Five-star CB Hargreaves commits to Gators

Just one day before hosting Friday Night Lights, one of their biggest recruiting events of the year, the Florida Gators received a huge verbal commitment from five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), who officially announced his decision via his Twitter account Thursday evening while on a visit to the University of Florida.

Ranked as the No. 9 player in the nation and No. 2 at his position by Rivals, Hargreaves (5’11” 185 lbs.) is an immensely important commitment for the Gators, which brought in just two cornerbacks as part of their 2012 recruiting class.

Despite recently taking a trip to the West Coast in order to visit Oregon, Southern California and Stanford, Hargreaves released a top five last week that included Florida, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Miami and Notre Dame (in that order). He was previously high on USC and was also considering South Florida, where his father is an assistant coach.

Hargreaves is now the Gators’ top-ranked commitment both on Rivals and ESPN, where he is listed as the No. 4 overall player and top-rated cornerback. He is so talented, in fact, that he could push for a starting job the day he steps foot on a college field.

Florida’s top-ranked commitment, Hargreaves is the fourth defensive back to make a pledge for the Gators this recruiting cycle. He is the ninth defensive commitment overall and 13th (out of 18 total) from within the state.

Hargreaves visited Florida on Thursday to commit to head coach Will Muschamp because he will not be in attendance at FNL; instead he will be participating in the Champion Gridiron Kings 7-on-7 event from July 27-29 in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

His father is South Florida assistant coach Vernon Hargreaves II.

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TWO BITS: band off to London, Tebow’s motion

1 » The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band will be in the air on Monday as they travel to London, England to represent the United States in ceremonies preceding the 2012 London Olympics. According to Florida, the band will be dispersed over 10 different planes (more than 245 people will be travelling abroad) and will be spending a full week in town both playing music and taking in the sights and sounds. To see the band off, Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp and head soccer coach Becky Burleigh gave them a pep talk (video via GatorVision); former softball player Jenn Brown (now a sideline reporter for ESPN) also sent in a video message to the band. The Gainesville Sun reports that the total cost of the trip is nearly $1 million. “The band received about $100,000 from the UF provost’s office and $25,000 from the Univeresity Athletic Association” but raised the vast majority of the money privately.

2 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow – for the third consecutive offseason – is working on his throwing motion, doing so this time with a “throwing guru” and former minor league pitcher who had previously worked with Tom Brady and Drew Brees among others. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com, Tebow spent five days last week tweaking his delivery with Tom House on campus at USC but has since flown back to New York.

The typical quarterback’s schedule is a weeklong program at the Rod Dedeaux Research and Baseball Institute on the USC campus, where 3D video analysis is used in coordination with traditional drills to break down individual motions to a thousand frames per second and discover small inconsistencies or errors.

House said Friday he believes Tebow benefited from the week’s worth of workouts. “I think he’s getting better, but the proof is in the pudding,” House said. “Being out here at USC is different than being with the New York Jets.”

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Alvarez added to College Football Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez was officially inducted into the prestigious College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class in a ceremony held Saturday in South Bend, IN.

One of 79 All-American players and nine coaches made eligible for selection by the voting committee last year, Alvarez was voted in May 2011 to be one of 16 inductees (14 players, two coaches) enshrined in July 2012.

He played on the Gators for three seasons (1969-71) and still holds three school records for career receiving yards (2,563), receptions in a single season (88) and receptions in a game (15). Alvarez also set the then-University of Florida and Southeastern Conference career receptions mark with 172 catches in 1971.

“I’m hardly ever speechless, but I am,” he said in May when he learned of the honor. “When you look at college football and the number of people who have played…I feel honored just to be mentioned.”

Alvarez is the third Florida player elected to the Hall of Fame since 2006.

He is also the ninth overall representative of the Gators to be enshrined in the hall, joining coaches Charlie Bachman (1978), Doug Dickey (2003) and Ray Graves (1990), and players linebacker Wilber Marshall (2008), running back Emmitt Smith (2006), quarterback Steve Spurrier (1986) and defensive ends Dale Van Sickel (1975) and Jack Youngblood (1992).

“Carlos is a great example of all that is good in college athletics. His tireless work and commitment to excellence translated into success both on and off the field,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “He has maintained his level of commitment and success in his professional career as well. I’ve had the opportunity to see Carlos a number of times when he visits Gainesville and he remains a tremendous ambassador for our program. The honor is well deserved.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida archives

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Hill again named in Yahoo! report on potential recruiting violations occurring at Miami

For the second time in as many years, a report released Friday by Yahoo! Sports concerning potential recruiting violations occurring within the Miami Hurricanes football program includes the name of current Florida Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill.

Writes Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson:

Less than one week after the University of Miami hired Al Golden as coach, members of Golden’s coaching staff began using Sean “Pee Wee” Allen – a then-equipment manager and onetime right-hand man of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro – to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players.

He adds that Golden “had direct knowledge of Allen’s improper involvement with Miami recruits” and that “Allen has become a focal point into the [NCAA’s] probe into Miami athletics” with a focus on how he provided “impermissible benefits to Hurricanes players, as well as his contract with Miami recruits.”

One of those so-called “recruiting infractions” took place with the assistance of Hill, according to Robinson’s report.

On Dec. 17, 2010, five days after Golden was hired as Miami’s coach, Allen testified that he was summoned to the restaurant Dan Marino’s in South Miami to pick up Miami Northwestern High school quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. […] Allen testified that Bridgewater, Golden and other Miami coaches were at the restaurant during an unofficial visit and that a member of the coaching staff asked Allen to pick Bridgewater up. […] Allen’s phone records show eight calls exchanged with Bridgewater that afternoon and early evening, as well as four calls exchanged with Hill. The former Miami staffer told Yahoo! Sports that Hill, a then-Miami assistant, was present at the restaurant and arranged for Allen to pick Bridgewater up and transport him home – a violation of NCAA rules.

Hill was one of seven coaches specifically named in Robinson’s 2011 report on the Miami football program being infiltrated by booster Nevin Shapiro. He was accused of ushering recruits (including eventual Gators commitments wide receiver Andre Debose and offensive lineman Matt Patchan) to “Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them.”

Hill coached the Hurricanes wide receivers from 2008-10 and added the role of recruiting coordinator in his final season. He was hired away from Miami by Florida head coach Will Muschamp just three weeks after Golden took the job in South Florida.

Neither Hill, Debose nor Patchan suffered any penalties or punishments after being named in the 2011 report. Hill, through the University of Florida, declined comment prior to the publication of both the 2011 and 2012 reports.

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Charity Challenge, band

1 » St. Louis Rams second-round draft choice, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, remained unsigned as of Wednesday, and Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole explained that there is “one major hurdle to clear” before the process can be completed. “The Rams…[are] asking for safeguards in Jenkins’s rookie contract,” Cole reports. “According to two sources close to the situation, the Rams have proposed a deal to Jenkins’s agent Malik Shareef that features the signing bonus being split into four equal parts over the course of the contract – protection against Jenkins not panning out with the club.” He goes on to note that Shareef has declined the deal ($5 million total, $2 million signing bonus) because “according to sources, Shareef is concerned about how he will be viewed by other potential clients (and how he’ll be criticized by other agents) for taking such a deal.” Sources close to the team also told Cole that the Rams will give Jenkins interest in the held over money and that St. Louis eventually expects to consummate the deal.

2 » A Florida Gators spokesman on Thursday confirmed to OGGOA that the team will no longer be holding the annual Gator Charity Challenge (which was put on four-straight years including last year on July 29) but plans to replace it with another event in the future. “Although the Florida football program will not host the Charity Challenge event this fall, the program remains committed to charity work and serving the community through the efforts of the Goodwill Gators initiative,” Florida explained. “The Goodwill Gators program is active year-round and allows UF student-athletes to build a strong relationship with the Gainesville community. The football staff is also looking into alternative events for future years in place of the Charity Challenge. Student-athletes on the football team volunteered a total of 475 hours of community service during the 2011-12 year, working with 8 schools, 12 non-profit organizations and 3 civic organizations. Since the new coaching staff took over in January of 2011, the football program has tallied 778 hours of community service to date working with 37 unique entities, including 14 schools, 18 non-profit organizations and 5 civic organizations. Every football student-athlete volunteered during the 2011-12 year, highlighted by the St. Augustine Thanksgiving Food Distribution in which the entire team participated.”

3 » The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band is scheduled to leave Monday to represent the United States at the 2012 London Olympics. According to UF’s itinerary for the event, the band (more than 230 members strong) will spend a full week in London, hold three performances (including one just before the Opening Ceremony) and take in plenty of sights and sounds. “The Gators have been raising funds and working intensely to make this dream a reality for six months, and for many it is the pinnacle of their performance career to date,” said Jay Watkins, associate director of bands. “The band is deeply honored by the unique invitations they have received.”

4 » Four-star defensive tackle and Gators 2012 commit Dante Phillips (Venice, FL) has found a new home after the admissions board at UF denied his enrollment this summer. Phillips on Wednesday announced that he signed his scholarship papers to play for Tennessee, meaning he will be going head-to-head with Florida each season.

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FOUR BITS: Georgetown, Tucker, Wambach

1 » Making an appearance on 1010 XL radio on Tuesday, executive director of sports and entertainment for the City of Jacksonville Alan Verlander confirmed that tickets for the Navy/Marines Corps Classic will be bundled with the Jacksonville Jaguars-Indianapolis Colts game and will begin at $1,000. That package would include two tickets to watch the Florida Gators take on the Georgetown Hoyas on an aircraft carrier and two more to see Jacksonville-Indianapolis on that Thursday. Verlander also noted on the program that a well-known artist will hold a concert before the Florida-Georgetown game. A press release is supposed to be available Thursday with tickets going on sale Monday. OGGOA reached out to Verlander late Tuesday and is currently awaiting his reply.

2 » The University of Florida has chosen former Gators outfielder Preston Tucker to represent the school when the men’s athletic program accepts the 2012 Capital One Cup at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday. It is the second-straight year that Florida’s men’s program has won the award; forward Chandler Parsons was in L.A. to accept the award one year ago.

3 » Former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach is a part of the latest edition of ESPN Magazine – “The Body Issue.” In it, Wambach and a number of other big-name athletes bare all in carefully chosen poses that show plenty of skin but hide their private parts. Check out the picture of Wambach in the magazine, an extensive interview with her about the process and a video of her discussing the experience (below).

4 » The Gators announced the hirings of two more coaches over the last few days as Janice Olivencia was added to the women’s golf team as an assistant on Friday and Nic Peterson was named an assistant track coach (jumps) on Monday. Olivencia, who played for Texas, served as an assistant for South Florida last season after spending seven years playing professionally. UF notes that “she was the first Puerto Rican woman to have ever qualified to play on the Ladies European Tour.” Peterson comes to Florida after a successful career as an assistant at Texas Christian by way of Nebraska, where he competed and served as a volunteer coach.

Extra BIT » Though she did not confirm it directly, new FOX sports reporter/host Erin Andrews did not dismiss the fact that she interviewed for a hosting gig on X Factor, a story first reported by SPORTSbyBROOKS and more recently by Entertainment Weekly. EW (and E! Online) noted on Monday that Andrews has some stiff competition for the gig going up against names like Stacy Kiebler, Mario Lopez and Rocsi Diaz (among others). “Sources emphasize that prospective hosts are still being interviewed and actual testing for the gig is not expected for several more weeks,” EW reports.

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FOURth of July BITS: Noah, Bullard, Delić

1 » As first reported by L’Equipe in France, Chicago Bulls and former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah is officially out of the 2012 London Olympics because his severely sprained left ankle (which he injured back on March 4) is not yet recovered. The injury, which occurred during Game 3 of the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, was supposed to keep Noah out 1-2 months but is apparently still affecting him two full months later. “I’m absolutely not ready, not ready to return, not ready to jump,” Noah told L’Equipe (originally in French). “And even less to play. I need more time and work. I’m not in form for someone who wants to compete in the Olympics. And given the problems that I have with my ankles, not going to the Games seemed to be the most reasonable decision.” L’Equipe also reports that Noah originally forfeited his spot on the team on June 23 but that head coach Patrick Beesley initially refused his decision and wanted to give him two additional weeks to rehab and recover.

2 » Tuesday came and went and nothing further was learned about the status of five-star incoming defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) in regards to the NCAA Clearinghouse and the University of Florida. The deadline to enroll in Summer B classes was 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, which means that if Bullard was not cleared by that time then he will not be able to become a student – or officially join the football team – until the fall. According to The Gainesville Sun, Bullard is expected to be eventually cleared by both parties and should be able to start practicing with the team on Aug. 22, when the fall semester starts. He would miss Summer B practices and the first two weeks of preseason camp, according to the paper. Bullard is expected to see the field for the Gators this season and may very well earn major playing time at defensive end. Missing so much practice as a freshman may put him severely behind the proverbial eight ball and could impact how Florida lines up the front four early in the season.

3 » New Gators head men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton hired Amer Delić as his new assistant, Florida announced on Monday. A former Illinois standout who won the NCAA Singles Championship in 2003, Derlic is Bosnian in descent and has previously represented his country in the Davis Cup. He posted a 33-56 career singles record and 21-34 career doubles record, participated in eight Grand Slam events (never lasting past the third round) and won eight total singles titles over his career in Challengers (six) and Futures (two) events. “When I came down to Gainesville and sat down for an interview with [Coach Shelton], discussing the opportunities and possibilities with this team and with the support from the University of Florida and the athletic department, I knew that this was the right fit for me,” Delic said in a statement. “Especially growing up in Jacksonville, I absolutely know what it means to be a part of the Gator Nation.”

4 » Happy Fourth of July everyone!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

…from the Declaration of Independence

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Phillips denied, Fowler accepted, Bullard in limbo

Four-star incoming defensive tackle Dante Phillips (Venice, FL), a prominent member of the Florida Gators 2012 signing class, has been denied admission to the University of Florida and will no longer join the team.

The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu, who first reported the story Monday after speaking with Phillips’s stepfather Damon Wilson, notes that the decision is being appealed but Phillips does not expect to win and is now looking to play elsewhere.

“We were kind of blindsided,” Wilson told the Sun. “He did everything he needed to do to be cleared by the [NCAA] Clearinghouse, but now he’s been told he doesn’t have a scholarship to Florida. He’s been cleared by the NCAA. He’s academically eligible. But the admissions office says he can’t enroll at Florida.”

InsidetheGators.com’s Bryan Holt spoke with Phillips, who said both Miami and Ole Miss believe they can get him admitted since he has been cleared by the NCAA but did not meet UF’s admission standards.

Phillips, who committed to the Gators back on Oct. 25, 2010, was ranked as the No. 120 player in the nation and No. 9 at his position by Rivals as well as the No. 110 player in the country and No. 12 at his position by ESPNU.

UPDATED (5 p.m.): Unfortunately for Florida, he is not the only 2012 commitment whose academic standing is currently in question. Five-stars Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. (St. Petersburg, FL) and defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC) – two of the team’s three top-ranked recruits in the last cycle – are also having admissions issues though one of those was officially resolved on Monday.

Fowler was told that he would be admitted to UF as soon as official word came down from the NCAA that he had qualified. He had achieved the grades he needed to and learned Monday via a phone call from head coach Will Muschamp that he is good to go, according to Holt. Fowler will be on campus to enroll Tuesday.

Bullard’s situation remains in question and his status is not public at this time.

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