TWO BITS: Gators earn 26th commit, QB Murphy

1 » Two-star dual-threat quarterback/athlete Tyler Murphy (Wethersfield, CT) is the newest member of the Florida Gators unanimously ranked No. 1 2010 recruiting class. Courted by QB coach Scot Loeffler and interim head coach Steve Addazio, Murphy took an official visit to Gainesville, FL, this weekend and committed on the spot. Murphy was previously committed to the Temple Owls, but as soon as the Gators offered him, it became apparent that he would end up in the Orange & Blue. “It’s been very exciting,” he told ‘Mark Wheeler of Rivals. “Just to know where everything falls into place and that all the hard work pays off. It’s very exciting and I’m very happy to be able to come down [to Florida].”

»» Rivals is also reporting that the Gators and 2010 three-star tight end commitment Michael McFarland (Tampa, FL) have agreed to have him grayshirt the 2010 season and enroll with the 2011 recruiting class. McFarland was reluctant at first, out of pride, but realized that this move would benefit him in the long run. Grayshirts usually wait until the second semester to enroll in school instead of in the fall. This move would open up an additional scholarship for Florida to fill before National Signing Day on Feb. 3.

2 » Florida women’s basketball and No. 8 tennis were in action on Sunday, both taking home victories. Basketball (11-9, 4-3 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (10-9, 3-4 SEC) 59-56 while tennis swept the North Texas Mean Green 7-0. Senior forward Sharielle Smith led the Gators with 11 points while freshman F Jennifer George grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

Photo Credit: Mike Orazzi

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Walker leads Gators past Razorbacks, women lose

Sophomore point guard Erving Walker turned in a career-high 27 points to lead the Florida Gators (13-5, 2-2 SEC) over the Arkansas Razorbacks (8-10, 1-2 SEC) 71-66 on the road at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR. Walker began the game by hitting his first five shots (four from downtown) and finished 7-of-12 (5-of-6) on the night.

Junior forward Alex Tyus started 0-for-5 but finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for the eighth double-double of his career. Tyus hit the boards hard in the second half, as did fellow junior F Chandler Parsons who left with 11 rebounds but only six points on 1-of-8 shooting after initially going 0-for-7. Razorbacks’ guard Courtney Fortson completed a double-double of his own with 14 points and 11 assists, while G Rotnei Clarke led Arkansas with 17 points shooting 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.

The Gators started the game 2-of-12 from the field and 0-for-3 from downtown until Walker made a three to tie it up at 11. He finished the half with 15 points while the rest of the team was only 4-of-25 from the field and 0-for-6 from three for 11 total points. Walker continued his dominance in the second half with an opening trey, a shot that gave him Florida’s last 10 points on both sides of the break.

A 10-2 run by the Razorbacks would tie the game, and a three-point play by Fortson gave Arkansas the lead back for the first time in the second half. Clarke would go on to score 11-straight points for the Razorbacks including a three that put Arkansas back up 56-55 with 6:40 remaining. However, the Gators countered with a 9-0 run, would eventually take a game-high nine-point lead and were able to hold on from there.

Freshman G Kenny Boynton contributed 13 points but was only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Senior F Dan Werner and freshman F Erik Murphy were a combined 0-for-7 from the field; Werner was ineffective throughout the contest while Murphy was tentative in the paint and missed a number of easy layups and put-backs.

Florida was able to out-rebound Arkansas 42-29. The Gators only shot 35.5 percent from the field compared to 44.2 percent by the home team, but made 21-of-26 free throws against Arkansas’ 12-of-17 from the charity stripe.

The Gators return home to face the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN.
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The Florida women’s basketball team (10-9, 3-3 SEC) lost 82-58 on the road in Tuscaloosa, AL, to the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-10, 1-5 SEC) at the Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide were previously winless in conference play before absolutely throttling the Gators Thursday night. Florida’s 24-point loss was their worst this season. Tierney Jenkins led Alabama with a double-double on 28 points and 12 rebounds while Celiscia Farmer and Ericka Russell added 19 and 18 points, respectively. Senior forward Sharielle Smith was the Gators’ most productive player with nine points and nine rebounds.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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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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