6 BITS: Speights, Hernandez, Calathes, Robinson

1 » Former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights declined his 2013-14 player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and will test free agency, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Speights, who would have earned $4.515 million from the Cavaliers had he exercised his option, will likely join his fourth team in six NBA seasons unless he is signed by Cleveland, Memphis or Philadelphia, which selected him with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Speights was traded on Jan. 22 to the Cavaliers where he averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

2 » The prosecution in the State of Massachusetts’ case against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is now of the belief that all three men involved in the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd are now in custody, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said in a statement. Ernest Wallace, 41, turned himself into Miramar, FL, police on Friday after seeing his name on the news. Investigators are now focused on finding the murder weapon as they continue to piece together a case that is based on Hernandez being the lone shooter.

RELATED: Aaron Hernandez charged with first degree murder

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » 6 BITS: Speights, Hernandez, Calathes, Robinson

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Four-star DT Khairi Clark pulls trigger for Gators

Continuing to make an impact in the South Florida recruiting scene, the Florida Gators on Saturday landed one of the top 2014 defensive tackles in the country when four-star Khairi Clark (Hollywood, FL) verbally committed to the program.

According to InsidetheGators.com’s Blake Alderman, Clark’s pledge was not expected by the Gators’ coaching staff. He first announced his commitment on Twitter.

“Just committed to the University of Florida!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” he wrote.

Ranked by Rivals as the No. 139 overall player in his class, Clark chose Florida over Miami but was also offered by Alabama.

Clark (6-foot-2, 325-pounds) had not visited Gainesville, FL, until he came to town for the Gators’ final spring practice but obviously left impressed.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and defensive line coach Brad Lawing were both instrumental in his recruitment, according to ITG.

The Gators’ third-highest rated pledge and 11th commitment overall, Clark is joined along the defensive line by four-star DT Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and three-star defensive end Taven Bryan (Casper, WY).

He is also listed as a four-star prospect (No. 147 overall) by ESPN but is considered a five-star player by Scout.

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15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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

» Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a die-hard Florida Gators fan, does the Gator Chomp after hitting a double off St. Louis Cardinals left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, a former Florida State player, on Friday night. [Special thanks to OGGOA reader Mitchell M. for sending this in.]

» Sports Illustrated soccer columnist Grant Wahl penned a terrific column on former Florida striker Abby Wambach, who passed Mia Hamm and set a new career international goals record on Thursday.

» A total of 21 Gators (10 former and 11 current) are presently in Des Moines, IA, competing in the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes participating in the event from June 19-23 have the opportunity to qualify for the 2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia from Aug. 10-18.

Omar Craddock and Will Claye became the first two Florida representatives to qualify on Thursday when they finished one-two in the men’s triple jump. Craddock took the American title with a mark of 17.15m/56-4.25, while Claye finished second with a 17.04m/55-11 jump. Also advancing to Moscow was Ugonna Ndu, who participated at the All-Nigeria Athletics Championships, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 13.4 seconds. Numerous other Gators advanced in their respective disciplines, and OGGOA will provide updates as each event finishes.

» Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right fibula, is finally expected to return to the court in just over a week. According to the Washington Post, Beal will likely be cleared by doctors on July 1, three months after his injury was initially diagnosed. The Wizards were originally hoping Beal would be able to participate in the NBA Summer League games, but it is unlikely that the team takes the risk of putting him into action so soon after he returns from injury. It is more likely that Beal will next play meaningful basketball alongside Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons during 2013 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini-Camp from July 22-25 in Las Vegas, NV.

Check out 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!

Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Friday, June 21

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Four-star RB Dalvin Cook flips to Florida Gators

The Florida Gators football program has now flipped two offensive commitments from the Clemson Tigers in the last four months after learning Saturday following its final spring practice that four-star 2014 running back Dalvin Cook (Miami, FL) has changed his mind and decided to play college football in Gainesville, FL.

The No. 22 player in the nation originally committed the Tigers on June 13, 2012, but has long had interest in playing for the Gators. Cook visited Florida one week ago and spent two days in Gainesville. He decided to return on Saturday for the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut and made his intentions known that evening.

“It was really great up there and I had a blast,” he told Rivals last week.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is Cook’s main recruiter and has apparently showed him a great time on consecutive visits. Head coach Will Muscahmp has also been gung-ho on signing the playmaker.

Cook called himself “solid” to Clemson one week ago but is now fully invested at Florida. He also has offers from Alabama, Florida State and Miami, among others.

He is the ninth member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class and the team’s second-highest rated player behind four-star quarterback Will Grier (Davidson, NC). Florida now has six Rivals250 pledges as well as five total on the offensive side of the ball and six from the state of Florida.

Cook’s flip was first reported by FOX Sports‘ Amy Campbell.

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Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Pro Day

Through the 2013 NFL Draft from April 25-27, Florida Gators safety and 2012 leading tackler Josh Evans will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Evans’s fifth entry covers his second return to Gainesville, FL during the offseason, the Pro Day workout on Tuesday and what his plans are for the next three weeks as he continues to workout and meet with teams.

I came back up to Gainesville late last week and the first thing I did was settle in to my place and meet up with a massage therapist to get my hamstring rubbed down. It’s just a strain. It’s something I felt during the combine. It’s kind of nagging, but it feels alright. Once I get to top speed, it is sometimes hard to maintain without it giving out. But I’m feeling better each day and we have a phenomenal training staff here at Florida so I know they’ll get me back to 100 percent in no time.

Over the weekend I also worked out a bit, did a few starts and warmed up, nothing too big because the Pro Day was in a couple of days. So I basically just worked on my flexibility and made sure I was good to go. I also met with San Francisco on Monday and had a great talk with them.

A lot of people noticed how I now have a yellow stripe in my hair. I got that done two days ago just to do something a bit different. I don’t plan to have it long, but I wanted to have it for Pro Day because I figured it would definitely help me stand out on the field.

As far as Pro Day goes, I was pretty comfortable the whole time. Any time you come back to your home field, The Swamp, there’s always that comfort you have being around your teammates and seeing the coaching staff you’ve dealt with for the last few years. I did not feel nervous; however, you still want to go out there and perform well in front of the head coaches, general managers and scouts. It was a pretty good day to get out there and run around, and I felt like all went well.

We were all concerned a bit when we first got out there saw it was raining because you don’t want to run on a wet field if you can help it. We try not to use excuses of course, but to be honest, the field was wet. The balls were even wet sometimes. We managed to overcome the obstacle and all performed well.

Continue Reading » Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Pro Day

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Muschamp, Durkin discuss Florida Gators defense

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2013 spring practice on Wednesday, head coach Will Muschamp and new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics concerning the team’s defense.

RELATED: Spring depth chart released | Muschamp, Pease on offense

A NEW MAN IN CHARGE…

Durkin will be entering his fourth year as a member of the Gators’ coaching staff but will begin the 2013 season with a brand new task – coordinating a defense. After spending his career as a position coach and special teams coordinator, Durkin is now the man in charge of Florida’s defense and realizes he has plenty of work ahead of him.

» Durkin on becoming the defensive coordinator: “I’m very excited, excited because of the guys I get to work with both players and coaches. I think it’s a great opportunity. I’m very excited about it. It’s a new challenge. I’ve been doing special teams for a while, so any time you do something for that long, you kind of get in your routine and get to the normalcies of it and all that. It’s exciting for me to have a new challenge and some different things to work on and do.”

» Durkin on his defensive philosophy: “The number one thing that it comes down to is, and I think you’ve seen the identity of our defense, what we as a staff want to build here. We want to be tough, blue-collar team. We want to play with unbelievable effort and enthusiasm in what we’re doing. That’s the way I coach. That’s my personality. That’s what I hope I’ve carried over to our special teams while I’m here and it will be the same thing with our defense. We got a great system in place. We’re not changing terminology and all that. Coach Muschamp, it’s his system and he’s a great defensive mind. It’s been great for all of us to learn that system. To me, that is what this game is all about, being a blue-collar team, both mentally and physically tough, playing with great enthusiasm and great attitude. “

Continue Reading » Muschamp, Durkin discuss Florida Gators defense

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Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Two weeks of training and a return to Gainesville

Through the 2013 NFL Draft from April 25-27, Florida Gators safety and 2012 leading tackler Josh Evans will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Evans’s third entry covers his training regimen over the last two weeks, how he continues to prepare for the 2013 NFL Combine (which begins for him on Saturday), a trip he and Matt Elam took to Gainesville, FL last weekend and how Florida’s defense has prepared him for the next chapter in his playing career.

These last two weeks in training there has been a lot of focus on our 10- and 20-yard splits, seeing how we’ve improved from the start of camp and making some final adjustments to our body positioning. I’ve seen a lot of progress as far as where I was at the first week to where I’m at now. I’m getting off the line a lot quicker with much better form and it is showing up in the final times.

It’s crazy to see how much I’ve improved in the defensive back drills, cone drills, the figure-eight drills and the pro shuttle. Learning the new techniques and being taught how to explode out and plant my foot has really made a difference. In the past, I was just using my speed and talent to do a drill. Proper technique is much more important and can help get time down because you are being more productive in your movements.

It’s totally different doing these drills now then during the course of an offseason program or football practice. Sometimes you end up practicing a bad habit in college because you do it so fast that you don’t pay attention to technique. Repping it day by day has definitely helped me a lot with muscle memory, getting the steps down pat, counting the steps and knowing once I explode out of the gate how to cut and plant.

Last week we had some time to recuperate and get out strength back. The trainers gave our legs and bodies a bit of a break but still made sure we were giving it our all with what they assigned us. Every Wednesday we do warm up stretches and then yoga. I had never tried yoga before doing this training.

Continue Reading » Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: Two weeks of training and a return to Gainesville

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Will Muschamp discusses Florida Gators’ 2013 recruiting class; coaches evaluate new signees

P Johnny Townsend: commit No. 30 | OL/TE Trevon Young: commit No. 29 | JUCO DT Jarran Reed: commit No. 28 | DT Jay-nard Bostwick: commit No. 27 | 30 new player bios | Video interviews with coaches | “Closing”, quarterback situation

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff completed its 28-member 2013 recruiting class on National Signing Day. Below are the most notable quotes from that session as well as player evaluations made by other members of the coaching staff.

Opening statement:

“I’m really proud of our staff. Today is a culmination of a lot of hard work, effort, sometimes two-and-a-half, three years put together on a young man and you come down to signing day and you sit at the fax machine and hope that thing comes through. I hope it’s signed right and it’s dated and all that kind of good stuff. Recruiting is all about building relationships. We’ll know about this class in two or three years. It’s a developmental game. …

“We had a deep signing class this year, which means you’ve got to a have a larger board as far as the numbers are concerned at each position, which also to me was very appealing. At some positions we signed five wide receivers [for example]. Those are five guys that want to come in here and compete. Sometimes when you get some numbers you start getting guys looking at that depth chart and numbers and they’re not real sure about coming in and competing for the Gators. We want guys that got a lot of confidence that they can come in the SEC and play in The Swamp and play for the University of Florida.

“This class is very balanced. It’s a high-character class with toughness, all the position criteria we look for as far as size and speed and then all of the off-the-field things we’re looking for. It’s a very committed class. A lot of these guys are guys that have been committed to us for a long time and never took other visits; there was not a lot of flash in their recruiting process. That’s the kind of guys you want; you want guys that are like that. …

“The coaching process is really about four things – evaluation, recruiting, developing and coaching. I think in our two years, you’ve seen on the recruiting trail – from an evaluation standpoint and a recruiting standpoint – that we’ve got a staff that can do it at a high level. I’m very proud of the staff and the job that they’ve [done] and all of our support staff on campus. … There’s a true commitment level at this place for excellence, and I appreciate their support.”

» On commitments being the best recruiters: “They understand the importance of having good players around them. This coaching stuff is way overrated. It’s about players at the end of the day, and they want to play with other good players.”

» On if he looks at player star ratings from recruiting services: “Absolutely no consideration at all. We commit most of our guys before they ever come out, so maybe they look at our ratings.”

Read much more from Muschamp and the Florida coaching staff…after the break!
Continue Reading » Will Muschamp discusses Florida Gators’ 2013 recruiting class; coaches evaluate new signees

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