FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Harvin, FSU, Tebow

1 » A rough rookie season has not deterred the Miami Dolphins from committing to former Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis. Though he started his NFL career on fire with 10-straight makes, Sturgis suffered a slump where he missed 5-of-8 (some of which were in tough conditions and others from absurd long distances). He ended the 2014 season by making 13 of his final 16 tries and should only get better in his second campaign. “Every day you go out there, you want to hit every field goal,” Sturgis told his team’s website. “You try. When you get in a rhythm where you’re hitting every field goal you make, you stay at a consistent level.”

2 » The Seattle Seahawks continue to treat oft-injured wide receiver Percy Harvin with kid gloves, only allowing him to work out every other day in training camp. After an off day Saturday, Harvin returned to action Sunday and impressed once again. Head coach Pete Carroll explained to the team’s website how the Seahawks are being cautious with Harvin. “We want to work our way into camp and make sure we don’t overload him early,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what kind of work load he can handle. He works so hard and so fast at practice that we think we can do this for a while. We’ll see how it goes and we’re just going to learn as we go.” For Harvin, who was famous for trying to avoid practicing every day with the Florida Gators, this appears to be as ideal of a scenario as he could imagine.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, five Gator Chomps

1 » The SEC Network launches in less than a month, and former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is signed on to be a featured analyst on the channel. While Tebow, by all accounts, is prepared for his new gig, he has certainly not given up on his desire to play in the NFL this season. According to a report from FOX 10 out of Phoenix, Arizona, Tebow has been spending plenty of time in Scottsdale training with Ian Danney in the scorching sun. The video clip below shows Tebow playing Danney-ball, a game in which players toss a 10-pound heavy ball over a net on a sand volleyball court.


In other Tebow news… A new poll has Tebow out of the top 10 when ranking the most popular athletes in the nation; he came in No. 8 just year ago while prepared to enter training camp with his third NFL team. Tebow is also prepared to open his third PDQ restaurant chain, this one at the Oakleaf Town Center in Jacksonville, Florida. He has already cut the ribbon at one location in Ocala and has plans to open another in Gainesville in the next six months.

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4 BITS: Nelson, Andrews, Jordan, Summer League

1 » During an interview with the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson was asked about former teammate Aaron Hernandez and whether he ever had an inkling that the former tight end was be capable of going off the rails. “You know, there was definitely some tendencies – I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t – but it was a huge surprise,” he said. “It really shocked me. Because this is a guy I saw get into a fight in practice and [he was] crying 15 minutes later because he had just hurt his teammate. So this was a guy who was extremely sensitive, he was extremely vulnerable, but the thing is, he was who he hung out with. So if he was hanging out with somebody he was very influenced.

Nelson corroborated what has been reported elsewhere, that members of the Florida Gators were worried about Hernandez going home to Connecticut and hanging out with his old crowd. He also noted that head coach Urban Meyer purposely put Hernandez around himself and Tim Tebow to help improve his character. “You saw some issues with him in college, but they were minor – some drug stuff and that was about it – but nothing to this extreme,” Nelson added. “So he started to hang out with the wrong crowd, get a lot of fame, a lot of money, start to get that ‘I can do whatever I want’ invincible kind of mentality a lot of NFL guys get. And I think you saw him make a really bad mistake.”

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4 BITS: USA Basketball, PGA, Tebow, Shanahan

1 » Minor surgery to address a “core muscle injury” has kept Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee off the USA Basketball men’s national team as it reports to training camp from July 28 to Aug. 1 ahead of the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain. However, two former Florida Gators have made the 19-player training camp roster with Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons both being given the opportunity to make the 12-man team. As it turns out, Parsons was not one of the 28 players who made the original pool as announced on Jan. 22. His tremendous play last season, coupled with Lee’s inability to compete, opened up a spot for the man who just signed a three-year, $46 million contract. It is the third-straight season that Lee has undergone surgery in the offseason; he averaged 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 2013-14.

2 » Two former Florida golfers – instead of three as previously scheduled – are competing at The Open Championship but only one is currently above the assumed cut line after the first round. Billy Horschel shot a +1 (73) on Thursday and is currently tied for 66th at seven shots behind the leader, Rory McIlroy. Coming in nearly 20 places behind Horschel is Matt Every, who stroked a +3 (75) and is in a 19-way tie for 105th. Unfortunately, former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia, who looks forward to the event each year, had to withdraw from the event due to travel issues. “Right now I thought I’d be on [the] 3rd hole of mini practice [round] at the Open!! Best we could do is a flight to West Palm Beach,” wrote the 54-year-old 1989 winner on Twitter. “Totally depressed I can’t be at my fave tourney in the world!! American Airlines killed us for no reason weather was fine #dontgetit” As a prior British Open champion, Calcavecchia qualifies for an automatic spot each year until he turns 60 years of age, meaning he only had the opportunity to play in seven (now six) more British Open events. He currently plays on the Champions Tour, which is restricted to golfers over 50.

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4 BITS: SEC Media Day, Driskel, softball, Tebow

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced Wednesday that Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will join head coach Will Muschamp as the school’s contingent at the 2014 SEC Media Days next week in Hoover, Alabama. Florida is one of just two SEC teams not bringing a senior on the trip, a departure from the past when the Gators tried to ensure all three spots were taken by players in their last year of eligibility. The event is scheduled from July 14-17 with Florida set to be the third contingent to go through the process behind league commissioner Mike Slive and Auburn. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier will entertain on Tuesday, LSU’s Les Miles will follow suit on Wednesday and Alabama’s Nick Saban will kick things off on Thursday.

2 » Speaking of Driskel, UF’s school website announced that he will be working as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy from July 10-13. It is the second-straight year Driskel will be attending the event in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and he will represent the Gators as one of 40 college signal callers working as counselors. He also participated once as a camper during high school. “The few chances I did get to speak with [the Mannings at previous camps], it was really good experiences,” Driskel said. “They are down-to-earth people and I’m just fortunate enough they invited me back for another year. I’m really looking forward to going.” Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has a long history with former Ole Miss QB Eli Manning after working as his position coach, so Driskel will likely have another topic to discuss with the Mannings over the weekend.

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FOUR BITS: Playoff, Brissett, Tebow, Webb

1 » FOXSports.com college football columnist Bruce Feldman believes the Florida Gators face the third-toughest road to the 2014 College Football Playoff, only behind Arkansas and California. With Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State on the schedule – plus a rebuilding Tennessee and improving Kentucky along with a Vanderbilt team that snapped its 22-year losing streak to UF – Feldman believes the Gators will wind up facing up to five top 15 opponents by the time the regular season has concluded. As a means of comparison, the Razorbacks will take on Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and LSU with games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State peppered in there as well.

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Breakdown: 2008 Florida Gators – one of the greatest teams in college football history

Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer opined during a football camp last week that his 2008 squad, winners of the 2009 BCS Championship, were the best team in the history of college football.

Though measuring such a claim is near-impossible, Meyer can rightly boast that his 2008 roster and coaching staff were supremely special.

One-fourth of the Gators’ official 120-man roster – which includes walk-ons – has either played a game in the NFL or is currently under contract with a team in the league.

Florida’s roster had 19 players eventually selected in the NFL Draft including six first-round picks, five second-round picks, a third-round pick, two fourth-round picks, four fifth-round picks and a seventh-round pick. Only three of those draft selections are no longer in the league (for a variety of reasons, see table).

Additionally, a total of 11 players signed after the process as undrafted free agents have either played in the NFL or are currently a member of an NFL roster.

UF’s success did not stop at the players on the field.

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13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

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.

» Florida Gators redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”

» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.

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