Gator Bites for Thursday, September 27

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.

» In his second contribution to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah discusses helping host a basketball tournament that featured members of different local gangs all playing together “to promote peace and bring some positivity into the neighborhood.” Noah, through his Noah’s Arc Foundation, helps “children develop a stronger sense of self” in order to help fulfill their dreams.

What I witnessed was different gangs, different religions and different kinds of people joining forces to address the problems that affect a community they all share. I felt we accomplished our goal on a micro-level for that one day, and hopefully the effects will stretch far beyond.

» Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal recently sat down for some interviews as he prepares to begin his first NBA season. Beal spoke to a member of the Wizards’ staff about going through his first media day as a professional (Video) and The Wall Street Journal (video below) about being a young man suddenly coming into money as a professional basketball player.

Check out 10 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Patriots, WWE, Fallon, Tebow

1 » New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team now has six former Florida Gators on its roster after signing running back Jeff Demps last week, explained Thursday why he has picked up so many players from the team over the years.

Via the Boston Herald.

“First of all, obviously, Florida has a lot of good football players. It’s a great football state. The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school, as do a lot of the other Florida schools. I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer, as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp, so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever. And we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing. Now, not everybody worked out. Some worked out better than others. But that particular class — the [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin the year before that, [David] Nelson, the receiver [Riley] Cooper — those guys in those couple years there. For whatever reason, [Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic. Charlie [Weis] was there last year.

“So I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players in that school, and they were available at the particular times that we were drafting and so forth. Some of it was coincidence. Some of it was maybe a little more homework in a player like Aaron Hernandez, that talent-wise obviously should have been drafted a little higher than what he was, but we were comfortable with Aaron and taking him the time we did. That’s worked out pretty well for us, so sometimes that little bit extra getting to know the player, the person and so forth can come into play. You never know in the draft process. You just never know how it’s going to go.

“Certainly, coincidence is a part of it. Demps, we didn’t really — the guy was running track, so the way it turned out this year, a lot of that was coincidence. It wasn’t that big of a plan, but we’re happy we have the opportunity to work with Jeff and see how it goes.”

2 » On the latest edition of the WWE’s YouTube program Outside the Ring, former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (known by his wrestling name of Titus O’Neil, one half of The Prime Time Players) takes tag team partner Darren Young on a tour of UF. The duo check out some major sites on campus, visit the athletic facilities, meet with Muschamp and Billy Donovan and do some Gator Chomps along the way.

3 » Model-turned-television host Tyra Banks was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday and participated in a skit called Brainstorm in which one person (Banks) gives an answer and another (Fallon) provides the humorous question afterward. The first two answer-question segments on the skit had to do with former Gators, namely Tebow and Olympian Ryan Lochte.

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he was a guest on the WFAN radio show co-hosted by former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason on Thursday but did not get the verbal beat down in person that Esiason has previously provided him with over the airwaves. Esiason previously said that, if he were a member of the Jets front office, he would cut Tebow because he does not benefit the team in any way. On Thursday, however, he was mostly complimentary of Tebow while lobbing him some softball questions that the player, of course, knocked out of the park.

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Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics concluded on Sunday with the Florida Gators bringing home 16 event medals including four gold, six silver and six bronze over the course of 19 days worth of action across the pond.

In an effort to highlight the Gators’ praiseworthy accomplishments while simultaneously recapping over two weeks worth of athletic action, OGGOA presents this wrap up of the presence that Florida’s athletes made at the Olympics. Below you will find facts, figures and highlights of what the Gators accomplished from July 25 through Aug. 12.

You can check out the Olympic results as they happened as well as the official Gator Nation vs. The World medal count and plenty of other information by checking out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

FACTS AND FIGURES

» If Gator Nation was its own country, it would have been ranked 17th overall in the final Olympic medal both in weighted and grand total calculations. The Gators won as many gold medals (four) as Jamaica and Czech Republic and captured one more than Spain, Brazil and South Africa (among others).

» Twelve Florida athletes won a grand total of 18 individual medals (16 event medals) for three countries. Fourteen of the 16 medals won were captured for the United States.

» 35.3 percent of the Gators that competed in the Olympics (12-of-34) won at least one medal. 50 percent (17-of-34) at least reached a final or competed for a medal.

» Ryan Lochte (swimming, United States) led the way with five medals including two golds (one shared in a relay with Conor Dwyer), two silvers and a bronze. Following Lochte with two each were Elizabeth Beisel (swimming, United States) and Will Claye (athletics, United States), who both brought home a silver and a bronze.

» Three other Florida athletes won gold including Christian Taylor (athletics, United States), Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts (football, United States). The rest of the medals included a silver each from Tony McQuay and Jeff Demps (athletics, United States) as well as a bronze each from Lisa Raymond (tennis, United States), Melanie Booth (football, Canada) and Novlene Williams-Mills (athletics, Jamaica).

» Beisel is the only current UF student-athlete that medaled in the Olympics. She will be entering her junior year in 2012.

» Seventeen countries were represented by Gators including the United States (11), Great Britain (6), Cayman Islands and Iceland (two each) and Australia, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain and Tunisia (one each). Florida athletes also competed in five sports categories including swimming (19), athletics (10), football (three), basketball and tennis (one each).

Read the rest of “Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics” after the break…

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FOUR Olympic BITS: Lochte, Wambach, band

1 » Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte said he was disappointed in his performance at the 2012 London Olympics, but it appears as if he will use that as motivation going forward after saying Sunday that he plans to not only compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics but participate in more events as well. “I’m probably going to swim more events in 2016, and I’m going to swim as long as I’m having fun,” he said. Lochte plans to concentrate on shorter events but will keep swimming the 400 Meter Individual medley, an event he says he has not lost in three years. “I told my coach, ‘I’ll stop swimming that event when someone beats me,” he said. Lochte will prepare for 2016 outside of Gainesville, FL as he will now be training on the West Coast. He did say, however, that he will visit from time-to-time to work with Florida head coach Gregg Troy and strength and conditioning coordinator Matt DeLancey.

2 » Already 32 years old, U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach also told the Associated Press over the weekend that she has designs on remaining with the team the 2016 Olympics despite the fact that she’s had a nagging Achilles injury over the last three years. “It’s eased over the last couple of weeks, and I am happy,” she said. “I’ve even been talking about for sure playing through the next Olympics right now if my body can hold up.” Wambach, who entered Monday’s quarterfinals match against Canada with 142 goals in 186 international matches, would almost guarantee herself of matching and surpassing Mia Hamm’s international goal record.

3 » Though Lochte admitted that he was disappointed in his Olympic performance, fans expressing a similar sentiment after having their expectations raised to impossibly high levels have been criticized by some for having those opinions. Taking a different look at Lochte’s successes and failures is Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde, who notes that the effort is what should be praised even if the accomplishments fell short in the eyes of some. “Michael [Phelps] and Ryan are the only guys who have ever done that,” Troy told Forde about the program that the duo took on in London, England. He also notes that Lochte is in a special category with Phelps as two American generalists who “have remained elite across three Olympiads” as each won I.M. medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

4 » The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band completed its Olympic experience one week ago but posted the video below upon their return featuring all 230 band members singing the school’s alma mater at the Tower of London. Check it out:

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Lochte strikes out on gold but adds silver, bronze

Earning five medals in the 2012 London Olympics is nothing to sneeze at though former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte (United States) has likely found a measure of disappointment in his performance at these games.

With an opportunity to add two more gold medals to his catalog, Lochte was caught from behind by two swimmers in the finals of the Men’s 200 Meter Backstroke and never sniffed first place when he went head-to-head against Michael Phelps in the Men’s 200 Meter Individual Medley less than 30 minutes later.

Lochte racked up a bronze and silver in those respective events on Thursday, giving him a total of five medals (two golds, two silvers, one bronze) in London. He lost out on the 200M Backstroke gold by 0.53 seconds and the 200M I.M. gold by 0.63 seconds.

As of press time, Lochte is the most decorated Olympian in London with his five medals though Phelps, who will also swim the Men’s 100 Meter Butterfly and possibly the Men’s 4X100 Meter Medley Relay, has an opportunity to surpass him shortly.

Phelps continued building on his career record with his 20th Olympic medal on Thursday and could get that number up to 21 or 22 before he officially retires.

Lochte has now racked up 11 career Olympic medals including five golds, three silvers and three bronzes. He plans to return for the 2016 Rio Olympics and increase that total.

Joining Lochte in the pool on Thursday were two Gators and one future Florida swimmer competing in the Women’s 200 Meter Backstroke.

Junior Elizabeth Beisel (United States) swam the best semifinal race and advanced to the finals on Friday. Joining her is incoming freshman Sinead Russell (Canada), who finished eighth. Stephanie Proud (Great Britain) missed out on the finals by one place and just 0.28 seconds, finishing slightly behind Russell.

For recaps of their performances, a full schedule (including updated events for Friday), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

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Lochte and Dwyer lead USA to gold in 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay, help Phelps set Olympic record

Tuesday was redemption day for Ryan Lochte and the United States relay team, which made up falling short on Sunday by dominating the Men’s 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay and earning their third-straight Olympic gold medal in the event.

Lochte and fellow former Florida Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer swam the first two legs of the race, giving the Americans a significant and crucial two-second lead through the first 400 meters. Ricky Berens and Michael Phelps took it the rest of the way and cinched a 3.07-second victory for the United States.

For Lochte it was his ninth Olympic medal and third (second gold) of the 2012 London Olympics. He now has five golds, two silvers and two bronzes and has medaled in all but one Olympic final in which he has participated (Men’s 200 Meter Freestyle on Monday).

The gold for Dwyer is his first career Olympic medal; he swam in the event’s preliminary Tuesday morning and finished fifth in the Men’s 400 Meter Freestyle on Saturday.

The cushion provided by Lochte and Dwyer, which was expanded by Berens, gave Phelps a nearly impossible-to-lose four-second lead. He cruised all the way to the end, breaking the career Olympic medals record by capturing his 19th career medal (15 golds, two silver, two bronzes) spanning three Olympics.

Also in the field for the event was Sebastien Rousseau (South Africa), whose relay team finished in seventh place, 9.95 seconds behind the Americans.

No other Florida swimmers competed in medal events on Tuesday though Jemma Lowe (Great Britain) advanced to the finals of the Women’s 200 Meter Butterfly after finishing eighth overall (2:07.37, +1.47) in the semifinals. She will be the only former Gators swimmer competing for an individual medal on Wednesday.

Florida also had athletes in action on the soccer pitch and tennis court on Tuesday.

For recaps of their performances, a full schedule (including updated events for Wednesday), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

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Lochte, Spofforth fall short of medals on Monday

The Florida Gators came away without a notable victory on Monday for the first time in three days of action in the 2012 London Olympics, neither medaling nor having an athlete advance in their respective event.

Swimmers Ryan Lochte (United States) and Gemma Spofforth (Great Britain) both had the opportunity to medal on Monday though each fell short in their respective race.

For Lochte it was the second tough blow he has been dealt in as many days. He finished fourth in the Men’s 200 Meter Freestyle with a time of 1:45.04, 1.90 seconds behind the gold medal winner but just 0.11 seconds out of the silver medal (which wound up being a two-way tie). It is the first time in Lochte’s career that he did not win a medal in an Olympic event in which he participated.

On Sunday he was caught from behind in the final leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay by France’s anchor Yannick Agnel; the Americans, which were favored to win the event, finished 0.45 seconds behind the French and earned the silver medal.

Angel also took individual gold from Lochte in the 200M Freestyle on Monday.

Spofforth competed in the finals of the Women’s 100 Meter Backstroke and finished fifth in 59.20 seconds, 0.87 seconds out of the top spot. Though she did not medal, her world record time of 58.12 seconds (which she set in 2009) remained intact.

Be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics for a full schedule, live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count.

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OGGOA Week(end) in Review: July 26-29

Considering so much has gone on over the last few days in regards to the Florida Gators, the OGGOA Week In Review returns for its third edition. (Yes, it is just covering a four-day period, but let’s just all agree to ignore that.) Be sure to check out all of the posts in case you happened to miss a thing or two.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING / FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
» The day before Friday Night Lights was set to commence, Florida received a commitment from 2013 defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), who vaulted the program five spots from 10th to 5th in the Rivals team recruiting rankings and immediately became the Gators’ highest-rated player of the cycle.

» Florida doubled up on commitments before FNL even began as three-star defensive end Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA) chose UF over Georgia and committed even though he could not make it to campus for the event.

» There were rumblings all week that the Gators would receive a commitment from another highly-rated defensive prospect, but FNL came and went without him announcing his pledge. Four-star DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) remained in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, however, and made his verbal commitment public.

» Florida received its fourth commitment in as many days on Sunday when 2014 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, FL), expected to be one of the top players at his position when recruiting rankings are released for his class, ended his recruitment early and decided that he wanted to play for the Gators, too.

» More rumblings on Sunday indicated that Florida could go five-for-five in commitments and bring in a talented but underrated offensive playmaker on Monday though it remains to be seen if head coach Will Muschamp will give him a commitable offer and the opportunity to join the Gators.

2012 LONDON OLYMPICS
OGGOA has been offering full coverage of the Olympics all event long on this dedicated page, which includes a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, daily schedule and direct LIVE streaming links to each event as it takes place. Below are some notes in case you have not visited it yet and want a quick refresher.

» Ryan Lochte (United States) won two medals over the weekend including a gold in the Men’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the fourth such medal of his Olympic career. Lochte also swam the final leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Freestyle Relay but got caught from behind over the final 50 meters; the team finished with a silver. He will compete in the Men’s 200 Meter Freestyle finals on Monday afternoon.

» Junior Elizabeth Beisel (United States) took silver in the Women’s 400 Meter Individual Medley, the first Olympic medal of her young career. She nearly won the gold but was bested over the last 150 meters.

» Thirteen other Gators (as well as one incoming freshman) competed in Olympic action over the four-day span though none of them were able to join Lochte and Beisel in bringing home medals as of yet. Striker Abby Wambach was dominant once again in soccer and got a black eye in her match on Saturday, though she scored a goal in retaliation and mocked her assailant during her celebration.

» “Gator Nation” is currently eighth in the Olympic medal standings with one gold and two silver. You can view the full medal breakdown on OGGOA‘s dedicated Olympics page.

FORMER PLAYERS SPEAK OUT
» Florida quarterback Shane Matthews praised Muschamp and the current Gators coaching staff while noting that he was frustrated with the way former head coach Urban Meyer and his staff developed play callers and recruited in his waning years.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he definitely had more fun at Florida than QB Tim Tebow did and provided an interesting answer when he was asked how much class he attended during his junior season when he was helping the Gators win the second of their back-to-back basketball national championships.

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