FOUR BITS: NFL Combine, Strong poaches recruit

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Ryan Stamper, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and kick returner Brandon James have received invites to the 2010 NFL Combine. Juniors who have declared for the 2010 NFL Draft have yet to receive invitations, but fans can expect DE Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez and safety Major Wright to participate in the event from Feb. 24 to March 2 in Indianapolis, IN.

2 » Three-star athlete Marcus Smith (Columbus, GA) had an outstanding scholarship offer from Florida and was prepared to take it…that is until Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong came calling. “If Louisville would have never been in the mix, I would have probably went to Florida,” Smith told the Courier-Journal. “But I’m glad Louisville came into the mix. I like coach Strong a lot, and I really wanted to play for coach Strong. Louisville is a great program. He wants me to play quarterback, he established that during our talk this morning. To tell you the truth, I just want to play, so I am good wherever he wants me.” Upon taking his position with the Cardinals, Strong said he would not poach recruits the Gators were interested in unless they initiated contact.

3 » The Gators hosted their biggest remaining recruiting weekend the past few days and a number of both committed and undecided prospects came away impressed. Four-star running back Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA), who at one point was wavering after head coach Urban Meyer announced his leave of absence, solidified his recruitment after getting extensive time with new running backs coach Stan Drayton. Brown also told Adam Gorney of Rivals that Meyer may return as soon as March. “He looked pretty fine to me,” Brown said. “He looked healthy. I know he wants to coach, so I know he’s going to be there. He’s going to take a couple weeks off in February, but he’ll be back.” Fellow four-star recruits offensive tackle Chaz Green (Tampa, FL) and wide receiver Christian Green (Tampa, FL) raved to numerous sources about their respective experiences.

4 » Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers with just two seconds remaining in the game, the Florida women’s basketball team gained a bit of revenge by taking down the Mississippi State Bulldogs 55-52 on the road on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum. Sophomore guard Trumae Lucas scored seven points off of the bench in the waning minutes while senior forward Sharielle Smith led the Gators with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also grabbing seven boards.

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SIX BITS: Tough loss, Stamper, Wuerffel, 2011

1 » One year ago, the Florida Gators women’s basketball team upset the then-No. 12/17 Tennessee Lady Vols 66-57 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Looking to repeat history, a much younger Florida team (9-8, 2-2 SEC) had the game tied at 64 against a significantly more experienced No. 4 Tennessee squad (15-1, 3-0 SEC) until Lady Vols guard Angie Bjorklund hit a reverse lay-up with 2.3 seconds left in the second half to pull ahead and ultimately win 66-64. Four Gators scored in double figures, and Florida led for much of the second half but could not hold on.

2 » In a news item that OGGOA broke Thursday via twitter, former Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper was invited to be a participant in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. Stamper is currently slated to play in the game but may have to pull out if the ankle injury he suffered in the 2010 Sugar Bowl flares up. The game will air live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. In other Stamper news, he has decided to sign with agent Garriet Blair of GMB Sports and Entertainment. Quarterback Tim Tebow has declined an invitation to the East-West Shrine and will instead participate in the 2010 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

All-Americans, Wuerffel, 2011 recruits and Gators in the pros after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tough loss, Stamper, Wuerffel, 2011

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SIX BITS: Haiti, Werner, Lady Vols, Horschel

1 » The tragic earthquake in Haiti is affecting hundreds of thousands of locals, so it is no surprise that it has come home to the University of Florida. In addition to two Florida journalism students being reported missing after the quake in Port-au-Prince, Florida Gators senior cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis’ family has suffered terrible losses. You can donate to the relief effort through the Red Cross. Thanks to Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald for pointing out the news on Pierre-Louis. UPDATE: Both UF students are safe, and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater told Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel that Pierre-Louis’ parents are as well. However, other members of his family have perished.

2 » Florida senior forward Dan Werner has hit only two of his last 23 attempts from beyond the arc. Kevin Brockaway of The Gainesville Sun asked head coach Billy Donovan last week if he has considered changing the starting lineup in order to give junior forward Chandler Parsons more minutes. “On those situations, with two upperclassmen, I would have a tendency to talk to those guys about that,” Donovan said. “Chandler comes into the game pretty quickly. It’s not that big of a factor for me, the last two games the guy has come into the game with 17:44 on the clock.”

3 » On the heels of a spectacular 29-point performance from then-senior guard Sha Brooks, the Gators took down the mighty Tennessee Lady Vols in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center 66-57 on Feb. 8, 2009. Hoping to repeat that performance, a much younger Florida team (9-7, 2-1 SEC) goes up against a more veteran No. 4-ranked Tennessee squad (14-1, 2-0 SEC) as they match-up again Thursday at 7 p.m.

4 » Florida seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and swimmer Gemma Spofforth have been named the 2009 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top male and female student-athlete who excel in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Tebow is its first three-time winner.

5 » Former Gators golfer Billy Horschel is taking his newly minted PGA Tour card with him on a trip to Honolulu, HI, as he prepares to tee off in his first official PGA event, the Sony Open. “It’s pretty awesome,” Horschel told Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun. “Monday I went out and played nine holes, and I was thinking when I teed it up on the first hole, ‘I’m going to be doing this every week.’ It’s exciting, but it’s a little nerve-wracking.” Read more about Horschel’s first event.

6 » New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has recently begun to have his name mentioned for head coaching gigs throughout the NFL. A former Florida quarterback, Schottenheimer has remained comfortable with his position on the Jets and actually turned down an interview request from the Buffalo Bills for their top job. Though it is unlikely he lands a promotion this season, look for Schottenheimer to have a legitimate chance to work in the league as a head coach in 2011.

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FOUR BITS: Moody’s injuries, swimming vs. LSU

1 » Redshirt junior transfer running back Emmanuel Moody always seems to be injured. Whether it is a sprained ankle, tweaked knee or pulled hamstring, something is consistently there preventing him from performing at 100 percent. Moody told The Gainesville Sun on Sunday that bone spurs are actually the cause of the majority of his ankle injuries both previously with the USC Trojans and now with the Florida Gators. Surgery last week cleaned out the fragments and has him excited for next season.

2 » Unranked Florida women’s basketball (9-7, 2-1 SEC) fell to the No. 8 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (16-3, 3-0 SEC) 61-52 Sunday evening in Athens, GA, at Stegeman Coliseum. Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Jones led the Gators with 13 points while freshman forward Jennifer George nabbed a career-high and team-high 10 rebounds. Florida returns home to face the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers (14-1, 2-0 SEC) on Thursday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. The game will air live on Comcast Sports South.

3 » Conversely, the Gators men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams had a great weekend, as the No. 6 men’s team took down the No. 18 LSU Tigers 157.5-134.5 and the No. 7 women defeated No. 21 LSU by 171-121 in the O’Connell Center. Senior Kara Salamone set a school-record in the one-meter springboard diving competition with a 318.15; she would also win the three-meter competition on Sunday. The UF women won 13 of 16 events while the men took 10 of 16. Check OGGOA’s weekly schedule to the right for the next Gators swim meets.

4 » Gators freshman golfer Tommy Mou took home the 84th annual New Year’s Invitational at the St. Petersburg Country Club with a four-day score of 2-over 290. “I tried to play my game, and it was so hard to do that (Sunday),” Mou told the St. Petersburg Times. “I only hit four or five greens all day. It was tough out there.”

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FOUR BITS: What happens to Chuck Heater?

1 » Hiring George Edwards as the Florida Gators defensive coordinator may or may not determine current assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater‘s future with the team. Will Heater share the role with Edwards, take on other responsibilities with the team, have his job remain the same or even leave for another opportunity? Right now, Gator Nation does not know. What is apparent is that Heater openly campaigned for the defensive coordinator position prior to the 2010 Sugar Bowl. “I’m interested in having a leadership role, whatever it might be,” Heater said in December. He reportedly turned down an offer to join Doc Holliday‘s Marshall Thundering Herd staff as defensive coordinator – does that become a more attractive option for the 33-year coaching veteran?

2 » Losing four assistant coaches (and one graduate assistant) after the 2009 SEC Championship, head coach Urban Meyer has replaced all of them post-haste. Even so, his cornerbacks coach position apparently remains vacant and additional coaching turnover in Heater and/or assistant head coach and defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney (whose name has popped up as a candidate for the recently available head job with the USF Bulls) may very well occur. Perhaps McCarney would even take Heater as his defensive coordinator? There is still a ways to go before this situation is settled.

3 » Florida women’s basketball (9-6, 2-0 SEC) turned in a thrilling 71-68 double-overtime victory against the Auburn Tigers (9-6, 0-2 SEC) Thursday evening in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Senior guard Steffi Sorensen began the second overtime without a point in the contest but drained three treys to lift her team to victory. The Gators led by 20 points in the first half but gave up the lead in the second half as the Tigers won the rebound (58-46) and turnover (22-15) battles. Sophomore center Azania Stewart led Florida with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

4 » Football has the Swamp Things, basketball has the Rowdy Reptiles, but baseball’s student section remains unnamed – until now. The baseball team is set to throw its first pitch of the 2010 season in just over a month’s time, and the University of Florida is looking to the student body for suggestions on what to name McKethan Stadium’s student section. The winning entry will receive a baseball autographed by head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, Nike Gators gear and the opportunity to throw out a first pitch before a game this season. Submissions are being accepted through Jan. 15 with the voting lasting from Jan. 19-22. An announcement will be made on Jan. 25. Only students are able to apply – visit GatorZone.com for more information.

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Parsons’ buzzer-beater drops N.C. State in OT

Down two with 2.6 seconds left on the clock in overtime and N.C. State Wolfpack guard Farnold Degand on the line ready to shoot his second free throw, the Florida Gators‘ hopes of winning a big out-of-conference game on the road looked dashed. Instead, Degand missed his shot, Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons grabbed the rebound, took two dribbles and threw up a 75-foot buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer to give the Gators (11-3) a much-needed 62-61 overtime victory in Raleigh, NC, at the RBC Center.

“It feels like a fantasy,” Parsons said while trying to gain perspective shortly after the game. “I’m waiting for someone to pinch me to wake me up. I’d by lying to you if I said I thought it was going to go in. It was pure luck. But I’m happy I was able to help my team and I was happy we were able to get out of here with the win. North Carolina State is a good team and they are going to have a great season. To be able to pull this out in front of their fans, with that crowd, it’s huge for us.”

One of Florida’s most consistent players this season, Parsons’ remarkable trey was his first made field goal of the game. The entire Gators squad struggled from beyond the arc yet again, shooting a combined 2-of-23 from three before Parsons’ final attempt. UF missed its first 13 three-point attempts and even rimmed out another that would have won the game in regulation.

Florida was within three numerous times at the end of overtime, but N.C. State (10-4) head coach Sidney Lowe directed his team to foul sophomore point guard Erving Walker before he could hoist up a three, limiting his ability to tie the game or take the lead. The Wolfpack missed four free throws in the final 38 seconds of overtime, allowing the Gators to stay in the game even with their poor shooting down the stretch.

Redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin led Florida with 14 points while Walker posted 13 of his own. Junior forward Alex Tyus added 11 points in the contest, his fifth-straight game with double-figure points. Tyus also led the Gators with seven rebounds, while Parsons and freshman guard Kenny Boynton each contributed six boards. For N.C. State, star F Tracy Smith scored 21 points and G Javier Gonzalez added 13 of his own, eight of which were in overtime.

Florida hopes to continue their lucky streak when they open Southeastern Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 9 at noon in Nashville, TN, against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The game will air live on ESPN.

Women’s basketball (8-6) also took home a road win Sunday, toppling the Alabama Crimson Tide 59-53 in both teams’ conference opener. Senior G Lonnika Thompson and sophomore C Azania Stewart led the Gators with 12 points each.

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Florida basketball teams dominate on Wednesday

Still trying to recover from three straight losses after climbing to No. 10/11 in the AP Top 25 and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls three weeks ago, Florida Gators basketball (10-3) rolled the Presbyterian Blue Hose (2-12) 79-38 on Wednesday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Junior forward Chandler Parsons led Florida with 21 points including two three-pointers and three dunks.

Fellow forwards juniorAlex Tyus and freshman Erik Murphy posted double-doubles in the Gators’ victory, scoring 16 points each; Tyus collected 13 rebounds while Murphy grabbed 11 boards. Florida shot 30 percent from downtown with freshman guard Kenny Boynton going 3-for-8 from beyond the arc, leading the team in makes and attempts while finishing with 14 points. Freshman point guard Rod Tishman saw seven minutes of limited action, earning two points, rebounds and assists.

Gators sophomores G/F Ray Shipman (knee) and center Kenny Kadji (back) both sat out the contest; starting redshirt junior transfer C Vernon Macklin only played 14 minutes. F Jake Trovli led the Blue House with 14 points. Florida will next face the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Raleigh, NC, on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010, at 3 p.m.

Also on Wednesday, the women’s basketball team (7-6) defeated the Jacksonville Dolphins (1-9) for head coach Amanda Butler’s 50th win at the school. The Gators shot 54.5 percent from the floor while limiting Jacksonville to only 26.5 percent shooting. Sophomore G Trumae Lucas and freshman F Jennifer George led the team with 15 points each while senior F Sharielle Smith turned in the sixth double-double of her career with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

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FOUR BITS: Cincy ready, Boynton’s shooting

1 » One day after advancing to the finals of the Gator Holiday Classic with a dominating 62-35 win over the Southern Jaguars, Florida Gators women’s basketball (5-6) fell to the High Point Panthers (5-6) 75-68 at home in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Senior forward Sharielle Smith led the Gators with a team-high 11 points for the fifth double-double of her career (11 rebounds).

2 » Though they lost head coach Brian Kelly to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their interim coach, Jeff Quinn, accepted the head job with the Buffalo Bulls, the Cincinnati Bearcats are playing better than ever, according to quarterback Tony Pike. “I think this has been our best week of practice this season,” Pike said. “It’s been a relief to get back on the field. The success we’ve had this season had been overshadowed by the other stuff.” The Bearcats and Gators will both descend on New Orleans, LA, on Saturday to begin practice for the 2010 Sugar Bowl.

3 » A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Florida freshman guard Kenny Boynton has already delighted fans with his exciting play and aggressive style. His shot selection, however, leaves much to be desired. Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun took a closer look at Boynton’s struggles – the freshman sensation is shooting only 37 percent from the floor and a measly 21.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the Gators’ loss last Saturday against the Richmond Spiders, Boynton was 0-6 from three-point range, some of which were simply bad shots. “Kenny may have taken some bad shots, but I think the same thing can be said of the rest of our team,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “Guys are going to have ups and downs. He’s got to have the freedom to take good shots, to take unchallenged shots.” While his shot selection may be questionable, one key to Boynton’s success in the backcourt is his penchant to hold onto the ball; he has a sterling 2.25 assist-to-turnover ratio.

4 » Though Donovan and his players are certainly not making excuses, one of the reason’s for Florida’s recent struggles on the court (aside from the high quality of opponents faced) are their injuries. Only six of the team’s 11 scholarship players are healthy, with the frontcourt being especially banged up. Junior forward Chandler Parsons (torn leg muscle), redshirt junior transfer center Vernon Macklin (pulled gluteus muscle) and sophomore C Kenny Kadji (back) will all likely be good-to-go Tuesday. Freshman F Erik Murphy (shoulder), on the other hand, may sit and rest. “Those kind of injuries that we have right now are similar to a lot of teams and what they go through,” Donovan said. “But there’s no question [that other teams] have a lot more depth than we do right now.”

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