Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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.

» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”

» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.

» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.

Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lacrosse, gymnastics

1 » Florida Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was honored with the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year award on Friday for the second-straight year. Holloway, who has led Florida to back-to-back NCAA Indoor Championships over the last two seasons, continues to rack up the national and regional awards. One of his assistants on the men’s team, Dick Booth was awarded National Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA as well.

2 » The state of Mississippi was no match for No. 2/3 Florida softball (30-1, 6-0 SEC) this week as the Gators took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) at home in a pair of contests during the week and swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-21, 0-6 SEC) in a three-game road series over the weekend. Florida outscored Ole Miss 37-6 over the course of the three games and made the most out of nearly every opportunity.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush set a new school record and now has a 19-game hitting streak after turning in a spectacular performance in which she combined to go 6-9 from the plate with 10 RBI, three runs and four walks. On the hill for the Gators all weekend was freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1), who started all three contests and did not allow a single earned run all weekend. In 9.0 innings, Rogers only gave up five hits, three unearned runs and three walks while striking out nine batters. Also turning in stellar performances in the three-game set were senior second baseman Aja Paculba (4-10, 6 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (3-11, 5 RBI, 4 R, BB) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (4-6, 4 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB).

3 » Continuing to excel in only their second year in existence, No. 8/10 Gators lacrosse (8-1) took down another ranked opponent by defeating the No. 11/14 Syracuse Orange (2-4) 16-11 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns tied her career high (and school record) with six goals; she also notched an assist for a season-high total of seven points. Florida received plenty of scoring help from sophomore midfielders Kitty Cullen and Brittany Dashiell, each of whom contributed hat tricks. Since losing an overtime contest to North Carolina on Feb. 12 to start the regular season, UF is on an impressive eight-game winning streak.

4 » Competing for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (17-2, 5-1 SEC) dropped a heart-breaker to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide 197.225-196.975. The Gators won the bars and floor exercises, but the Crimson Tide used greater total margins in the vault and beam to improve their team total and capture the crown. After the event, Florida’s Rhonda Faehn was named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for the fourth overall and second-straight time, and Alaina Johnson was awarded with 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year.

5 » Failing to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Gators women’s basketball (19-14) accepted a bid to the 2011 Women’s National invitation Tournament and defeated the UMBC Retrievers (20-12) 59-47 in first-round action on Friday. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones scored a game-high 18 points for Florida, which will ply Florida Gulf Coast (28-3) in the second round on Monday at 7:05 p.m.

6 » No. 13 UF men’s tennis (11-5, 4-1 SEC) dropped a pair of head-to-heads over the weekend as they were defeated by the No. 3 USC Trojans (14-2) 4-3 on Thursday and Rebels (9-4, 3-2 SEC) 4-3 on Saturday. No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix lost all four of his events including both singles matches and both doubles matches as the No. 46 duo with teammate sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr.

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FOUR BITS: Honor roll, Claye, Loeffler, Mitchell

1 » Forty-six student-athletes attending the University of Florida were named to the 2010 Southeastern Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll on Wednesday in a release by commissioner Mike Slive. The football and soccer teams led the way with 19 players apiece receiving the honors; volleyball added the other eight. Notable players on the list include senior punter Chas Henry, senior defensive end Duke Lemmens, senior DE Justin Trattou, redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Florida’s total of 46 was tied (Vanderbilt) for third-best in the SEC, following South Carolina (79) and Georgia (47).

2 » Florida Gators junior jumper Will Claye has joined sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor on The Bowerman’s 2011 watch list. Awarded by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), The Bowerman honors the sport’s best overall athlete each year.

3 » Left without a job when new Gators head coach Will Muschamp decided not to retain him as quarterbacks coach, Scot Loeffler has found a new position as offensive coordinator and QB coach of the Temple Owls under former Florida offensive coordinator now Temple head coach Steve Addazio. Loeffler is the sixth assistant coach with a Gators connection to be hired by Addazio for his first staff. He joins Owls defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, wide receivers/special teams coach Zach Smith, offensive line coach Justin Frye, defensive line coach Sean Cronin and strength and conditioning coach Frank Piraino. OwlScoop.com first reported the signing via Twitter.

4 » While Florida waits for redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario to complete his transfer season, Rosario’s former team, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, is benefiting from a UF transfer. Former Gators forward Jonathan Mitchell, now a senior, had a game-winning four-point play for the Scarlet Knights in their 77-76 upset victory over No. 10/9 Villanova on Wednesday. Check out the video by clicking here.

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FOUR BITS: Demps and track, Driskel, Applewhite

1 » Florida Gators sophomore/junior running back Jeff Demps had a tough go of it in 2010. After carrying the ball a career-high 26 times against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 18, Demps sat out or played sparingly the rest of the season with an injured foot but still led the team in rushes (92) and rushing yards (551). Florida track head coach Mike Holloway, who helped Demps win the 60-meter indoor (6.57 seconds) and 100-meter outdoor (9.96 seconds) National Championships last year, said his star will sit out the first competition and may not run until midseason. “Jeff has never run in the first competition, so our goal with Jeff is we’re going to take it day by day and see how he progresses,’” said Holloway during a press conference Monday. “He’s doing fine right now. Our goal is for him to open up in the middle of the season like he did last year. He’s come off a long football season. He’s human and I’m not just going to throw him out there when he’s not quite prepared for it just yet.”

2 » Though he will likely miss a portion of the season, Demps was named to The Bowerman’s 2011 preseason watch list on Wednesday. Awarded by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), The Bowerman honors the sport’s best overall athlete each year. Joining Demps as a preseason watch list member is Gators junior jumper Christian Taylor. Sophomore jumper Will Claye also received honorable mention from the USTFCCCA.

3 » OGGOA reader Austin Hittel sent in a personal video he made of new Florida five-star 2011 quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) after watching him play a few games this season. Driskel actually sat down with Austin and helped him film some additional scenes for the short, which is both well-produced and executed nicely. With National Signing Day less than a month away and Driskel already on campus, we figured this is something you, our readers, would be interested in. If you have any thoughts for Austin, leave them in our comments section.

4 » Texas Longhorns co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, believed to be a candidate for the Gators’ offensive coordinator position immediately after Will Muschamp was hired as the team’s new head coach, said on Monday that leaving the Longhorns was never a consideration for him. “People called, but I wasn’t interested in anything,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “I’m going to be here. This is my university. I want to help get this fixed.”

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FOUR BITS: Haden, Caldwell, Dekkers, Smith

1 » With seven of their eight 2010 NFL Draft picks now under contract, the last thing on the docket for Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren is to sign former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden to a deal. Here is what he had to say about the situation at a press conference on Wednesday:

“As far as Haden goes, those of you who have been around this for a long time, the number one picks you just need a domino to go and then it starts to happen. Then it just explodes and happens. We have had good discussions with Joe’s agents and I am hopeful that he will get in without too much loss of time. It’s very important for the young man, I will say that. I get the business part of it, even when I was coaching I did. It frustrated me to a certain extent, but I get it. This is a lot of money, but I also saw and lived through and experienced the importance of this with a lot of athletes. If they wait too long, they miss some really valuable stuff. […] It’s hard to catch up in most cases. It’s important that he gets in here, but I’m not discouraged. I think we are making progress.”

2 » As draft picks are being signed left and right, the Cincinnati Bengals made a splash Wednesday officially signing veteran wide receiver Terrell Owens to a one-year contract. Owens’ signing will certainly impact former Gators WR Andre “Bubba” Caldwell, who had been penciled in as the team’s starting slot receiver in 2010. Instead, it looks like veteran Antonio Bryant will hold that role and Caldwell will be fighting for balls as the Bengals’ No. 4 pass catcher. Caldwell said he realizes his playing time will be “diminished” but “maybe not. I’m just going to keep grinding and playing my hardest.” Nevertheless, he has great respect for Owens. “I read his book. I’ve been watching all this time,” Caldwell said. “He’s one of the greatest receivers. […] To be able to learn from him is something I’m really looking forward to.” As far as team chemistry is concerned, Caldwell has no worries. “If Chad [Ochocinco] can’t disrupt this team,” I don’t think T.O. can,” he told the team’s website.

3 » Former Florida thrower Evelien Dekkers, who took home the 2010 NCAA National Championship in women’s javelin, was named the 2010 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete of the Year for Outdoor Women’s Field. Dekkers is the only female in school history to own a national title in javelin and holds a school-record toss of 58.99m/193-6.

4 » Good news came Wednesday for Gators redshirt senior gymnast Maranda Smith, who has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. A four-time All-American, Smith has suffered a stress fracture in her right shin and torn her right labrum in previous seasons. “I’m so grateful that the NCAA granted me another year of eligibility,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to competing with my Gator teammates again and having another chance to compete in front of the O’Connell Center fans is truly a gift.”

Photo Credit: Cleveland Browns

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Gators honored with USTFCCCA regional awards

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) honored five Florida Gators with South Region awards on Friday for their accomplishments during the 2010 outdoor track & field season.

Senior thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili (Women’s Field Athlete of the Year), sophomore jumper Christian Taylor (Men’s Field Athlete of the Year), Mike Holloway (Men’s & Women’s Coach of the Year), Dick Booth (Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year) and Steve Lemke (Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year) were all recognized just one week before their team takes part in the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships from June 9-12 in Eugene, OR.

Kevkhishvili, Taylor and Holloway also took home the same respective awards from the Southeastern Conference in May. Holloway has now won five awards in 2010, including the same honors from the USTFCCCA for the indoor season, the 2010 USTFCCCA National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year and the 2010 SEC Indoor Women’s Head Coach of the Year.

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Three Gators earn SEC track & field awards

Florida Gators track & field captured three end-of-season honors from the Southeastern Conference on Monday. Head coach Mike Holloway was named the SEC Men’s Head Coach of the Year, senior thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili was named the SEC Women’s Field Athlete of the Year and sophomore jumper Christian Taylor was named the SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year.

The University of Florida took home more total awards in this period than any other school, with Ole Miss, Auburn and Tennessee each receiving two honors.

Holloway is racking up the awards this season. He has already been named the 2010 SEC Indoor Women’s Head Coach of the Year, 2010 USTFCCCA National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year and 2010 USTFCCCA Indoor South Region Men’s and Women’s Head Coach of the Year.

One of the most accomplished athletes in school history, Kevkhishvili is hoping to complete an undefeated season and is on the watch list for The Bowerman. A four-time National Champion and seven-time All-American, she won the 2010 SEC Outdoor Championship for shot put (her third in four years) and leads the nation with a career-high mark of 18.46m/60-6.75.

Taylor also had a great year, winning the 2010 SEC Outdoor Championship in triple jump and as the third leg of the 4×400-meter relay team. He also finished second in individual point standings at the event.

The Gators track & field program has already captured three titles this season. The men won the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship and 2010 SEC Outdoor Championship, while the women took home the 2010 SEC Indoor Championship. Both programs begin competing for their 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championship in the next few days.

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FOUR BITS: Baker, The Bowerman, Tebow, Nike

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker, most recently waived/injured by the NFL‘s Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 6, 2009, has signed on with the Jacksonville Sharks of the newly revamped AFL. The Sharks are one of two new franchises being introduced to the league this year, and Baker joins fellow Gators cornerback Dee Webb on the team. The Sharks are 1-0 already this season with a 54-38 victory over the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz last week.

2 » Each year, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association hands out The Bowerman award which recognizes the most outstanding collegiate men’s and women’s track & field athlete. Three current Florida student-athletes are on The Bowerman’s watch list as of April 7: women’s senior thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili, men’s freshman sprinter Jeff Demps (new addition) and men’s sophomore jumper Christian Taylor. The Gators also boast women’s senior jumper Shara Proctor and women’s junior/senior distance runner Charlotte Browning as honorable mentions at this time. The award will not be handed out until December.

3 » Sourcing NFL.com draft analyst Gil Brandt, Jerry McDoanld of InsideBayArea.com says the Oakland Raiders have a high level of interest in former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. According to Brandt’s story, Tebow was asked by the Raiders’ coaching staff to break down a play. He replied, “This is how it’s called with Florida, this is how it’s called with your organization and this is how it’s called with West coast teams.” Brandt went on to say, “I think that when you get a quarterback and he reacts that quickly, you know that the guy is not only pretty smart, but he does have that mental quickness to adjust very fast.”

4 » Apparel and shoe company Nike has officially announced its partnership with Tebow. Click the link below to read the full press release.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Baker, The Bowerman, Tebow, Nike

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