FOUR BITS: NFL, Team USA, Fontana, Tebow

1 » Now that the undrafted free agents have been scooped up and rookie minicamp is in the books, the newest Florida Gators in the NFL have plenty of work to do to remain on their teams heading into the 2013 season, which starts in exactly four months. As of press time, there are 41 total Gators spread across 19 different NFL rosters. Below is a list of teams corresponding with the number of Florida players currently on their rosters and set to participate in their respective training camps.

(4): Miami, Washington
(3): Baltimore, New England, N.Y. Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
(2): Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle
(1): Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis

2 » Gators guard Sydney Moss has accepted an invitation to try out with USA Basketball for a spot on the under-19 team that will compete in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships from July 18-28. Team trails are being held May 16-19 in Colorado Springs, CO. Florida head coach Billy Donovan will be coaching the men’s team in the same event from June 17-July 7. He will begin his duties on June 14 in Colorado Springs as he tries to whittle down a 25-player tryout to the 12 that will earn spots on the final roster.

3 » Former Gators shortstop Nolan Fontana is raising eyebrows inside the Houston Astros organization with the way he is currently playing for the Class-A affiliate Lancaster JetHawks in the California League. Fontana (as of Tuesday) is leading the league in batting average (.369), walks (30), runs (29), on-base percentage (.504) and on-base plus slugging (1.071); he is also second in hits (41). As expected, Fontana is also proving to be an excellent defensive shortstop.

4 » Attorney John Morgan (of the law firm Morgan & Morgan) out of Orlando, FL has commissioned the below television commercial (which is also running as a radio spot) to support quarterback Tim Tebow and entice the Jacksonville Jaguars to sign the local product. Considering general manager Dave Caldwell made it perfectly clear months ago that Jacksonville was not interested in Tebow, Morgan is basically just wasting his money and using these advertisements to promote his name and business.

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SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

1 » The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is now in the books. Though not all of the 10 Florida Gators invited participated in the full event, a handful did and looked quite good while doing so. Below are links to OGGOA‘s combine wrap-ups. Click the appropriate link to see how your favorite former Florida player performed.

Safeties Matt Elam and Josh EvansTuesday | Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd; linebackers Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCrayMonday | Running back Mike GillisleeSunday | Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, kicker Caleb Sturgis, tight end Jordan ReedSaturday

2 » New England Patriots running back and Olympic silver medalist sprinter Jeff Demps wants to return to the track but do so without giving up football. According to agent Daniel Rose of Gridiron Sports, who did not return a request for comment from OGGOA but did send a tweet about the subject on Tuesday, Demps truly hopes that New England gives him permission to pursue both of his passions. “Jeff Demps has no intentions of leaving football. He loves doing both football and track. Representing Team USA in track and field in the Olympics and playing NFL football are an honor and privilege and Jeff Demps loves both,” he wrote. NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport first reported the story and explained on NFL Network that “he plans to compete in an event in March and that calendar would run through August. They informed the Patriots of that this week. It’s possible the Patriots could work out a deal as Demps does want to play two sports. It’s a little too early to know a resolution on this but we do know he wants to play two sports.” Whether or not New England – or another NFL team – wants to give Demps that opportunity is an unknown at this point.

3 » While at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, TX a few weeks ago, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee approached USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo about playing for Team USA in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup and remaining on the team through the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to FOX Sports’ Chris Tomasson, Colangelo “said nothing is definite yet as far as Lee being among 20 to 24 players” invited to Las Vegas, NV for training camp from July 24-28. Chances are he will have that opportunity, however, as Lee trained with Team USA in preparation for the World Championships in 2010 and probably would have made the team if not for sustaining an injury that forced him to depart early.

Check out three more Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

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Donovan returns as USA Basketball U19 coach

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been retained to continue leading USA Basketball during the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship set to take place from June 17-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp two summers ago and head coach of the team that won the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship last summer, will represent his country as a head coach in international competition for the second time in his career. His coaching staff, which included Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, is also set to return.

“It’s such an honor to have this opportunity to represent our country with USA Basketball once again, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Donovan said. “Mark Few and Shaka Smart are both outstanding coaches. I have tremendous respect for them both and am glad for another chance to coach alongside them.”

The Donovan-led Americans breezed through last year’s event, amassing a 5-0 record and winning games by an average of 38.6 points to win the gold medal and qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship. USA Basketball hopes to see the team continue its success with Donovan at the helm.

“Our 19-and-under team is going to have as good a coaching staff as there is in coaches Donovan, Few and Smart,” said Jim Boeheim, Syracuse head coach and chair of the 2009-12 Junior National Team Committee. “It’s going to be a tremendous advantage to have the same staff that led the 18-and-under squad a year ago.”

Donovan will begin coaching the team on June 14 in Colorado Springs, CO as 25 players begin a five-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with only 12 earning spots on the roster.

The United States will begin the event in Group D along with China (FIBA Asia U18 gold), Ivory Coast (FIBA Africa U18 silver) and Russia (FIBA Europe U18 fourth place). The gold medal game is scheduled for July 7.

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Gators on SI’s most memorable moments of 2012

Sports Illustrated on Friday released “The 112 of ’12,” a list of its best sports moments, memes and memories of 2012. Four spots on the list have at least some connection to the Florida Gators. clicking here.

OGGOA will be releasing our annual “Top 12 for 2012″ lists on Dec. 30 and 31.

No. 22 – TEBOW TIME IN OVERTIME
Tim Tebow had an uncanny knack for lifting Denver to unexpected late victories over the course of the 2011 season. ‘Tebow Time’ hit its head-scratching crescendo in the playoffs. In his first postseason start, Tebow threw for a career-high 316 yards to lead the Broncos to an implausible 29-23 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 8 in the AFC wild-card round. After blowing a late 10-point lead, the Broncos won on the first play of OT when Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard score. It was the shortest overtime game in NFL history (11 seconds).”

No. 42 – U.S. WOMEN WIN SOCCER GOLD
“It seemed unlikely the Olympic women’s soccer tournament would replicate the excitement of the 2011 World Cup. But the U.S. women made it a gold-medal run to remember. In the semifinals, aided by a controversial, rarely enforced six-second call on Canada’s goalkeeper, the Americans outlasted the Canadians 4-3 in one of the greatest matches in Olympic history. The U.S. rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits in the second half to force extra time. Then Alex Morgan scored on a header in the waning seconds of added time to send the U.S. to the gold medal match, a 2011 World Cup final rematch with Japan. The U.S. exacted revenge, winning 2-1 for its third straight Olympic gold.”

No. 88 – THE FACES OF FLORIDA’S WILL MUSCHAMP
“Say this for Florida football coach Will Muschamp: He’s not afraid to express his emotions. They don’t call him “Coach Boom” for nothing. His facial expressions — starting with the intense death stare on his first Florida promotional poster — are a sight to behold. From the referees to his own players, it’s never a good idea to be on Muschamp’s bad side. But for the Gators, it’s working. After a disappointing 7-6 record in his first season in Gainesville, Muschamp has completely reshaped the 11-1 Gators in his own image: a tough, defensive-minded group that climbed to No. 3 in the final BCS standings and nearly found its way into the national title game.”

No. 98 – WILL GRIER THROWS FOR … 837 YARDS?!?
“This fact is indisputable: Will Grier, a junior quarterback for Davidson Day School in North Carolina, had the greatest passing day in high school football history in November when he threw for a ridiculous 837 yards and 10 touchdowns in a 104-80 playoff victory over Harrells Christian Academy. But his numbers won’t be recognized by the National High School Sports Record Book because of a confusing technicality, as Raleigh’s News and Observer explains. The recognized national record is 764 yards by David Koral in 2000. Either way, Grier was a top target of some of the nation’s premier college programs: the four-star 2014 recruit committed to Florida on Dec. 19.”

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11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The New York Jets finally decided to bench quarterback Mark Sanchez after a five-turnover performance on Monday night. Despite the fact that Tim Tebow had been Sanchez’s back-up all season long, the team decided to promote third-stringer Greg McElroy to starter, leapfrogging Tebow and breaking a promise the team made to him when they traded for him in the offseason. When Denver was shopping Tebow and had equal offers from New York and Jacksonville, the player evaluated the situation to determine which would be his best destination. Sources close to the player told me at the time that Tebow chose the Jets for two reasons. New York told him that they would utilize him in a number of roles right away and that he would also get a legitimate chance to start for the Jets should Sanchez either be injured or benched. While the team did put him in occasionally as Wildcat quarterback and as a punt protector, he was barely used in the offense and never correctly. He was inactive the first time New York replaced Sanchez during a game and has now been jumped over by McElroy for the starting job this week.

» Sports Illustrated’s Peter King summed up the situation well Wednesday on Twitter: “I think what happened w/ Jets is they saw Tebow have some bad practices, then he wasn’t electric on early touches, and they gave up on him.” Putting it another way was ESPN’s Ed Werder, who tweeted: “Jets traded 2 draft choices, paid Broncos part of Tebow’s signing bonus, ignored Bronco performances, never gave him chance” With all of that being true, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian O’Connor went off on the franchise in his latest column. “The Jets used Tebow, and then abused him,” he wrote. “They used him to sell tickets and PSLs and steal a few more headlines from the local big-boy franchise that had just won another Super Bowl title. They abused him Tuesday by declaring that a seventh-round pick who has been inactive for 13 out of 14 games gives the Jets a better chance to do something they fail to do: win.” O’Connor also looked to Tebow’s record, noting that he was 8-4 last season before falling to New England in the playoffs and is 9-7 in 16 career starts, which included three with an interim coach and did not include last year’s victory in Miami when he came in for Kyle Orton. “How is he less qualified to face San Diego than McElroy, who has one moderately successful relief appearance behind him and who has eternal backup written all over him?”

Check out NINE more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Wambach, Martin, Lochte

1 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin on Saturday noted via his Twitter account that he would be having “minor surgery.” Most assumed the surgery Harvin mentioned was for his injured ankle, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. However, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN radio reported Sunday that Harvin actually went in for an emergency appendectomy. He is expected to be back to normal health in 2-3 weeks and will spend the entire offseason rehabbing his ankle and trying to get back on the field in the summer.

2 » The U.S. Women’s National Team concluded its 2012 campaign and its Fan Tribute tour across the United States with a 4-1 win over China in Boca Raton, FL on Saturday night. Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored twice in the friendly, increasing her international goal total to 152 and pulling within six of Mia Hamm, who holds the record with 158 career international goals. Florida head soccer coach Becky Burleigh was in attendance at the match, cheering on Wambach and former Gators defender Heather Mitts, who plans to retire. USA outscored China 10-1 in the three-game friendly series and concluded the 2012 campaign with a 28-1-3 record. Wambach ended 2012 with 27 goals (second-most in her career) and was the only member of the USWNT to start and play in all 32 games.

3 » Former Florida defensive end Chris Martin, who transferred in from USC but only spent his redshirt season at UF before forcibly transferring again to another school, spent the 2011 season playing for City College of San Francisco, the fourth institution he has attended since the beginning of his college career. The former five-star recruit, now a JUCO transfer, committed to the Kansas Jayhawks and head coach Charlie Weis on Saturday, according to JayhawkSlant.com ($). Martin is familiar with Weis from his days with the Gators and also has a relationship with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple, a former Florida assistant who Weis hired when he left following the 2011 season.

4 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, who set a pair of world record times at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships this past week, also concluded the event with six gold medals and eight total medals, setting a record at a short-course championship event. Lochte took gold and set world records in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Individual Medley and finished first as part of four-man American teams in the 4×100 Meter Freestyle, 4×200 Meter Freestyle and 4×100 Meter Medley Relays. He also captured silver in the 200 Meter Backstroke and bronze in the 100 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was fully or partially responsible for eight of the 27 medals won by the United States at the event. Fellow former Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer joined Lochte with a gold in the 4x200M Freestyle Relay and picked up an individual bronze in the 200M Freestyle. Jemma Lowe, swimming for Great Britain, won a pair of bronze medals in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was the only swimmer to set a world record at the event.

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Ryan Lochte sets new world record in 100M I.M., his second record in as many days

Olympic champion and former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte set his second world record in as many days on Saturday at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

Lochte, already the owner of the short course world records in the 400 Meter Individual Medley and 200 Meter Individual Medley, set a new world record in the 100 Meter Individual Medley on Saturday by swimming the race in a blazing 50.71 seconds.

He now owns all three short course I.M. world records and has strengthened his hold as the best short-course swimmer alive and perhaps the best in the history of the sport.

Lochte became the first athlete to swim the 200M I.M. in under 1:50 when he set a new world record on Friday with a time of 1:49.63 in the event’s finals.

He now holds five world records. Lochte is also the record holder in the 200M I.M. (long course) and is part of an American team that owns the world record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay (long course).

This past summer, Lochte brought home two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. He has corralled five Olympic gold medals and 30 World Championship gold medals (12 long course, 18 short course) and is the odds-on favorite to win gold in the 200M I.M. final on Sunday.

In 2012 alone, Lochte has set two world records and won six gold medals including two in the Olympics and four (so far) in these World Championships.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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Ryan Lochte sets new world record in 200M I.M.

Ryan Lochte is one of a number of former Florida Gators swimmers competing at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, but as of press time on Friday he is the only one of them to set a brand new world record at the event.

Lochte, already owner of both the long course and short course world record for the 200 Meter Individual Medley, bested his own time in the short course version of the event, swimming the race in a blazing 1:49.63 on Friday.

Previously setting the record two years ago at the same event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Lochte shaved 0.45 seconds off his time and became the first athlete in the history of the sport to swim the 200M I.M. in under 1:50.

Lochte holds four world records. He also has the men’s record in the 400 Meter Individual Medley (short course) and is part of an American team that holds the world record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay (long course).

Many in the aquatic world believe Lochte to be the best short-course swimmer in the history of the sport due to his dominance of the individual medley events. His latest world record time will only further those strongly-held opinions.

This past summer, Lochte brought home two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. He now holds five Olympic gold medals and 30 World Championship gold medals (12 long course, 18 short course).

In 2012 alone, Lochte has won six gold medals including two in the Olympics and four in these World Championships.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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