SIX BITS: Harvin’s healthy, Raymond wins, books, soccer & volleyball split, Floyd’s repayment

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin is healthy – finally. After being nagged by injuries throughout his college career and having persistent migraines limit the amount of time he could practice and play for the Minnesota Vikings during his first two years in the NFL, Harvin has finally cleared all of that up and hopes to become the dynamic playmakers his teammates, coaches and fans know he can be. He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week that he has “tremendous confidence in my ability” and proved that Sunday, taking the opening kickoff 103 yards down the field for a touchdown. Having missed fewer than two practices in the offseason (for precautionary reasons due to sore ribs), Harvin is ready and raring to go and hopes to continue the electricity he showcased over the weekend.

2 » Former Florida tennis player Lisa Raymond has always seemed to excel in doubles action, where she is 700-251 all-time as a professional and has been a part of 71 title-winning duos (she was even half of the No. 1 pair in the world back in 2000). Raymond, with four Grand Slam doubles titles to her name this century, was looking to win her first this decade, teaming with Liezel Huber at the 2011 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, Raymond and Huber made it all the way to the finals where they defeated No. 3 seed Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) to win Raymond’s fifth Grand Slam and earn her the world No. 1 ranking she has been looking to recapture for nearly 11 years. At 38-years-old, Raymond would be considered by most to be a relic of professional tennis, but she told The New York Times that her age was an advantage going into the event. “I think that’s probably one of our biggest assets as a team is our experience,” she said after the victory. “We have years and years and years of being in finals of Slams, winning the championships, being down breaks in the third set to win or lose a Slam.”

3 » Two former Gators in the team’s Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame – running back Emmitt Smith and linebacker Jack Youngblood – are releasing brand new books chronicling their lives. Smith’s is titled Game On: Find Your Purpose – Pursue Your Dream “outlines the principles that helped him become a winner on and off the football field.” Youngblood’s – Because It Was Sunday – The Legend of Jack Youngblood – gives “readers and football fans an unprecedented, candid account of [his] remarkable life journey.” He will be at the University of Florida’s Alumni Hall promoting the book on Oct. 1, the day it is scheduled to be released.

4 » No. 9 Florida soccer (5-2) split a pair of games over the weekend, dropping a heartbreaker 3-2 to the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles on Friday before soundly defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 5-0 on Sunday. UF and FSU went back-and-forth Friday with the Seminoles scoring at 4’ and 55’ and the Gators knocking goals in at 45’ (junior midfielder Erika Tymrak) and 68’ (junior MF Holly King). With the match tied 2-2, Florida State’s Tiffany McCarthy scored her second goal of the evening and fifth of the season at 72’ to push her team to victory. Florida rebounded Sunday with a shutout victory including goals from freshman forward Tessa Andujar, Tymrak (16’), freshman defender Lauren Silver (24’), sophomore MF Caroline Triglia (43’) and senior F Lindsay Thompson (58’).

5 » Competing in the Nike Big Four Classic in Palo Alto, CA, No. 7 Gators volleyball (7-2) also split their weekend matches. Florida defeated the No. 10 Texas Longhorns in five sets (25-22, 20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12) on Friday prior to being beat in similar fashion by the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal (17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 13-15) on Sunday. Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the way for the Gators with a total of 35 kills and 33 digs in back-to-back double-doubles, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy followed suit with 26 kills and 59 assists in two double-double performances of her own.

6 » Gators sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, as part of his punishment by the NCAA, is required to make arrangements to repay $2,700 to a charity of his choosing in addition to having already sat out the first two games of the 2011 season. Many OGGOA readers have asked via e-mail, comments and Twitter how Floyd will come up with the money before the Tennessee game on Saturday. The answer is simple: he doesn’t have to. According to a NCAA compliance expert who spoke with us over the weekend, Floyd – in conjunction with the University of Florida – only must submit to the NCAA his decision on how and over what period of time he plans to make payments. Further details on what Floyd chooses to do will likely be unavailable going forward, but the concern over him being able to pay the money prior to playing should be squashed in the interim.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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 try to catch them with Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Remember back in April when Florida Gators forwards junior Erik Murphy and redshirt freshman Cody Larson were arrested for allegedly trying to break into a car? Since then the felony chargers were reduced to misdemeanors for both parties and Murphy accepted a plea deal that netted him fines, community service and a few other minor penalties. Larson’s situation, on the other hand, is not even close to resolved. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reports that he will have a Oct. 31 sentencing date to determine what legal action will be taken against him. He had previously entered a not guilty plea but could change it on the day of sentencing. As individual Florida basketball drills begin this week and practice starts on Oct. 15, according to Brockway, Larson’s status remains up in the air. The duo is currently indefinitely suspended from the team, though the expectation is that Murphy will be reinstated now that his legal situation is settled.

» Gators baseball received a commitment Wednesday evening as outfielder Max White chose to continue his career in Gainesville, FL. Also a left-handed pitcher, White is recovering from shoulder surgery and chose Florida over LSU, Central Florida, N.C. State, Maryland and North Florida, according to the Sun. “I have always wanted to play for Florida,” he told the paper. “To be in the situation where all of my hard work could possibly lead me to play for them — that is a great feeling. I just want to keep at it and I especially do not want them UF to see me slack off.”

» Florida head football coach Will Muschamp is known for his fiery demeanor on the sidelines. This fan video shot from the season opener against Florida Atlantic shows a mini-tantrum he threw during the game.

Read the rest of the Gator Bites (and watch four videos) after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,'” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. [...] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.'”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

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Florida soccer splits, volleyball sweeps

Coming off back-to-back victories in South Florida, No. 8 Florida Gators soccer looked to continue their stellar start with a pair of contests against ranked opponents on the road in Knoxville, TN over the weekend. Florida (3-1-0) wound up defeating the No. 18 Texas A&M Aggies (1-2-0) 3-2 in exciting fashion on Friday before suffering their first loss of the season 2-0 to the No. 15 UCLA Bruins (3-0-0) on Sunday.

The Gators jumped ahead 1-0 in the 25th minute when junior midfielder Erika Tymrak corralled a through ball from freshman MF Havana Solaun and pocketed it into the net. The Aggies responded quickly with back-to-back goals from Annie Kunz and Kelley Monogue before UF was able to tie it up at 39’. Senior MF Lindsay Thompson sailed a cross from the right wing to the left post, which sophomore forward Taylor Travis headed in for her second goal of the season.

All was quiet in the second half as the clock began to run down. With just 15 seconds remaining, Florida redshirt junior F McKenzie Barney found a cross in the middle of the field and buried the game-winning goal into the net from six yards out.

For the second straight day, Gators senior goalkeeper Brooke Chancey allowed two goals past her on Sunday, but this time her teammates did not accomplish anything on the offensive end to support her. UCLA scored at 35’ and 72’ to put Florida away 2-0, keeping their undefeated season alive while handing the Gators their first loss.

Back in Gainesville, FL at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, No. 9 Gators volleyball was looking to start the season strong by participating in the Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge. The ladies won back-to-back contests in the two-day event to earn the team championship, and the Southeastern Conference defeated the ACC 3-1.

Florida (2-0) swept the Boston College Eagles (1-0) 3-0 on Friday, defeating them in straight sets 25-11, 25-15, 25-16. Senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson and senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the team with 11.0 and 10.5 points, respectively, while also combining for 13 kills. The Gators notched 14 aces in the match, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and sophomore setter Channel Brown combined for 27 assists.

Continuing their good fortunes on Sunday, Florida similarly swept the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) 3-0 via straight sets of 25-17, 25-20, 25-14. Senior OH Stephanie Ferrell earned the tournament’s MVP award after registering 20 kills over the weekend (including 13 on Sunday). Joining her on the All-Tournament Team were Jaeckel (double-double with 12 kills, 10 digs), Murphy (match-high 20 assists, eight kills, seven digs) and redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (19 digs combined).

The University of Florida has began its 2011-12 athletic season a combined 5-1 and will look to continue its ways as its two women’s teams take part in five more games this week before the football team takes the field on Saturday evening.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow on NBC, Murphy, Crowder

1 » Though plenty are questioning Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s ability to succeed in the NFL, there is little doubt about his ability to motivate. According to Entertainment Weekly, Tebow (along with New Orleans QB Drew Brees and Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson) will make an appearance on the Oct. 4 episode of The Biggest Loser on NBC. EW reports, “Some of the athletes will be seen competing against the contestants in a throwing contest, while others help the pound shedders with their ‘Last Chance Workout’ before that week’s weigh-in.”

2 » Florida Gators senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named by ESPNW on Wednesday as one of the “five things to watch in college volleyball” this year. “[She] looks to dominate again after three straight All-American seasons and a 2010 selection as SEC Player of the Year,” says writer Mick Elliott. “She was the league’s only player last season to rank in the top 10 in kills per set, service aces per set and hitting percentage. Ranked as the nation’s top 2007 prep recruit coming out of Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy, Murphy became just the second Florida player to lead the SEC in aces per set during a single season. Ranked fourth in the SEC and 26th nationally with a .374 hitting efficiency, she also tallied seven triple-doubles last season, including three that came in three-set matches.” Murphy on Thursday was one of 30 student-athletes named as a candidate for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, an honor given to college players in each sport who demonstrate excellence in the community and classroom as well as with their character and in competition.

3 » Southeastern Conference coaches on Thursday selected the Florida women’s cross country team as the preseason favorites to win their third-straight league title. Earning six first-place votes, the Gators could take home the team’s sixth-ever SEC Championship if the coaches are correct. The men’s team was chosen as a preseason third-place finisher and did not receive a single first-place vote.

4 » He may be semi-retired, but former Florida and Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is still in demand, according to Pro Football Talk. “Per a source with knowledge of the situation, at least two teams recently expressed a desire to lure Crowder out of retirement,” Mike Florio writes. Crowder has given no indications that he plans to return to the field this year (his new wife is having a baby during the season and he wants to remain in South Florida with his family).

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FOUR BITS: Taylor, Jeroloman, Sidner, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Travis Taylor recently returned to the University of Florida to finish his degree in sports management and has simultaneously decided to work for the football program as an undergraduate student assistant. According to UF senior writer Scott Carter, Taylor contacted former teammate and now Gators WR coach Aubrey Hill about the opportunity and is excited about how he can help the team going forward. “I had not talked to Aubrey in 10 years,” Taylor said. “He was like, ‘Man, whatever I can do for you just let me know. I’ll definitely run it by Coach [Will] Muschamp.’ Everything kind of fell into place. I came over to learn about the process and got it done. They embraced me to come in and I’m having a great time.”

2 » Former Florida catcher Brian Jeroloman, who has spent approximately five years toiling in minor leagues throughout the country, was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday potentially for the remainder of the season. He will officially be the seventh former Gators baseball player in the MLB this year.

3 » As noted by the Twitter account for Florida volleyball, anyone who has been watching CNN’s coverage of unrest in Libya has undoubtedly seen reports from network correspondent Sara Sidner. On-site in Tripoli as rebels attempt to usurp power from dictator Muammar Gadhafi, she was actually inside a compound still controlled Gadhafi on Tuesday. “We have had to run from Gadhafi Compound,” she tweeted at approximately 6 p.m. (ET). “Gun fire coming towards us from outside compound.” A former Gators volleyball player, Sidner is CNN’s New Delhi-based international correspondent covering India and South Asia and has been with the network since 2008. She graduated from UF in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree in telecommunications.

3 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps learned Tuesday that his name was placed on the candidate list for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given each year to numerous student-athletes who achieve greatness in four key areas: community, classroom, character and competition. Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is the only football player representing Florida to ever win the award (2009), which has only been presented since 2008.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Brantley, volleyball, Herring

1 » Writing for ESPN Insider, columnist Chris Sprow makes a case for why Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will indeed be a successful NFL signal caller – whether or not that ends up happening in Mile High. In the piece, Sprow cites quotes from 1986 that were said about Steve Young but are just as applicable to Tebow and uses ESPN‘s advanced metric “QBR” to point out how effective he is each game.

Ultimately, Young struggled and was traded away from Tampa in frustration; he was viewed as a bust. He didn’t become a starter, then a star, for years. Perhaps Tebow also will be traded at some point, a wasted pick, a project for another coach. But there’s also good reason to think that Tebow can be a very good NFL quarterback because, in the same way Tampa once miscalculated on Young, there’s reason to think we haven’t done a good job of accurately deciphering what a quarterback like Tebow can do. [...]

The bottom line is this: If you want to evaluate Tebow as a quarterback, you have to understand that what he lacks as a passer can be made up for by what he brings with his legs. This isn’t a new argument, but it now has additional context. [...]

Orton is a much better passer but a statue in the pocket, costing the Broncos points with sacks — and Tebow’s 82.1 passer rating in 2010 would have been the best among rookies if it had stretched for 16 games. [...] Tebow, were he to start in Week 1, would continue to be as raw a passer as you can find in the NFL. But this unrefined product is a lot better than some believe, and he might even be more valuable than Denver’s other option.

2 » ESPN also takes a look at Florida Gators redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and in what ways he needs to improve under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis this season. Specifically, he points to Brantley’s first down completion percentage and touch with balls thrown more than 20 yards down the field. Brantley completed passes on first down with a 110.8 efficiency in 2010 (113th in the nation), 28 points lower than the FBS average (138.8). On deep balls, Brantley only completed 20.8 percent of his passes (5-of-24) including only two against Southeastern Conference opponents. It is also noted that 41.7 percent of Brantley’s deep passes were overthrown.

3 » A pair of Florida senior volleyball players, outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and setter/right-side Kelly Murphy, were named to the 2011 Preseason All-SEC Team on Tuesday. The first volleyball players in league history to be named to the preseason All-SEC Team (2009-11, All-SEC First or Second Team (2009, 2010) and SEC All-Freshman Team (2008), the duo hopes to lead their team to another conference championship this season. The Gators are ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason poll and begin competition at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Aug. 26 against Boston College.

4 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has officially lost his fourth staffer this offseason. Following the departure of three assistants in the late spring, Donovan’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring has decided to leave the Gators to take the director of athletic performance job with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. With Florida for both national championships, Herring is excited about his new opportunity. “I really hadn’t thought about it until San Antonio came calling,’’ Herring told UF senior writer Scott Carter. “The main reason why we even considered it is one, it’s a great organization and we certainly follow them, and then the draw to get closer to family and see my little girl get a chance to get closer to her grandparents and foster those relationships. It was just a tremendous opportunity for us on a personal level. The University of Florida is a fantastic place to be and Coach Donovan and the administration certainly tried to encourage me to stay here, but at the end of the day, they can’t move Gainesville to Texas, and that was the biggest draw.’’

Extra BIT » Incoming freshman golfer J.D. Tomlinson has a unique opportunity next week as he will be competing to win a U.S. Amateur event at the age of 18. Only four former Gators have accomplished this feat thus far, but Tomlinson plans to give it a go before even taking a swing in an Orange & Blue polo shirt.

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FOUR BITS: Directors’ Cup, USA, Young, Brewer

1 » The University of Florida athletic program finished no. 4 in the nation in the 2010-11 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Thirteen Florida Gators programs finished in the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), baseball (No. 2), softball (No. 2), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), men’s swimming & diving (No. 5), lacrosse (No. 5), gymnastics (No. 7), women’s swimming & diving (No. 7), men’s tennis (No. 9), volleyball (No. 9), women’s golf (No. 10). It is the third-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four in the Cup’s final rankings.

2 » Competing with the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team, Florida center Patric Young had some difficulties in the preliminary round of the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships against Egypt. Though Team USA won 115-60, Young only went 2-of-4 from the field for five points with eight rebounds in 14 minutes. Young played much better on Friday, posting 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting with seven boards in 18:30 as Team USA came back to top Serbia 80-78.

3 » Speaking of Young, he and head coach Billy Donovan mentioned a few times last season that he had to overcome some attitude issues during the first half off the year; once doing so, he felt much better about himself and his spot on the team. Young opened up even more about this to ESPN’s Diamond Leung, who spoke with him recently. “When you hear it over and over … if 500 people came in and told you you’re the best writer in the world, you’re going to start believing it, right?” he said. “You’re going to be the next best thing. You’re going to be one-and-done. You should be starting over Vernon Macklin. You should play 30-35 minutes a game. People say stuff like that. I was so mentally blocked that I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong and how it was hurting my team, and coaches had to sit me down and break that down for me, and I understood from that point on forward.”

4 » Dallas Mavericks guard Corey Brewer will be making his triumphant return to Gainesville, FL…for at least three days this summer. Brewer, a member of the Gators’ back-to-back men’s basketball NCAA National Championship teams, will host The Back 2 Back Youth Basketball Camp powered by Five Star Basketball in Gainesville, FL, from July 26-28. Brewer will donate all proceeds to Shands Children’s Hospital at UF and the “Corey Brewer Fight Diabetes Fund,” both benefiting the school’s medical center. “I had a great time with the kids last year. I am so fortunate to have played basketball at the University of Florida. I always like going back to give back to the community that has given me so much,” he told The Gainesville Sun.

Times: August 1-3 from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Participants: Boys and girls ages 9-18
Activities: Basketball drills, five-on-five games, contests, educational sessions, player evaluations, lectures and much more
Extras: Lunch, T-shirt, photo with Brewer, awards, certificate, etc.
Cost: $150 per camper
More information: http://www.CoreyBrewer.com

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