Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou was cut by the New York Giants on Thursday after missing all of training camp up to this point with a variety of injuries. Trattou was active for a number of games last season and won a ring last season as New York defeated New England 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.

» Speaking of the Giants, the team brought former Gators defensive tackle Marcus Thomas in for a visit Thursday. New York is looking to upgrade the interior of its defensive line and Thomas is one of the biggest names on the free agent market after failing to come to an agreement with the Denver Broncos, where he started 11 of the 12 games he played last season. Thomas recently tweeted that he would be willing to play “for practice squad money.”

» The New York Jets are rumored to be one of a handful of finalists bidding for the services of former Florida running back Jeff Demps, so of course quarterback Tim Tebow was asked about the possibility during training camp on Thursday. As expected, Tebow supported the potential addition of Demps but said he would not pressure him to join him with the Jets. “They asked me about him,” he said according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “Jeff is a great guy and a great player, and he’s someone that I was proud to play with in college. He did a great job for us, and I feel like wherever he goes, he’ll work hard at and do a good job for that team.”

» ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke with Yale head coach James Jones recently about his team getting an unusual visit from the UF basketball team this season. Jones “credited a Yale administrator who once worked at Florida as well as Gators head coach Billy Donovan” for creating the home-away-home series that gets a high-profile team to visit Yale. “Donovan…isn’t adverse to playing home games for players in odd places,” Katz wrote. “He once played at UNH for New Hampshire native Matt Bonner. This is a ‘home’ game for Rhode Island native Erik Murphy.”

Read nine more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

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SIX BITS: Pounceys, Jenkins, Meyer, Martin

1 » Contrary to his insistence that he would end up suiting up for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will not be participating in the NFL‘s championship game on Sunday. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told ESPN‘s Adam Schefter on Friday that Pouncey has yet to practice this week and, therefore, would not be ready to play. The former Florida Gators star suffered a high ankle sprain (and possibly a broken bone, too) during the AFC Championship against the New York Jets, left the game early and has yet to step on the field since. He is one of two former Gators (left tackle Max Starks) who are on the Steelers; neither will play in the Super Bowl as Starks has missed the majority of the season with an injured neck.

2 » While Maurkice watches the Super Bowl from the sideline, his brother Mike Pouncey is preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft. AOL Fanhouse interviewed the brothers this week and notes that Mike is doing whatever he can to get drafted early (perhaps higher) than his twin brother. The most interesting piece from the article, however, is Mike saying he prefers to play tackle instead of center or guard in the NFL. “You never know where you are going to play until you get to camp, but I honestly hope I get the chance to play tackle at the next level because I feel I am athletic enough,” Mike said. “When Maurkice went in [at Pittsburgh], he started at right guard before they moved him to center. I am just looking forward to the opportunity.”

3 » Four-star junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins (Perkinston, MS) is set to announce his commitment on Saturday but has already decided where he wants to go, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “At this point I feel like I have decided; I’ve picked my school,” Jenkins told the paper Friday. “But I’m just gonna get in one last prayer tonight before I go to sleep before tomorrow. I’ll just pray that I’m making the right decision, which I believe I am, and just go with it after that.” Deciding between Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Miami, Jenkins is believed to have UF and UGA as his final two schools. The No. 6 JUCO recruit in the country according to Rivals, he took his last official visit to Gainesville, FL but was favoring Georgia before taking the trip.

4 » Former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is headed back to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish…for a few hours. A former Notre Dame wide receivers coach, Meyer will be the featured presenter for the 2011 Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic, an annual event by the university.

5 » Former Florida quarterback/punter/wide receiver Ingle Martin, who had a four-year career as a back-up in the NFL after transferring to Furman, was named the head football coach for Christ Presbyterian Academy high school in Tennessee on Friday.

6 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA first reported that seven former Gators would be participating in the 2011 NFL Combine. The University of Florida made an official announcement today, so we are referring you back to our original post.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Westbrook, Stewart, Shands

1 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey was found to have a broken bone in his left ankle in addition to a high ankle sprain and is unlikely to play in Super Bowl XLV, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though the Steelers refuse to completely rule out his participation in the game, chances are Pouncey will be watching from the sidelines along with fellow former Gator left tackle Max Starks, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this season with a neck injury. In the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Pouncey had started each of Pittsburgh’s 18 games this season.

2 » While Florida awaits commitments or denials from a number of top recruits, head coach Will Muschamp is making the rounds and getting in the ears of plenty of other players. Muschamp was in South Florida on Thursday meeting with three-star defensive end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), who plans to make a decision Monday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Westbrook is also considering South Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina and Purdue but will be in Gainesville, FL for an official visit this weekend.

3 » The Hartford Courant is reporting that the Gators are also after four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), a current Boston College commitment. Apparently “Florida has made a late push” for Stewart, and Muschamp is expected to fly up for an in-home visit on Friday. “It’s a hard situation but also a good situation,” Stewart told the paper Thursday. “I took two unofficial visits to Florida this summer. I have an offer from them. It’s a great honor that they believe you can play for them.”

4 » What did Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus do after arriving back in Gainesville following a double-overtime victory against the Georgia Bulldogs? They headed over to Shands Children’s Hospital and visited 19-year-old cancer patient Victor Wheeler, who is constantly undergoing chemotherapy for a recurring form of cancer known as rhabdomyoscarcoma. For more pictures of their visit, check out this Facebook link.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Williams, Blakely, baseball

1 » With speculation surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey’s ability to play in Super Bowl XLV with a high ankle sprain, one of his teammates has apparently let the cat out of the bag on Pouncey’s status. “We are definitely sad that he won’t be able to be with us in the Super Bowl,” guard Chris Kemoeatu told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “Definitely I feel bad for him. We just have to win it for him. It’s definitely a huge loss for us. We know how big this is for him and him not being able to play is definitely motivating for us to go out there and get that ring for him.” Since first suffering the injury Sunday, Pouncey has steadfastly denied that he will miss the game, saying he knows “how to attack” the injury because he had a similar one during his time with the Florida Gators.

2 » Third and sometimes fourth on his team’s depth chart at the position, former Florida point guard Jason Williams was waived by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Williams, who averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game, is the least productive he has been in his 12-year NBA career. There are early expectations that he will be picked up by a team in need of a back-up ball handler.

3 » As initially reported by OGGOA on Jan. 17, four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) has officially undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. An early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, he will likely be able to return to the field in the summer.

4 » Baseball America delivered some high praise to the Gators baseball team on Thursday, ranking them No. 1 in their 2011 preseason top 25 poll. The publication notes that Florida returns eight everyday starters (including four first-team freshman All-Americans), features a power trio in the heart of the order, has two speedsters who can swipe bases, plays great defense, is “absurdly deep on the mound,” has the deepest bullpen in college , offers an excellent coaching staff and “has no discernible weakness.”

Noting that a disappointing postseason performance is the crux of the Gators’ motivation for 2011, Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt also published a feature story on the team. “For all they accomplished in 2010, the Gators’ lasting memory of the season would be the hollow feeling of playing two flat, uninspiring games in Omaha and getting ousted by arch-rival Florida State,” he writes. “After going from a regional in 2008 to a super regional in 2009 to the College World Series in 2010, the next step is for Florida to take home its first national championship.” You can read the rest by clicking here.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: spring practice set, Pouncey’s injury

1 » The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that the team will participate in its first of 15 spring practices on March 16 with the remainder coming between then and the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9. The 2011 season begins on Sept. 3 as Florida takes on Florida Atlantic at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game this season but suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game, remains questionable for Super Bowl XLV. He was seen Wednesday utilizing crutches with a hard cast on his lower left leg, indicating that the injury is quite serious and may indeed keep him out of the big game. ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell, asked about Pouncey’s injury, said moderate high ankle sprains are usually given an “estimate of four to six weeks” though players have come back both earlier and later than that time frame depending on the severity of the injury. Bell also noted that Pouncey being only 21 will help him recover a bit faster. “I think when you look into the context of two weeks, it’s the Super Bowl, and Pouncey doesn’t have gross instability or a fracture based on what we know,” she said. “So it will come down to whether the Steelers get the pain down enough and the swelling down enough that Pouncey can have normal motion in the joint and put pressure through the foot.”

3 » Still recovering from an injured thumb, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah sat down with Comcast Sports Net in Chicago, IL for an “up close and personal” seven-minute interview. You can watch it in full below.

4 » Former Gators decathlete Steve Mesler will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on March 27. He will be honored after capturing the gold medal as a bobsledder for team United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in February. “I thought it was amazing,” Mesler said when he learned about his selection. “You don’t think about putting yourself in the Hall of Fame when you’re competing and training. It’s such a surprise to be honored that way. It still humbles me to think that we did something that puts us in that classification.” Mesler joins names already inducted into the hall like Sandy Koufax, (fellow Florida alum) Dara Torres, Red Auerbach (among many others).

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Miller, visits, MJD, Chickillo

1 » A victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship ensured that, for the ninth consecutive season, a former Florida Gators player will be going to the Super Bowl. Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game of the 2010-11 season for Pittsburgh but left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with a high-ankle sprain (left), could also become the 14th former Gators star to win a ring. “I know in my heart that I’m playing in that game,” Pouncey said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I had the same injury before on my other ankle and I know how to attack it. I know how to approach things.” Should the Steelers be victorious in Super Bowl XLV, it would be the third-straight year a Florida player has won a ring (Pittsburgh-Starks, New Orleans-McCray). Editor’s note: Steelers left tackle Max Starks would also receive a ring, though he has missed most of the season after injuring his neck earlier in the year.

2 » Getting off to a slow start this year after returning from a serious thumb injury he suffered during preseason training camp, Miami Heat guard Mike Miller went nuts on Saturday with two of his team’s best players on the sideline. Playing a season-high 33 minutes, Miller went 12-of-20 (and 6-of-11 from downtown) for 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists and set a franchise record with 22 points in the second quarter alone. He was 5-for-18 before Saturday’s game and had only scored 15 points on the season. “It’s not like I forgot how [to shoot],” Miller said. “It’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it. It was a matter of time.”

3 » UF received official visits from four-star cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and three-star offensive tackle Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, MI) over the weekend, both of whom were hosted by players and took in Florida’s big basketball win over Arkansas with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Roberson, currently committed to Texas Tech (where his uncle Otis Mounds is the CB coach), may be up for grabs depending how he feels his visit went. Fisher, on the other hand, has his recruitment completely open and is strongly looking around. A former Michigan commit, he decided to weigh his options after head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired.

4 » When Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship game on Sunday with a knee injury, many current and former NFL players took to Twitter in order to bash him. An interesting – and to Gators fans “offensive” – tweet came through from the account of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who likened Cutler’s sitting on the sidelines to Florida head coach Urban Meyer resigning. “Hey I think the Urban Meyer rule is effect right now. When the going gets tough… QUIT,” Jones-Drew wrote. “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee. I played the whole season on one…” Editor’s note: Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the 2010 season (while Jacksonville was still in playoff contention) with a knee injury.

Extra BIT » Though the new coaching staff, including head coach Will Muschamp made a strong case to get him to switch, four-star defensive end Anthony Chickillo decided to reaffirm his commitment to the Miami Hurricanes over the weekend.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Conference

With the 2010-11 NFL regular season having come to a close, a number of Florida Gators participated in Conference Championship action during the NFL Playoffs. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the third week of the playoffs.

S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Six solo tackles

C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Started but suffered an injury in the first quarter and did not return; diagnosed after the game as a high-ankle sprain, which is usually a multiple-week ailment. Pouncey’s status for Super Bowl XLV is unknown.

REGULAR SEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

PLAYOFFS: Wild Card | Divisional

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