The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 6

Looking for more gold in Cleveland

Giving up more money, more years and a starting role, former Florida Gators forward Mike Miller officially inked a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, returning to the side of LeBron James for the second time in his career.

Miller will continue his career at a rate of $5.6 million with the Cavaliers. Cleveland gave the 34-year-old a player option for the 2015-16 season for the second year of that deal as well as a 15 percent trade kicker should it try to move him.

A two-time NBA Champion, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2006 NBA Sixth Man of the Year has put together an exceedingly successful career since being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. In fact, he may very well be the most successful former Gators player in NBA history when his total list of accomplishments is taken into account.

Now with his sixth team, Miller will spend his fourth season next to James. During the first nine seasons of his career, Miller’s teams won just 46.2 percent of their games; however, over the last four, he’s been winning games at a 68.3 percent clip. Miller no doubt expects that that trend to continue with the Cavaliers.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 6

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12 Gator Bites for Wednesday, January 22

From time to time, OnlyGators.com 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. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Returns from the first two days of practice ahead of the 2014 Senior Bowl have been positive for the three Florida Gators in attendance with cornerback and OnlyGators.com Path to the Draft blogger Jaylen Watkins drawing the most rave reviews on Tuesday. “Watkins balled out today,” said Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg. “Had [a] pick, caused fumble & at least five [pass breakups].” Concurred CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler: “Watkins is one of the better players here that isn’t much talked about. I’m a big fan.” An AFC scout in attendance at the practices told OnlyGators.com that his team already has Watkins pegged as a potential second day draft selection.

» The first day of the inaugural all-star draft for the 2014 Pro Bowl was held on Tuesday with Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey going off the board as the first player chosen at his position. He will play for Team (Deion) Sanders. The second half of the draft will be held on Wednesday with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden waiting to be picked.

» San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald tore his biceps tendon in Week 6 but played through the injury all the way up until his team fell in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Now done for the season, McDonald is scheduled to have the tendon reattached with a surgery upcoming, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12 Gator Bites for Wednesday, January 22

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SIX BITS: Prather, Grier, Phillilps, Patton, Wickline

1 » The Florida Gators on Sunday announced that senior forward Casey Prather (knee) is being listed as “doubtful” for Tuesday’s home contest against the Georgia Bulldogs as he is still dealing with a bone bruise he apparently suffered last Wednesday. Prather, Florida’s leading scorer who has posted double-digit point totals in all 14 game he’s played this season, has missed three practices already.

2 » The Independent Florida Alligator’s Adam Lichtenstein, citing an anonymous tip provided to the paper, uncovered a video posted on the Vine account of Gators four-star quarterback commit Will Grier (titled “Lax es gay”) that appears to show him using the homophobic slur beginning with “F” nine times before declaring, “[Lacrosse] is gay.” The video was posted to his account 269 days ago, exactly four months after he committed to UF. (The video linked above contains offensive language not condoned by OnlyGators.com.) As Lichtenstein correctly points out, “this is unacceptable behavior from Grier” and is something that should absolutely have been addressed by Florida. Though the school had no reason to address this publicly at that time – he was not a member of the program yet – one would think that those in charge of monitoring the social media accounts of Gators recruits would have strongly suggested he remove the video. After all, it has been hiding in plain sight for nearly nine months.

3 » According to Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls, Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips is one of three men being considered by head coach Charlie Strong to serve as Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator. Phillips has spent five years in an offensive coordinator role, holding that exact position at Kentucky from 2005-08 and working as “head coach of offense” at his alma mater in 2009 when he was named Rich Brooks’s successor. Prior to that, Phillips spent 13 of 14 years coaching wide receivers and was widely considered a coach who had not been given a fair opportunity to move up in the ranks. He was head coach at UK from 2010-12 before being fired and taking over as the Gators’ wide receivers coach in 2013. Phillips is entering the second year of a two-year contract and is set to earn $265,000 this season.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Prather, Grier, Phillilps, Patton, Wickline

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Charlie Strong officially named Texas head coach

Updated on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Former Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals for the last four seasons, officially accepted the same job with the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night.

According to SI.com, Texas and Strong came to an agreement on a five-year deal worth approximately $5 million per season.

Horns247 first reported Friday that Strong decided to take over for Mack Brown, who coached the Longhorns from 1998-2013, and the school officially announced his arrival on Sunday with a press conference scheduled for Monday.

A respected defensive mind who spent 16 years as an assistant at Florida, Strong became a head coach for the first time in 2010 and has led Louisville to a 38-15 record (23-3 over the last two seasons).

“I’m excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country,” Strong said in the Texas press release announcing his hiring. “Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It’s special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.”

He added: “This was a difficult decision because the University of Louisville gave me my first opportunity as a head coach. I have so much respect for President [James] Ramsey and [athletic director] Tom Jurich. They have been great to me and my family, and it was very hard to say goodbye, but they know this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Strong served as a graduate assistant with the Gators from 1983-84, outside linebackers coach from 1988-89, assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach from 1991-94, and defensive coordinator from 2002-09. He worked under Charley Pell, Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer at Florida and also served as interim head coach for the 2004 Peach Bowl (L 27-10).

Continue Reading » Charlie Strong officially named Texas head coach

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Cowherd on Muschamp vs. Kiffin: A breakdown

ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd spent nearly seven minutes on his nationally syndicated show Thursday afternoon discussing current Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and both comparing him to USC head coach Lane Kiffin and questioning why he would be up for the Texas job, which is not open as of press time.

Below is the segment from Cowherd’s program with his words in block quotes. Be aware that it is broken down into multiple sections.

Continue Reading » Cowherd on Muschamp vs. Kiffin: A breakdown

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No. 4 Texas blanks No. 2 Florida 3-0, eliminating Gators from Women’s College World Series

Forced to take the field less than 13 hours after last leaving it, No. 2 Florida Gators softball simply could not make contact with the ball, only registering one hit and striking out 14 times as the No. 4 Texas Longhorns picked up a 3-0 win in Sunday’s Women’s College World Series elimination game.

Florida (58-9) got most of its base runners on walks and hit batters as Texas (50-9) ace Blaire Luna kept the Gators at bay with her great command and terrific riseball, shutting out UF for the first and only time this season.

After getting a lead-off batter on board and in scoring position for the third-straight inning, the Longhorns finally delivered in the top of the third. With one down and runners on first and second, Kim Bruins lifted a ball just over the left field fence and off the outstretched glove of Gators sophomore left fielder Brianna Little for a three-run homer that provided Texas an early 3-0 advantage.

Florida responded by loading the bases in the bottom frame on a walk and two batters being hit by pitches, but sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger stranded all three of her teammates by striking out on a full count to end the inning.

Luna no-hit the Gators for 3.1 innings until freshman catcher Taylore Fuller finally smacked a single down the left field line. Florida wound up with two down and runners on first and second but left the inning without plating a run as sophomore pinch hitter Bailey Castro registered UF’s ninth strikeout in the first four innings.

Junior right-hander Hannah Rogers (7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) allowed too many lead-off batters on but only struggled mightily in the top of the third. Luna (7.0 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 14 K) simply out-pitched her as the Gators swung at too many pitches outside and off the plate. UF struck out 39 times during 29 innings of WCWS play (three games), an average of 1.34 times per inning.

Florida concludes the 2013 season by exceeding everyone’s expectations. The Gators swept the Southeastern Conference Championships (regular-season, tournament) and were ranked as a top-five team in the nation over their final 62 games of the 2013 campaign. UF advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th-straight season and moved on to the WCWS for the fifth time in the last six years.

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FOUR BITS: soccer, volleyball, Raymond, Starks

1 » Coming off a terrific weekend where they managed a draw and victory over a pair of ranked opponents, No. 22 Florida Gators soccer was feeling the momentum heading into a showdown with the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles on Friday. FSU (3-0) put that sense to rest quickly, scoring 10 minutes into the match via a header off a throw-in and holding off Florida for the remainder of the contest (despite UF finding a number of scoring opportunities) to earn a hard-fought 1-0 victory. The Gators got a measure of revenge Sunday by dominating the Florida International Panthers in their first home match in more than two weeks. Florida (2-2-1) won 3-0 over FIU (2-2) thanks to a pair of goals from sophomore midfielder Havana Solaun (13’, 58’) and another from redshirt senior forward McKenzie Barney at 27’. UF has a light weekend ahead, hosting New Mexico on Sunday at 1 p.m. before beginning their league slate next week.

2 » No. 18 Gators volleyball also faced some stiff competition over the weekend while up in University Park, PA competing in the Nike Big Four Classic. Florida (3-2) was swept 3-0 by the No. 2 Texas Longhorns (5-0) on Friday and fell 3-1 to the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal (3-2) on Saturday. Freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek stood out in a big way against Texas, recording 22 kills which “marks the best 3-set hitting performance by a freshman in Florida history and ties her for third-best in a 3-set match in program history,” according to the school. She continued her dominance on Saturday with 15 more kills in the four-set match. Junior middle back Chloe Mann combined for 29 kills over the two games. UF will now remain home for its next four matches as it plays the Slovenian Junior National Team in an exhibition game Monday before hosting the Active Ankle Challenge (in which they will play three games) from Sept. 7-8.

3 » Coming off an Olympic bronze medal in mixed doubles, former Gators tennis star Lisa Raymond hoped to keep the magic going while competing in the US Open, the major in which she has found the most career success, over the weekend. Unfortunately Raymond, as part of the No. 2-ranked mixed doubles pairing with fellow American Mike Bryan, fell to Brazil in first-round action and was eliminated from the tournament. She and partner Liezel Huber, the No. 1-ranked women’s doubles duo in the world, did advance to the third round of that tournament but lost to the No. 16-ranked team from Spain 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Raymond has won 13 career grand slam titles, five of which (three women’s doubles, two mixed doubles) have come at the US Open.

4 » Former Florida offensive lineman Max Starks, coming off a pair of injuries in as many seasons, has twice now been tossed to the scrap heap by the Pittsburgh Steelers only to be brought back as a major contributor. After signing a four-year, $26.3 million contract in the 2009 offseason, Starks was cut in July of 2011 after neck problems and weight issues gave the team cause for concern. Pittsburgh wound up re-signing him after injuries plagued their offensive line, and Starks started at left tackle for the rest of the season. He then tore his anterior cruciate in the Steelers’ playoff loss and did not have his one-year contract renewed. However, just like last season, Pittsburgh brought him back (this time in July) on a one-year deal. The team announced this weekend that Starks will be their starting left tackle on opening day. “There was no way I was thinking when I get healthy they’ll re-sign me,” Starks told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I wanted to get healthy and figured teams will be out there, and, if I have to wait through training camp and into the season like last year, I’ll do that, prepare for that. It just so happens, there was an opportunity to come back. It was a blessing.”

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Florida softball passes road test in Palm Springs

Participating in the 2012 Cathedral City Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Palm Springs, CA over the long weekend, No. 1 Florida Gators softball (13-1) won four of the five games they played and went 2-1 against top 25-ranked opponents. Though Florida may get knocked down from their top ranking when the new polls are released Tuesday, the Gators still found plenty of success over the weekend.

Florida started the event with back-to-back games against top competition on Thursday afternoon. UF defeated the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 p.m. start before falling to the No. 5 Washington Huskies at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators scored six runs on five hits in the early contest, using sharp hitting from junior catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) to help propel them to a 6-5 victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers pitched a complete game, striking out seven while giving up four earned runs (three in the top of the seventh) on nine hits with two walks.

Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger suffered her first loss of the season in the latter contest, allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Washington led 1-0 through 2.5 innings, but Florida took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after a triple from freshman second baseman Katie Medina (2-3, RBI, R) and a single by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-4, RBI) sent two runs in. UF would not score again, leaving six on base over the course of the contest), as UW scored pairs of runs in the top of the fifth and six to pull away with a 5-2 win.

Gators head coach Tim Walton gave Haeger an immediate opportunity for redemption, throwing her in the team’s 1 p.m. game against the Brigham Young Cougars on Friday. Florida took down BYU 3-0 thanks partially to Haeger (4-1), who struck out five while scattering five hits and two walks in six innings. Fellow freshman RHP Alyssa Bache came on for the final inning, striking out two to earn her first save of the season. UF scored all three of their runs on two dingers including a solo shot by junior designated hitter Ensley Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and a two-run bomb by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) one inning later.

Gammel and Coyle found their power strokes again in the Gators’ second match-up on Friday, a 5-1 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. Florida got to the plate in the top of the first, but Texas matched the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the second. Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and Coyle (1-3 RBI, R) then each connected on home runs in the top of the fourth, vaulting UF ahead of UT permanently. Haeger (1-2, 2 RBI) and Schutte (0-2, RBI, BB, SB) were responsible for the other runs in the game, while Rogers only gave up four hits while striking out eight in a complete game outing that did not include an earned run.

Rogers (8-0) earned her third win in as many days on Saturday by striking out five and scattering five hits with only one walk in a complete game outing as the Gators took down the Boise State Broncos 3-0 to close out their road trip. Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first to give Florida an early advantage, and junior right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-3, RBI, R) smacked a solo homer in the fifth to extend UF’s lead.

It should come as no surprise that some of the team’s best performers over the weekend – Schutte, Coyle, Gammel and Medina – all hail from the state of California.

The Gators returned to Gainesville, FL on Saturday and will remain in town by hosting an event next weekend. Florida will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday before competing in the Lipton Invitational from March 2-4. UF will take on EMU again on Friday as part of the event along with Gardner-Webb (twice), Tennessee State and Campbell. The Gators are set to open Southeastern Conference play on March 7.

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