advantage of the NCAA pushing up the start of basketball practice and will instead begin Florida workouts on Friday, Oct. 11. He opines that the move is being made to give senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin extra time to get back in the team’s good graces. Though that may have an ounce of truth to it, the actuality is Donovan would prefer to have his team practice more in a shorter period of time rather than three total hours per week over an additional month. “[He] likes to hold double sessions over weekends and you only have 30 practices over 42 days before [the] season opener,” correctly noted The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway.

3 » Grabbing a recruit three years before he graduates high school is a risky proposition, but it sounds like the Gators’ latest basketball pledge is in for the long haul. 2016 power forward John Mooney (Altamonte Springs, FL) committed to Florida on Saturday, the school he has always wanted to attend. “I don’t see this being an Austin Rivers situation at all,” Mooney’s head coach at Lake Brantley High School, Mike Cuff, told Brockway. Cuff also said Mooney averaged a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman on varsity despite only taking 6-7 shots per game. Brockway also spoke with Mooney’s Nike Team Florida coach Tom Topping, who noted that the player “projects as one of the better basketball players in his class,” something that is “not just my opinion.”

4 » Grantland.com’s Juliet Litman takes a closer look at Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons and his incredibly busy summer, which she concludes is an “aggressive attempt to become a famous athlete/fashion icon,” something she personally finds “strangely endearing.” OnlyGators.com will be speaking with Parsons prior to the start of the 2013-14 NBA season.

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FOUR BITS: soccer, flugtag, Starks, Nixon, Sturgis

1 » No. 7 Florida Gators soccer (7-1-1, 1-0 SEC) has been on a roll at the start of the season, outscoring its non-conference opponents 18-6 and registering four-straight home shutouts over a two-week span in the middle of September. Florida opened SEC play last Friday with a 3-0 shutout of Alabama at home but will hit the road this weekend for a two-game stretch – first and only time it will happen this season. ESPNW took a look at the Gators’ hot start in its latest power rankings, slotting UF at No. 10 in the nation. Sunday’s match will air live on ESPNU at 2 p.m.

2 » Red Bull held its annual Flugtag event at Bayfront Park in Miami, FL, last weekend. Though dozens of groups came out to participate in the event – a competition where homemade, human-powered flying machines are launched off a pier to see if they will glide – one particular group of Florida fans gained some popularity at the event with their contraption. The pictures below are courtesy of George Martinez and gmartnx.com.

Read/watch two more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Tebow, Cooper, Jenkins, Angus

1 » The exploits of some of his former Florida Gators have kept New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow off the front page, but the spotlight is back on Tebow now that training camp has begun and some practices are open to the media. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King was at Patriots practice recently, saw Tebow play first hand and offered this opinion on his weekly MMQB column.

Take this for what it’s worth: Tim Tebow made three beautiful downfield throws that I saw, completions thrown 25 yards or more hitting receivers in stride. Tebow was also the personal protector on punts (kudos to you, Mike Westhoff, for getting him started on that last summer) and ran down on punts with energy. I bet the Patriots keep three quarterbacks, knowing they’re able to use Tebow as a utility player. Not necessarily a guy they’d have active every week, but a guy they could use in certain matchup situations against some teams.

2 » Former New England signal caller Doug Flutie spoke out about Tebow, telling ESPNBoston.com that he believes Tebow is in a good situation but hopes he gets an opportunity to contribute. “If he’s just going to be the No. 3 quarterback and run the scout team, you want a guy who is going to be giving his heart and soul in every practice and running scout team to the fullest, hoping he can get better and doing everything he can,” Flutie said. “I think legitimately, Bill [Belichick] brought him in to be a quarterback, a No. 3 guy, that if they get down to their No. 3 they can be competitive with Tebow on the field, running a specified style of offense that is going to cater to his skills. A lot of teams can’t say that if they are down to their No. 3. I see that as a developmental thing for Tebow.”

3 » Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to practice on Tuesday after missing a couple of days while undergoing team-sponsored counseling following the release of a video that shows him uttering one of the ugliest words in the English language. Also in King’s MMQB column, he takes a look at Eagles head coach Chip Keilly and why, following the reinstatement and rejuvenation of Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount, he is more apt to give Cooper a second chance than some others in the league. “Chip could have kicked Blount to the curb. He chose to believe in him. And it worked out,” former NFL head coach Tony Dungy told King. “With Riley Cooper, this kid made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. The big issue, too, is the alcohol. That has to be dealt with. But Chip will make the right decision. He doesn’t care what the popular opinion. He cares about what’s right.”

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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!
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