Foley defends Florida’s handling of Hernandez

Though New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has yet to be charged with a crime, a North Attleboro, MA, homicide investigation that appears to be focused on the player and his home has brought the his past decisions into question.

When New England selected Hernandez with the No. 113 overall pick in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, it did so knowing he had plenty of red flags.

He had supposedly smoked marijuana and hung out with a bad crowd in high school. He got arrested as a 17-year-old freshman with the Florida Gators after he got into a fight with a bouncer at a bar. (Hernandez was charged as a juvenile and accepted deferred prosecution). He was also questioned in a 2008 shooting in Gainesville, FL, though he spoke with police as a potential eyewitness and not a suspect, a fact conveniently left out of many reports about the incident.

Most alarming for the Patriots and other NFL teams, however, was information they learned that was also contained in a report published by the Boston Globe shortly after Hernandez was drafted by New England.

The story, citing sources from three NFL teams that knew about Hernandez’s background and supposed problems at Florida, noted that he did not just fail a drug test in 2008 (which led to a one-game suspension, the only contest he missed during his three years with the Gators). Rather, a “longtime executive” claimed, Hernandez failed from 4-6 drug tests while at Florida and was not punished accordingly.

“He had multiple positive tests, so he either had issues or he’s dumb. One or two tests? Fine. But four, five, six? Come on, now you’ve got an addiction,” the NFL executive said.

Though the Gators did not address the Globe report at the time, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley did just that on Tuesday.

Continue Reading » Foley defends Florida’s handling of Hernandez

Tags: , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Zunino, APR, Fowler, Marotti

1 » One of the most accomplished players in the history of Florida Gators baseball, catcher Mike Zunino has been called up to the major leagues and will suit up for the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Zunino is hitting just .238 with 11 home runs for the Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate. Chances are Zunino’s call up is as a temporary replacement for rookie C Jesus Sucre, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners on Saturday. Unless Zunino starts dominating immediately on the major league level (or even if he does), he will likely be sent back down so the year he is eligible for arbitration is not bumped up a season. “So far the transition has been pretty good,” Zunino told the Seattle Post-Inteligencer as part of a recent feature story. “For me it’s one of those things where it’s all about how you prepare mentally and physically, and taking care of yourself. Ultimately that gives you the best chance to succeed.”

2 » The NCAA released the official Academic Progress Rates for the 2011-12 athletic season with all the numbers coming in positive for the Gators. Florida’s football team finished with an APR of 968, tied with Georgia for fourth-best in the Southeastern Conference behind Missouri, Alabama and Vanderbilt. UF basketball scored a 989, checking in one spot back of UGA.

3 » The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu penned an interesting feature over the weekend on Gators sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. and how his decision to play for Florida has affected his father, a long-time die-hard Florida State fan. “We gave [all the FSU shirts and hats] away,” Fowler said. “Everything FSU is gone. Strictly Gator. All Gator stuff now. It was a little hard for [my dad] at first, but he started wearing some of the Florida stuff to go to the barber shop and everyone would say, ‘You’re wearing orange and blue now.’ Everything FSU is gone. We turned him around. He’s actually glad now that I made the decision to come here. I think in the end, this was the best decision for me. I’m just very happy now.” The feature also looks at Fowler’s successful freshman season, how he is preparing for his second year, and his admiration for his new “big brother,” redshirt junior Buck LB Ronald Powell.

4 » Speaking of features, CBS Sports columnist Bruce Feldman wrote one Tuesday on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer from the perspective of the team’s assistant athletic director for football sports performance, Micky Marotti. In the piece, Mariotti kind of brags that Meyer was able to nab defensive end Noah Spence, who he notes was the No. 1 player at that position end on Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s recruiting board. He also explains how Meyer has changed from his time at Florida. “He’s a lot less likely to fly off the handle,” Marotti said. “I think he’s at a point, where you try to teach and educate and cultivate your players, but ultimately it’s their decision to make the right or wrong decision out there in the world. He’s done a tremendous, Emmy award-winning job coaching our coaches in philosophy, methodology and recruiting. I see it all. He’s really into teaching.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Meyer, Merklein, Harvin, Miami

1 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for a question-and-answer session with CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler (believe it or not) that was published on Friday. In the piece, he mentions the Florida Gators on a few occasions, the highlights of which are below. Check out the other topics by clicking here.

On why ‘no question’ he would still be at Florida if health issues never surfaced
“I realized not too long after [around February 2011]. I called Jeremy [Foley] and said, ‘I made a mistake.’ Once I felt like everything was under control, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I do?’ I just told Jeremy as a friend in conversation. The talk was more about one day getting back into it. He was very supportive. Then I started at ESPN and had a ball with that, but is that enough? Is that what I was called to do? I planned to take more than a year [off] though.”

On regrets for the way his Florida tenure ended
“I didn’t at first. I thought we did a good job. We did our best. I look back now, the way it ended was certainly a regret. Does that mean it haunts me? Not at all. I’ve always felt our job is to do a good job and do it the right way, do it ethically and for the best interest of the student-athlete — check, check, check. I’ll always be associated with the school, and my great friends are there and all that. Absolutely none with that. It just wasn’t a normal way to move on. There would have been if I would have stayed out. I was worried about survival for a little bit.”

2 » Florida brought back a huge name in Gators tennis on Friday when the school announced that Mark Merklein has returned to the program as an assistant coach with the men’s team. Merklein, a two-time national champion (doubles in 1993, singles in 1994) and the 1994 SEC Player of the Year, earned four All-American nominations and three All-SEC nods while at Florida and was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. Considered by many to be the best men’s tennis player in school history, Merklein wound up competing as a professional for 12 years and even serving as a volunteer assistant for the Gators from 1998-2002 while he was on the tour. He was the head coach of the USTA Player Development Center for six seasons (2006-11) before being hired by Michigan as an assistant coach for the past two years (2012-13). “When I left I even said to everyone, including Mr. [Jeremy] Foley, that it was a goal of mine to one day come back and coach and win national championships,” Merklein said in a school release. “I’ve said it so much now, it’s time to actually do it and put the work in. I’m excited to do that alongside [head coach Bryan Shelton].”

3 » Wide receiver Percy Harvin has only been employed by the Seattle Seahawks for a few weeks now, but he is already turning heads at the team’s facility. According to The Seattle Times, Harvin’s teammates and coaches have already begun taking notice, and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is ecstatic about the potential of Seattle’s offense this season. “His talent level is unbelievable, off the charts,” said Wilson of Harvin. “He brings an explosive mentality to the game, which a lot of our guys already have. But to have him is truly tremendous. He’s a guy that’s been one of the best football players in the National Football League for the past several years.” Harvin also told the paper that he expect to play some running back on occasion and will likely be back for kickoff returns.

4 » ESPN’s decision to kick-off Florida second football game of the season, on the road against the Miami Hurricanes, at noon has caused quite a stir amongst fans over the past 24 hours. The Gators and Hurricanes will square off on Sept. 7 in Miami Gardens, FL at Sun Life Stadium in a game which everyone involved assumed would be played at night, likely at 8 p.m. Instead, Florida-Miami will take place under the extreme heat of the South Florida sun with kickoff just after noon, earlier than any UF-UM game has been played since at least 1987. The Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro did some digging to learn why ESPN chose that time slot.

According to the network, ABC will be airing a NASCAR race at 8 p.m. while ESPN is broadcasting Notre Dame-Michigan. The 3:30 p.m. slot on ABC will be used for regional games (those in Florida will see Oregon at Virginia). Hurricanes AD Blake James apparently tweeted that Miami “requested and lobbied” for the 8 p.m. slot, while ESPN spokesman Mike Humes pointed out that the network values its noon window. “We average probably around three million viewers for that time slot. So it wasn’t like, ‘Let’s put the worst game on at noon.’ The noon window does really well with fans,” he said. “We view this as a great matchup. Scheduling games is like putting together different puzzles with different time zones and commitments, and this was the best window.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Tebow, WNBA, Muschamp, Embree

1 » Is former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow being “blackballed by NFL teams because of [his] cult-like following [and the] media frenzy” that follows him? That’s the headline of Yahoo! Sports writer Mike Silver’s most recent article, one that is perhaps not that far off from reality. Silver spoke to an NFC head coach who said as much. “He seems like a great guy to have on a team, and I’d be tempted to bring him in as our backup, but it’s just not worth dealing with all the stuff that comes with it,” he said. Silver also learned that New England head coach Bill Belichick, believed to be a fan of Tebow’s, “hates” Tebow as a player, that according to an “organizational source.” “No chance. Plus they wouldn’t like the circus that comes with it,” the source added.

If the fans and media are legitimately the reasons that Tebow is unemployed at this moment, the absurdity of that fact cannot be understated. In the NFL – and most professional leagues – talent is supposed to win out. If you are talented enough to play the game – and smart enough to stay out of the gutter off the field – coaches say you deserve a spot in the league or at the very least a chance to compete. The school you attended, spot you were drafted (if you were drafted at all), race, religion and sexuality are not supposed to matter. Now the message is that if fans like you and the media cover you (too much), you are not welcome. Even if one does not believe Tebow is a starting-caliber quarterback at this time, there are 32 NFL teams, which means there are 64 backup quarterback spots in the league. Try making an argument that Tebow is not talented enough to be a top-32 backup in the league or even deserving of tryouts with teams to showcase his abilities while second-round bust John Beck – a colossal bust of a second-round pick entering his seventh year as a professional with a 3-7 record and QB rating of 67.6 – is working with New Orleans this weekend.

2 » The WNBA may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Los Angeles Sparks have been one team that Gators fans have been able to pay attention to over the years. In this picture taken on Thursday, former Florida head women’s basketball coach Carol Ross (now Los Angeles’ head coach), current Gators assistant coach Murriel Page (UF alumna and former Sparks player) and former Florida guard Bridget Pettis all pose for a picture while doing the Gator Chomp.

Read three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow, WNBA, Muschamp, Embree

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: FGCU, Meyer, Donovan, Muschamp

1 » After the student body of the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles chanted “[expletive] the Gators” during a pep really carried live on ESPN, some fans of the three-seed Florida Gators became enraged. To atone for the actions of some of the students, the FGCU student body released the following statement on Tuesday:

“We wanted to take a minute to send you and your students an apology for the negative reaction yesterday during our pep rally. In no manner do the words that were passed yesterday reflect upon this institution of higher education. Often times, excitement and a new experience can cause rash and hasty decisions to be made. In this moment of excitement for our young school, we hope that you will accept our expression of regret. With that being said, we are definitely looking forward to some healthy competition in Arlington, this Friday.”

On Wednesday, Florida’s senior director of media relations, Steve Orlando, responded in kind, according to The Gainesville Sun:

“We certainly understand when students get excited and enthusiastic, but they’ve apologized, and as far as we’re concerned it’s over. We’re just looking forward to a great game in Arlington on Friday.”

2 » In another non-story regarding the Gators and Eagles, FGCU volleyball player Gigi Meyer (the daughter of former Florida head coach Urban Meyer) told reporters on Monday that her father was excited that the Eagles advanced to the Sweet 16 and would be rooting for them over the Gators. Some fans expectantly overreacted for no good reason whatsoever, and The Sun‘s Pat Dooley went out of his way to communicate with Meyer (who also donates time and money to Florida Gulf Coast) to get his thoughts on the situation. “Always a Gator,” Meyer said. “Billy [Donovan]‘s my friend. That was Camelot the year I went to Indianapolis (2006) and they won it.”

3 » Speaking of Donovan, it was announced Wednesday that he is one of 20 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I coach. Donovan has never won the award, which has been handed out since 2002-03, but was named the ESPN.com National Coach of the Year in 2011 and received the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2010.

4 » The Football Writers Association of America on Wednesday announced that Florida head coach Will Muschamp will be the keynote speaker for the 2013 Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet on Dec. 9. The Nagurski Award, which is handed out to the top defensive player in college football this year, has been in existence since 1993 yet never been won by a Gators player.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Urban Meyer on Tim Tebow: “I think he’s going to win a Super Bowl.”

Tim Tebow detractors appear to be multiplying by the day, but his former head coach with the Florida Gators is most certainly not one of them.

In an interview with WOCA 1730 AM on Wednesday, Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said that he still maintains a strong relationship with the New York Jets quarterback and believes in his abilities on the football field just as much as he did when he was coaching him in Gainesville, FL.

“I think I’m like every Gator fan and anybody that just appreciates great people and great warriors. There’s got to be a team – it all comes down to one team believing in a human being or believing in an athlete or a player. I think I got the same feeling as most everybody that watched him and grew up with him,” he said.

“All they need is to let him get his foot in the door and he’s going to win games, and I think he’s going to win a Super Bowl. I still believe that, probably because I spent as much or more time with him as any other coach. I have that much confidence in him.”

Meyer went on to describe their relationship, saying he and Tebow still converse “very frequently, once a week probably” though they have not spoken in the last few weeks.

The coach and former pupil went to lunch a few months ago when Meyer was in New Jersey recruiting the Tri-State Area. He felt Tebow was still in good spirits despite being traded from the Denver Broncos following the 2011 season and barely stepping foot on the field with the Jets in 2012.

“He’s a positive guy. He wants to win. He’s a winner. He’s always won. This losing thing doesn’t really sit well with him,” Meyer said. “He wants to be on a team that’s…he believes New York is committed to win. He has a lot of respect from Coach [Rex] Ryan. He’s a guy that’s pretty positive all the time, but I could see there was a little bit of worry in his face, concern.”

Recent word nationally (and out of New York) is that the Jets tried to find a trading partner for Tebow at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. If New York is unable to trade Tebow – a likely scenario because team sources have already let it be known that the player will be cut if a trade partner is not found – he is expected to be released when free agency begins in early March.

As far as Meyer is concerned, NFL teams should definitely be interested in Tebow as long as they are willing to give him a legitimate opportunity to succeed.

“You put Tim Tebow on a team with great players, he’s going to be a great quarterback,” Meyer said.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

Tags: , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Meyer-Tebow, Shrine Game, Brewer

1 » What exactly does now-Ohio State Buckeyes head coach think of what has happened to quarterback Tim Tebow’s NFL career? “It’s a great question,” he told USA TODAY’s Robert Klemko on Thursday. “I think that his coaching transition is a big part of it, with the guy that drafted him in the first round [Josh McDaniels] getting fired immediately. Then he goes to New York and that doesn’t work out the way he envisioned.” Meyer, who claims that he speaks to Tebow each week, said he is “like anyone else” and “just waiting to see what happens” with Tebow, though he is surprised that his career has not taken an upward trajectory. “He has a unique skill set. But I have faith in Tim, and I think it will work out,” he added.

2 » The 2013 East-West Shrine Game, featuring former Florida Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis (No. 17, East) and safety Josh Evans (No. 24, East) , is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. on NFL Network. The game will air live from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL and wraps up a week’s worth of practices that saw Evans and Sturgis working in front of a bevy of NFL scouts. Sturgis met with a number of teams throughout the week and showed off his strong leg, while Evans also got some onlookers and even impressed East team safeties coach Marlon McCree. According to Rotoworld.com, “McCree mentioned Evans’s name more than any other during the four days of practice.” Note: Linebacker Lerentee McCray was also invited to the game but chose not to attend at the last minute in order to rest and heal up before the 2013 NFL Combine.

3 » CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper recently blogged about “the art of the leak out” in the NBA and used strong>Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer as the paradigm for his post. “There are few players in the NBA as opportunistic on a change of possession as Brewer,” he wrote. “In a league full of specialists … the Nuggets’ six-year veteran might be the NBA’s first transition specialist.” He continued, “There are two reasons why Brewer is so good at scoring on leakouts in transition: technique and speed.” Harper then breaks down Brewer’s unique ability with numerous video examples of what he is able to do during games. He also notes that “28.1 percent of Brewer’s offensive possessions come in transition” and “30.3 percent of Brewer’s points come on the fast break,” calling him possibly “the fastest player in the league without the ball.”

4 » As recently noted by school beat writer Scott Carter on Twitter, former Florida forward Adam Allen and walk-on guard Kyle McClanahan are doing a great job leading their new team, the Rollins Tars, to a 12-2 start to their 2012-13 season. Allen, who plays through pain and following multiple knee surgeries that ended his Gators career, is third on the team with 9.8 points and fourth with 3.8 rebounds per game while averaging just 19.8 minutes per contest. McClanahan, on a scholarship at Rolins, is second on the Tars with both 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while playing a team-high 33.6 minutes per contest. Both players are shooting better than 46 percent from downtown this season.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RB Jeff Demps: “I tried to do the best that I could.”

A dual-sport star and the only man or woman in the history of the Florida Gators athletic program to win national championships in two sports (football, track & field), Jeff Demps is one of the most accomplished athletes to come out of the University of Florida and has only added to his resume this past year.

As a football player, Demps played running back and took 367 carries for 2,470 yards (6.73 yards per carry) while registering 23 touchdowns over four seasons. He also had a 99-yard kick return touchdown in his senior season against Georgia. Demps started the 2009 BCS National Championship as a freshman and won both a national title and Southeastern Conference title as part of the football program.

As a track star, he was a five-time All-American who won four individual national championships, five individual SEC championships and was part of a men’s track program that dominated both national and conference meets, winning multiple titles in both indoor and outdoor competitions.

Demps decided to concentrate on track after college and participated in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He fell short of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics but earned a spot as an injury replacement and brought home a silver medal.

After returning to the United States, he signed a three-year deal with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent but missed the entire season with a leg injury. Demps is expected to play his rookie season in 2013.

He has spent the last few months working as an ambassador for the Special Olympics and sat down with OGGOA recently for a wide-ranging interview.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s jump back to the beginning and start with your recruitment. I remember a lot of people always thought you would end up at Florida but what was it in the end that made you decide to go to UF over Tennessee?
JEFF DEMPS: “Florida just felt like home. I didn’t really want to go too far from home. Tennessee came down to recruit me, and I liked what they were talking about, but at the end of the day I knew I was always going to end up at Florida.”

AS: You got into the mix right away, scoring in the SEC Championship and starting at running back in the national title game. What was it like being a freshman and getting thrown into the lineup on a team that was having so much success?
JD: “It was fun. I knew coming in that, if I worked hard enough and learned the plays, I would have some kind of role on the offense as a freshman. That’s what I did and I was able to do those things like start in the championship and score in the SEC Championship and things like that.”

AS: Your sophomore season was something special as the Gators were looking to win back-to-back titles. How much pressure would you say the team felt each game to live up to the hype and deliver on winning another championship?
JD: “We had a lot of pressure. We were coming back and expected to win the championship. I’d say everybody wanted to see us hold up to the standard. We knew each team was going to bring their ‘A’ game and play us like we were the most important opponent on their schedule. It was really tough.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Jeff Demps…after the break!
Continue Reading » RB Jeff Demps: “I tried to do the best that I could.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 Page 3 of 86 « 1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »