FOUR BITS: Quinn, Black, Strong, Rosario

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who has mostly been out on the road recruiting since the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, has been assigned the Jacksonville, FL area as his primary recruiting grounds, according to The Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports that Quinn visited a number of area high schools on Friday and notes that Florida could be interested in two Yulee High School players over the next two seasons – tight end/linebacker Kelvin Rainey in 2012 and running back Derrick Henry in 2013.

2 » When former Gators safety Ahmad Black presented the game ball from the 2011 Outback Bowl to Ian Lockwood, it was obvious the two (and then-head coach Urban Meyer) had formed a special bond. In Mobile, AL for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Black spoke with the Pensacola News Journal about his friendship with Lockwood and how the two became so close so quickly. “He opened the door to the Florida football program,” said Lockwood’s high school football coach Chad Lashley. “That has meant the world to Ian. It just shows the unbelievable character of Ahmad and his concern for other people. With him getting that interception, it was just the perfect ending.” You can read more thoughts from Black and Lashley by clicking here.

3 » Taking the Louisville Cardinals to a 7-6 record and earning Big East Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2010, head coach Charlie Strong appears to be in line for a new contract with a substantial raise, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which spoke with athletic director Tom Jurich. “We want to do [give him a raise], but this staff has been busy and they’re doing a great job, so when signing day is over and we get some time, we’re definitely going to address that,” Jurich said. “It’s been great that he’s been able to keep his staff together to this point, and I can tell you those guys are really getting after it and they’re having a great time. They’re on a rocket ship right now, and it’s fun to watch.” Louisville doing what it can to keep Strong now may prevent him leaving until a significantly better job is available a few years down the road. He currently earns $1.6 million per season.

4 » Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is biding his time helping Florida improve during practice while he waits out a NCAA-mandated transfer season. An article written for CNN profiling Rosario’s hall of fame high school head coach Bob Hurley, Sr. notes that the player once the star of one of Hurley’s teams and describes him as a “hot-tempered kid who used basketball as a refuge from the life in a housing project.” Rosario recounted his time playing for Hurley. “He started disciplining me like I was one of his sons,” he said. “It was to the point where I was like, ‘Wow, I had never been pushed like this in my life.’ I learned how to be a man and not a boy.”

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Three Gators practicing for 2011 Senior Bowl

Though center/guard Mike Pouncey ended up choosing not to attend, three players representing the Florida Gators arrived in Mobile, AL to begin practice for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl. Weigh-ins and the first day of practice took place on Monday with little news coming out of Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Safety Ahmad Black, named by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock over the weekend as his No. 2 safety in the country, checked in at 5’9 3/8” and 183 lbs. with 9 5/8 in. hands, 29 1/2 in. arm length and a 73 1/4 in. wingspan. As expected, Black’s size was a topic of conversation amongst scouts who otherwise were impressed with his ability and tenacity.

He has signed with Joel Segal of Lagardere Unlimited, the agency that also represents both Pouncey twins and NFLers including Gerard Warren (New England), Alex Brown (New Orleans), Percy Harvin (Minnesota), Channing Crowder (Miami) and Riley Cooper (Philadelphia).

Without Pouncey in attendance, Marcus Gilbert was the sole representative of Florida’s offensive line. He came in at 6’6 1/2” and 329 lbs. with 9 7/8 in. hands, 34 in. arm length and an 81 1/8 in. wingspan. It is rumored that Gilbert, who is receiving a second-day projection, has signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Punter/kicker Chas Henry, a first-team All-American and 2010 Ray Guy Award winner, is the third former Gators player on the South team. Though Henry’s representation is currently unknown, he will likely be selected during the second day of the 2011 NFL Draft even though most punters are signed as undrafted free agents or picked toward the end of the third day. At 6’3 3/8” and 220 lbs. with 9 3/8 in. hands, 33 in. arms and a 77 1/8 in. wingspan, scouts believe his talent is worth an early selection.

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TWO BITS: Dunlap’s back, Johnson’s training

1 » After a successful rookie season in which he notched 24 tackles and 9.5 sacks (second-most for a first-year player behind Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s 10), former Florida Gators now Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap has returned to Gainesville, FL to earn his degree from the University of Florida. Just 20 hours away from graduating with a degree in family, youth and community services along with a minor in business administration, Dunlap decided to take 12 credits in the spring 2011 semester and will likely complete the rest the next season his team misses the playoffs. “I felt like the longer you wait, the harder it is for you to come back,” Dunlap told The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu. “I just thought the transition would be a lot easier to do it now, to knock some of it out. The present is as good a time as any to get a degree. As hard as it was now to come back, I can imagine how hard it would be to come back a few years down the road.”

Dunlap also spoke to the Sun about his unfortunate arrest for driving under the influence before the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship game and how the mistake has adjusted his outlook on his personal and professional life. “That incident changed my whole life,” he said. “It made me respect the game a lot more. It showed me how everything can be taken from you by making one mistake, and not knowing whether you’ll be able to play again. I remember what Cris Carter once said. He said, ‘I will never again allow my life to be put in the hands of somebody else where they can make the decision whether I play football again or not.’ That’s the quote I thought of [when I was suspended]. I’m going to use that quote the rest of my career.”

2 » Though many of his former teammates will be participating in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2011 East-West Shrine Game, former Gators guard Carl Johnson will be headed to the Texas vs. The Nation collegiate all-star game set to be played on Feb. 5 in San Antonio, TX. He will eventually end up participating in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in February with hopes of improving his stock for the 2011 NFL Draft in April. Johnson spoke with the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser and provided these notable quotes (read what else he had to say).

PBP: How does Florida’s future look after a disappointing 2010 season?
CJ: “I think the team’s going to be six times better this year than last year. Some good guys didn’t get to play. At the skill positions, you need experience. [Quarterback John] Brantley has a year now. He knows the tempo. He knows what it’s like to face a team that’s trying to decapitate you. They’re going to be better. Now all these guys have experience, which helps a lot. I mean, when I first played, I was like a duck in a dirty pond — don’t know what’s underneath those feet.”

PBP: Was the 2010 freshman class better than people thought? How much impact could those players make this season?
CJ: “From what I saw of the freshmen — [wide receiver Quinton] Dunbar, to me, he’s dynamic. He should have played this year, but I’m not a coach. They have some certified ballers, Mack Brown, the running back, he’s going to be a beast. Trust me, they’re going to be good.”

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Hill, Trattou, All-Rookie

1 » A reliable source told OGGOA on Thursday that Florida Gators junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who announced on Monday that he would remain enrolled at the University of Florida for his senior season, is having second thoughts about his decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Prior to his announcement Monday, Jenkins was told that, due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he would most likely be selected in the second round of the draft. After doing some additional research into the matter throughout the week, Jenkins was given a first-round grade by a handful of NFL front office executives he contacted, according to our source. The deadline to declare for the draft is late Friday afternoon, leaving Jenkins with less than 24 hours (as of press time) to make a final decision he is comfortable with.

2 » As first reported by OGGOA on Jan. 5, Florida junior safety Will Hill was never confused about his decision – he will declare for the draft and officially submit his paperwork to UF on Friday. Speaking with the Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Hill explained that he made his decision mostly due to financial and family issues and hopes he will be selected in the first two days of the draft. “It took a while to come to that conclusion, but the thing that made me come out and try to go pro is I have a family,” Hill told the Post’s Jason Lieser. “It’s a priority of mine to help my family. I have [three] little ones to look after. I feel like this was the best decision for me and them.”

He also admitted that he did not perform up to his capabilities this past season with the Gators. “I had an up and down season. I was hurt, which people fail to realize. I had a bad shoulder and groin that was keeping me from competing,” he said. “I wish my junior year went better. Everybody wants to have that elite season. I learned a lot from it. I learned don’t take things for granted, every play counts. I know I missed tackles here and there due to injuries, but I put everything on the line.” The Post also reports that Hill has signed with Metro Sports Agency, is 30 credits away from graduating and is currently working out 48 hours per week at the TEST Football Academy.

3 » Florida senior defensive end Justin Trattou has decided to play in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game set to be played on Jan. 22 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. A captain for the Gators in 2010, Trattou finished the season with 57 tackles including 35 solo and a team-high 12 for a loss of yards. He is the fifth Florida senior to agree to play in a pre-draft game. Senior S Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey, senior punter/kicker Chas Henry and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Jan. 29 in Mobile, AL.

4 » Three former Gators – Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunalp – were named to the Sporting News 2010 NFL All-Rookie Team earlier in the week. Haden finished the season with 64 tackles, six interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack, while Dunlap contributed 24 tackles, 9.5 sacks (a Cincinnati rookie record) and recovered a fumble. Pouncey started every game at center for Pittsburgh.

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SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

1 » ESPN has taken to praising 2011 athlete recruit A.C. Leonard (Interlachen, FL), a current Florida Gators commitment. Called “a jack-of-all-trades in high school,” Leonard is projected as a tight end or defensive end in college and worked out extensively at the former position during the Jacksonville, FL, Under Armour combine over the weekend. Leonard continues to impress and remains a solid verbal commitment.

2 » No. 4 Florida men’s golf took home its seventh straight SunTrust Gator Invitational title on Sunday, shooting a team score of 279 (-1) in the final round at the Mark Bostik Golf Course. Up nine strokes going into the final round, the Gators doubled it up and won by 18. Seniors Tyson Alexander and Tim McKenney, along with redshirt junior Andres Echavarria, tied for third place with a total score of 212 (+2).

Four more BITS on tennis, women’s b-ball and softball’s rebound after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

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Deion Sanders is a believer in Tebow, not McShay

Former NFL player and future hall of famer Deion Sanders was quite complementary when speaking about former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow on Pardon the Interruptionn with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on Thursday. Sanders, who was interviewed by the duo on location in Miami, FL, for Super Bowl XLIV, indicated that you have to evaluate Tebow based on his career instead of what a few scouts may think.

“In Pee Wee football – he succeeded. In high school football – he was a winner. In college football – not only was he a winner and National Champion…Heisman Trophy! [He was] always at the race. He’s a winner,” Sanders exclaimed. “How can you discount a winner in regards to anything? If he were playing you in a game of checkers, I might pick him.”

When questioned by Wilbon about the flack Tebow has received recently for his workouts at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl, Sanders dismissed the critics. “They miss so much on the combine,” he continued. “They get a lot of it right, but it’s a lot of misses at the combine because it’s one guru who has a few credentials that says, ‘This guy has terrible mechanics.’ Well, who doesn’t? If you really look at a guy negatively…why don’t we start looking at what’s right about him instead of looking at what’s wrong with him?

At the start of the interview, Sanders was asked if he heard comments made about Tebow by former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann earlier in the day. In response, he scoffed and replied, “Did Joe say that for shock treatment?”

Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time First Team All-Pro selection, two-time Super Bowl Champion, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year and member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. With 53 career interceptions, he knows a thing or two about professional quarterbacks.

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Florida Gators 2010 National Signing Day notes

Courtesy of the University of Florida’s University Athletic Association:

» The University of Florida football team had 11 student-athletes enroll in January 2010, the highest number in school history.
» The 2010 signing class includes nine players from the South Florida area (Dade, Palm Beach and Broward Counties). In the previous five signing classes combined (2005-09), UF totaled 11 signees from the same area.
» The Gators continued to be a factor on the national stage, signing 12 players from out of state in 2010. Players in the 2010 class are from Alabama, California (3), Connecticut, Georgia (3), Maryland (2), New York and Pennsylvania.
» For the fourth straight year, UF signed a player from the state of California and for the third straight year the Gators signed a player from Alabama. It marked the second-straight year a player from Maryland and Connecticut signed with Florida.
» Of the 12 high school players rated as five-star recruits by ESPN, Florida has signed four. The Gators signed 11 of the top 50 players according to ESPN. Overall, the Gators signed 17 players from the ESPNU 150 list of players.

Check out notes on individual players in the class after the jump…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2010 National Signing Day notes

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FOUR BITS: Tebow’s illness, Bress comparisons

1 » One story surrounding the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl was former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow’s lingering illness. Believed to be a strep throat early in the week, Tebow was actually suffering from a viral infection of his esophagus. Pam Tebow, Tim’s mother, said his sickness was “much worse than strep throat” and caused eating to be too painful for him throughout the week. Tebow met with a doctor all week and lost more than 10 pounds over the course of the week.

2 » While many sports writers have spent the last week criticizing Tebow, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel took a look at the situation from another angle. Former Purdue Boilermakers head coach Joe Tiller, who coached Drew Brees, Curtis Painter and Kyle Orton (among others), laughed at all of Tebow’s doubters. “I can remember NFL critics saying the same thing when Drew was a senior,” Tiller told Mandel. “‘He’s in that Purdue offense all the time. He lines up in the shotgun all the time, and our guys line up under center. It’s not like college football has a monopoly on the shotgun formation. Now that I’m out of coaching, I’ve watched more NFL football this year than I have the last 10 years combined. There’s hardly any team in the league that doesn’t have their quarterback in the shotgun anymore. [...] The entire league is doing what Drew Brees was criticized for coming out of college. [...] Actually, I think a guy coming out in the shotgun is better equipped than a guy coming out of center.”

3 » Fifty-one University of Florida student athletes were named to the 2009-10 Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll for the fall semester. Football led the way with 23 honorees, followed by soccer (18) and volleyball (10). Prominent names on the list include Tebow, sophomore RB Jeff Demps, junior punter Chas Henry, senior kicker Jonathan Phillips and junior kicker Caleb Sturgis.

4 » Florida track and field was responsible eight provisional-qualifying marks/times, three event wins and two NCAA automatic-qualifying marks/times during the Texas A&M Challenge in College Station, TX, on Saturday. The second half of the event was highlighted by thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili and jumper Shara Proctor, who earned the NCAA automatic-qualifying bids. For more information on the Gators’ performances over the weekend, click here (day one) or here (day two).

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