Welcome to Carter's Corner!
AUSTIN, Texas -- The South Region No. 3-seed Gators open NCAA Tournament play on Friday against No. 14-seed Northwestern State.
It marks the first meeting between the schools.
Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Miami, UCLA and Pacific are also here at the Austin Regional.
Here is a primer on the seven other schools in Austin, starting with the Gators' first-round opponent:
--Did you know? Northwestern State is not that Northwestern, the school in Evanston, Ill., famous for its journalism school and as the only program from a power conference that's never qualified for March Madness. Meanwhile, this is Northwestern State's third trip.
--Staying grounded: While the other seven teams flew to Austin, the Demons hopped on a bus for the 330-mile drive to Austin from their campus in Natchitoches, La.
--Pouring in points: Northwestern State led the nation in scoring with 81 points a game, followed by Iona (80.7), Indiana (80.0), Iowa State (79.6) and LIU-Brooklyn (79.5). All five teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
--Player to watch: Junior F DaQuan Hicks, who leads the Demons with 14.1 points a game.
--Did you know? Pacific's most famous basketball alum is former No. 1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi, taken by the Clippers in 1998. Olowokandi had a serviceable nine-year NBA career (8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds) but never reached professional stardom.
--Long distance: The Pacific campus is the farthest away from Austin, located 1,713 miles away in Stockton, Calif.
--A final goodbye: Longtime Tigers coach Bob Thomason is retiring after the tournament. Thomason is in his 25th season at Pacific and has 561 career wins at three schools.
--Player to watch: A hard-nosed guard from Compton High in Los Angeles, senior Lorenzo McCloud has the Tigers' only double-double this season (20 points, 12 rebounds).
--Did you know? The Hurricanes played in their only Sweet 16 in school history 13 years ago in Austin.
--Larranaga's magic: In only his second season in Coral Gables, Larranaga was named National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers this week. Larranaga's claim to fame before this season was leading George Mason to the 2006 Final Four.
--Remember me? Miami senior F/C Kenny Kadji started his career at Florida and faced his current team in the second round of the 2009 NIT. Kadji scored four points in seven minutes in the Gators' 74-60 win over Miami.
--Player to watch: Hurricanes sophomore point guard Shane Larkin "was the missing piece of the puzzle for us" according to Larranaga. Larkin is the son of former big-league All-Star Barry Larkin and the steadying force for Miami's veteran-laden roster.
--Did you know? The Buffaloes like to keep it loose and made a Gangnam Style video earlier this season that has more than 30,000 views on YouTube. Check it out:
--SEC ties: Colorado coach Tad Boyle spent a season in the SEC. Boyle served as an assistant on former Vols coach Jerry Green's staff during the 1997-98 season in which Tennessee made the NCAA Tournament.
--Unfamiliar territory: This is Colorado's 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament but the first back-to-back trips in 50 years. The last time the Buffaloes were invited to the Big Dance in consecutive seasons was 1962 and '63.
--Player to watch: Junior F Andre Roberson is one of only five players in the NCAA Tournament averaging a double-double, collecting 11.3 rebounds a game to go with his 10.9 points.
--Did you know? The Illini did something no other team did this season: beat No. 1-ranked Gonzaga on the Zags' home court.
--Instant impact: Coach John Groce arrived from Ohio University where he led the Bobcats to their first Sweet 16 appearance is 48 years last season. He is back in the Big Dance in his first season in Champaign.
--Flashback: Former Gators coach Lon Kruger, who left UF for Illinois in 1996, lost to the Gators in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
--Player to watch: Senior G Brandon Paul is considered a streaky shooter, but Paul can knock shots down fast when he is on target. Paul is averaging 16.3 points with a career-high 74 3-pointers.
--Did you know? Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield played for the Gophers and was good enough to get drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the fifth round of the 1973 NBA Draft.
--Family ties: Junior guard Austin Hollins is the son of former NBA player and coach Lionel Hollins, who played his final college game for Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA.
--Texas greeting: Gophers coach Tubby Smith had Texas football coach Mack Brown stop by practice to speak to his team shortly after Minnesota arrived in town on Wednesday.
--Player to watch: Gophers 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward Trevor Mbakwe is a long athletic player who will be key for Minnesota to advance far in the postseason.
--Did you know? The Bruins lost to the Gators in the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Tampa, but these are different Bruins. No current UCLA players competed in that game.
--History lesson: The last time UCLA faced Minnesota in March Madness, the Bruins lost and Minnesota advanced to the Final Four in 1997.
--Tournament kings: UCLA has won 11 national championships, more than any program. The Bruins last won the title in 1995 and are 100-37 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
--Player to watch: Bruins freshman F/G Shabazz Muhammad leads UCLA with 17.8 points and chips in 5.3 rebounds.
FRANK ERWIN CENTER (aka The Drum)
Opened: Nov. 29, 1977 (Texas vs. Oklahoma men's basketball game)
Largest crowd: 17,829 (John Denver concert in 1978)
Last event: An Eric Clapton concert on Sunday night. Arena officials have worked since 2 a.m. Monday to prepare the building for the NCAA Tournament according to the Austin American-Statesman.
NCAA Tournament site: 1981, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2013
Famous quote: "The University built a great building. It seats 16,000 and parks two cars." -- Former Texas coach Abe Lemons
Famous moment: Arkansas upset defending national champion Louisville in the 1981 NCAA Tournament on a mid-court shot at the buzzer.
The nickname: A former Texas publicist included that the building resembled a giant snare drum on literature promoting ticket sales and the name stuck.
Tuesday March 19, 2013A look at NCAA taunting rules in basketball and football (i.e. Henderson and Gator Chomps)
Updated: 12:45pm, March 19
Since most of you who visit this blog regularly follow the Gators closely, by now you have probably seen the above video of Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson taunting Florida fans with a Gator Chomp.
Henderson’s taunts came after his 3-pointer put the Rebels up 59-53 late in the second half of Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship.
Henderson is a player you either love or hate. Rebels fans love him. Florida fans and Auburn fans and Missouri fans mostly stand on the opposite side of the fence.
The SEC isn’t quite sure what to make of him. Henderson was named the tournament’s MVP Sunday but was not invited to the postgame press conference after some off-the-wall comments after Friday’s game. Henderson is playing his first season in the league, but you could say he has a history. You may remember Henderson taunting Auburn fans earlier this season. He also interacted with the crowd at Tennessee.
In the Rebels’ victory over Missouri on Friday, Henderson taunted the Tigers by zooming by their bench as they prepared to huddle for a timeout late in the game. Only a couple of Tigers shook Henderson’s hand after the game and Missouri assistant Dave Leitao was clearly upset at Henderson’s antics.
In the wake of Henderson’s Gator Chomps on Sunday, several Florida fans have either emailed or asked on Twitter why Henderson wasn’t called for a technical foul for taunting in Sunday’s game the way a football player would have been called for an unsportsmanlike penalty.
It’s a good question. In a hypothetical sense, if Henderson played receiver for the Rebels and caught a touchdown pass late in the game, and then Gator Chomped Florida fans sitting in the end zone, Ole Miss would be flagged a 15-yard penalty to be assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
For a comparison between the official rules on taunting in NCAA Division I basketball and football, here is how the rulebooks address the infraction in relation to Henderson’s Gator Chomps:
NCAA Basketball 2012-13 Rulebook
Rule 10 – Fouls and Penalties
Section 5 (Men) CLASS A Unsporting Technical Infractions
Article 1 A player or substitute committing an unsportsmanlike act including, but not limited to, the following:
b. Using profanity or vulgarity; taunting, baiting or ridiculing another player or bench personnel; or pointing a finger at or making obscene gestures toward another player or bench personnel.
c. Inciting undesirable crowd reaction.
PENALTY: Two free throws shall be awarded to any member of the offended team.
RESUMPTION OF PLAY: For any technical foul(s), play shall resume at the point of interruption except for a single flagrant 2 technical foul or a single contact dead ball technical foul (Article 1d through 1i). For a single flagrant 2 technical foul or a single contact dead ball technical foul, the ball shall be awarded to the offended team at a designated spot at the division line on either side of the playing court
Based on the ruling above, most notably Article 1c, officials were within their authority to have called a technical foul on Henderson, which would have resulted in a pair of Florida free throws and continued possession of the ball.
Meanwhile, a look at the football rule on taunting, which is more in-depth and went into effect starting with the 2011 season and included a significant revision: players caught taunting opponents on the way to scoring a touchdown would cost their team the score and be penalized 15 yards from the point of the infraction.
NCAA Football Rulebook
Rule 9 – Conducts of Players and Others Subject to the Rules
Section 2 Unsportsmanlike Conduct Fouls
Article 1 There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct or ay act that interferes with orderly game administration on the part of players, substitutes, coaches, authorized attendants or any persons subject to the rules, before the game, during the game or between periods. Infractions for these acts by players are administered as either live-ball or dead-ball fouls depending on when they occur.
a) Specifically prohibited acts and conduct include:
1) No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threating or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:
a) Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat
b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally
c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition
d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)
PENALTY: Live-ball fouls by players: 15 yards.
For those who have asked, now you know the official rules. Ultimately, though, the officials’ actions in the heat of the moment matter most.
Monday March 18, 2013Gators a popular Final Four pick, Tebow news, Haeger strikes, Fire Chief Erron Kinney
Updated: 8:11pm, March 18
The Gators open the NCAA Tournament on Friday night against Northwestern State in Austin, Texas.
I haven’t posted links in a few days, so here goes a look at some of the more interesting news of interest for Gator fans on this Monday afternoon.
These should keep you reading a while:
--SI.com’s Pete Thamel has the Gators among his five teams that are most difficult to project entering the NCAA Tournament.
--AlligatorArmy.com writer Andy Hutchins blogs about why the Gators are a popular Final Four pick.
--Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports writes a profile of Gators coach Billy Donovan that is worth a read.
--Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi pokes a little fun at Tobacco Road with Florida and Miami as Final Four candidates.
--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley writes that defense did in Gators in SEC Final.
--Love him or hate him, Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson was the big story at the SEC Tournament writes Duane Rankin of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.
--Northwestern State is Florida’s opponent in first round of March Madness. A look at the Demons’ reaction to Sunday’s news from the Shreveport (La.) Times.
--ESPN.com’s UF beat writer Michael DiRocco writes that the Gators’ backfield should be in good hands with Matt Jones and Co.
--The Orlando Predators are interested in former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow if no NFL team is writes the Los Angeles Times.
--Speaking of Tebow, here is what Jets coach Rex Ryan had to say about the Florida icon Monday at the NFL Annual Meetings in Arizona.
--Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith is not a fan of a new proposed NFL rule to prevent running backs from lowering their heads when being tackled.
--ESPN SweetSpot blogger David Schoenfield writes that former Gators catcher Mike Zunino will end M’s catching nightmares.
--The Florida baseball team dropped two of three to Kentucky in its SEC series opener writes Jim Harvin of the Gainesville Sun.
--ESPN.com’s latest NCAA women’s basketball bracketology forecast; Florida is on Charlie Crème’s S-Curve – but barely.
--UF softball player Lauren Haeger delivered on St. Patrick’s Day writes Adam Lichtenstein of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Former Gators tight end Erron Kinney has a new title: Fire Chief of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. (Which happens to be the hometown of Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler). Watch this video for more of Kinney's story, including his massive toy fire truck collection.
Friday March 15, 2013Gators hope their Purifoy Plan this spring can pay dividends in fall
Updated: 10:19am, March 15
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Maybe if Loucheiz Purifoy was an unknown walk-on or veteran role player who had never found a home on the field, Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease could just forget to give him back to the defense.
However, Pease realizes it wouldn't take long for head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to come looking for him if he tried to steal Purifoy away permanently this spring.
"We understand Loucheiz is a defensive guy,'' Pease said. "But I think when you got a talent like him, he can step on the field and give us something offensively and make defenses scheme against you a little bit."
As the Gators look for ways to bolster their offense in Pease's second season, they are working Purifoy at receiver the first seven practices of spring camp. Purifoy, a starting cornerback and one of Florida's most productive players, lined up at receiver occasionally last season but with limited knowledge of the position.
Purifoy is getting an intense primer this spring, and come fall, the Gators would like to be able to use him on offense as another target for quarterback Jeff Driskel and as a real concern for opposing defenses.
Purifoy is listed atop the spring depth chart at the Z receiver position.
Following the first practice of spring camp on Wednesday, Muschamp sounded pleased with Day 1 of the experiment.
"He made some plays at wideout," Muschamp said. "Again, he's still in a learning process. I had a long talk with him [Tuesday], he got a little frustrated. I said, 'Listen, remember your first day at corner?' I mean, it just doesn't happen overnight.
"That's why we're doing this, so you can learn the concepts of the offense when you step in. It's very difficult for a guy that's had tremendous success at a position when you're trying to learn another position.”
In his first two seasons Purifoy has proven to be one of the SEC's top cornerbacks. He plays with a toughness and physical style that Muschamp covets, and he also has the kind of speed that could make him a dangerous threat in the passing game.
First, he has to learn how to properly run routes, read coverages and pick up the other details that separate true receivers from someone who can occasionally catch a pass.
"You can't always just put Loucheiz in and throw a screen or run a reverse with him every time he's in the game,'' Muschamp said. "We need to expand his package if we're going to continue to move forward with that. We just need to get him more turns and reps at the position and not get away from what he does best, which is cover."
Purifoy was a two-way player in high school so fatigue isn't a concern. He also emerged on kickoff returns last season and has been a regular contributor on special teams, blocking a punt against Louisiana last season that was returned for a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds by Jelani Jenkins.
So while Pease might think about hiding him away on offense, he knows that will be impossible. Purifoy is too valuable in other areas. The Gators just hope he can add receiver to the list.
Wednesday March 13, 2013Former Gators soccer standout Heather Mitts officially announces her retirement
Updated: 8:59am, April 18
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Former Gators soccer standout Heather Mitts, who went on to star internationally for the U.S. Women's National Team, announced her retirement from the game Wednesday evening.
A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Mitts was a member of the Gators team that won the 1998 national title in the program's fourth season.
Here is a Q&A we did with Mitts prior to last summer's London Games, when she talked about leaving the game for good after the Olympics.
She posted the following statement on her website, HeatherMitts.com, to say goodbye to the game:
"The time has come for me to move onto a new stage of my career. I truly appreciate the women who paved the way, to my friends and dear teammates that I will never forget.
I will miss the little things … the travel by plane, train and minivan, the locker room moments, keeping my teammates on their toes and nothing will ever compare to putting on that U.S. jersey. It’s been an amazing journey with some obstacles but in the very end I feel so fortunate that we were able to close on a golden note.
(Photo: Mitts, right, celebrates winning gold last summer with teammate Abby Wambach).
I will continue to stay close to the sport, as I will be working as a sideline analyst and ambassador for the Philadelphia Union while taking part in other soccer-related projects. I also look forward to starting a family and becoming an ultimate soccer mom.
A special thanks to Ohio ODP, my numerous club teams, St. Ursula Academy and the University of Florida. To Becky Burleigh, Vic Campbell & Mark Kirkorian for preparing me to reach the next level and James Galanis for helping me reach my full potential.
April Heinrich, Greg Ryan, Pia Sundage and Tom Sermanni for giving me an opportunity to play for the best team in the world.
Thanks to the numerous trainers and supporting staff over the years. Omi Iwasaki for helping me come back from my ACL. My sponsors TRX, Polk, GNC and especially Under Armour, which has let me protect the house since 2004. My agent, Dan Levy, and most of all my loving parents, supportive extended family and wonderful husband.
It's amazing how 28 years of playing a sport I love and always will, can fly by. From my first cap 'til now, the growth of the sport has been profound. I look forward to the launch and success of the NWSL, and rooting on my Boston Breakers. Old ladies club of Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx keep the flame alive! I leave with so much gratitude to US Soccer for allowing us the right to play for our country. Lastly, the fans. Your constant love and support for the sport and this team is among the best in the world. I look forward to joining you to cheer on this amazing team.
'Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.'
Thanks to all the people who have made this dream."
Tuesday March 12, 2013Pro Day Notebook: Gators draw a crowd, Elam's main adviser, Jenkins' decision, plus more tidbits
Updated: 8:47am, April 18
Former Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins makes a catch in front of scouts at Tuesday's Pro Day.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Josh Evans had a class last year and didn’t get to attend Florida’s annual Pro Day.
But Evans showed up to watch former Gators such as Tim Tebow, Joe Haden and Aaron Hernandez work out for NFL scouts three years ago and the memory hung with him.
“It was pretty impressive,’’ Evans said Tuesday.
So was Tuesday. More than 60 talent evaluators came stocked with their stopwatches and tape measures. Every NFL team was represented as were two CFL franchises – Montreal and Hamilton.
Florida coach Will Muschamp made the rounds, chatting with scouts and coaches as more than a dozen Gators participated in drills.
“That’s how a Pro Day is supposed to look at Florida,’’ Muschamp said. “All 32 teams are here, and that’s how it ought to be. If we continue to do a good job evaluating, recruiting and developing our players, which we will, our pro days will continue to look that way. Really proud of these guys that worked out today and appreciate their contributions to the University of Florida.
“I want to congratulate our staff on doing a great job developing the guys as well.”
The former Gators who participated Tuesday were linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, safeties Evans and Matt Elam, receivers Frankie Hammond Jr. and Omarius Hines, defensive tackle Omar Hunter, offensive linemen Xavier Nixon, Sam Robey and James Wilson, defensive end Earl Okine, running back Mike Gillislee, kicker Caleb Sturgis and tight end Jordan Reed.
A few players from previous seasons also showed up, including defensive back Moses Jenkins, defensive lineman Lawrence Marsh, offensive lineman Phil Trautwein and offensive lineman Carl Johnson.
Sharrif Floyd, considered the Gators’ top prospect in April’s NFL Draft, was on hand to take measurements but is expected to hold a private workout for scouts at a later date. Also, defensive lineman/linebacker Lerentee McCray did not participate.
While the rainy conditions caused some concern early, the players were pleased they were able to perform in front of the pro personnel.
“I wake up every day just blessed and glad I’m able to be in this position with these guys and compete,’’ Hunter said.
BRADLEY MEETS MUSCHAMP
The Jaguars had the most representatives of any team with six, including general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley.
Bradley recently took over the Jaguars after leaving his post as defensive coordinator in Seattle. Bradley’s move had the domino effect of former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn leaving to replace him in Seattle.
Bradley and Muschamp spent several minutes talking Tuesday in their first face-to-face meeting. Bradley wants to develop a close relationship with the Florida program as he tries to lead the Jaguars back from the depths of the NFL.
“Building that relationship is important,’’ Bradley said. “From talking to players, it sounds like he’s got it rolling. In the recruiting classes and the players he has here, it shows. They have a lot of good players we’re looking at.”
ELAM’S BIG BROTHER
Behind Floyd, Elam is considered the most likely Florida player to go in the first or second round.
Elam announced after the Sugar Bowl that he was foregoing his senior season to enter the draft. Abram Elam, Matt’s older brother and a veteran NFL safety, has guided him through the draft process.
As his younger brother finished his workout Tuesday and met with a horde of reporters, Abram Elam stood off to the side taking photos with his smartphone.
“I’ve been walking hand-in-hand with him through this process and helping him, providing him the right information he needs to make the right decisions,’’ Abram Elam said. “He is doing a great job with being mature of everything that is taking place because it’s foreign to him.
“I’m just so proud of him and all he has overcome to get where he is today. He has been able to capitalize on every opportunity he has been given. A lot of young guys sometimes stumble, but he’s been able to stay the course and be successful.”
As for Matt, he said Tuesday was a chance to show off his versatility, especially making plays on the ball. He said he still hasn’t gotten a good gauge on which teams are most interested and has some private workouts scheduled soon.
Being back in The Swamp Tuesday was something he looked forward to.
“I’ve been playing on this field for three years and I go out to work every day, so I feel comfortable,’’ he said. “I feel great. I prepared well. It’s been a very tough process. You go day to day.”
Said Abram: “He’ll continue to go through the evaluation process and will be in a good position come draft day.”
While much of Tuesday’s Pro Day was conducted in a steady drizzle, the players didn’t seem to mind once they got on the field.
Neither did the coaches.
“The weather is probably not what we all had hoped for, but it’s still great to get out of the office and see all these athletes,’’ said Bradley, who along with the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin were the only head coaches in attendance. “We had a chance to see a lot of them at the combine, but it’s good to see them in their home environment and to get a chance to talk to their coaches.”
Despite the conditions the field was in good shape.
“It was kind of mushy, but you are going to play football in the rain, so I don’t like to make that excuse,’’ Jelani Jenkins said.
Elam welcomed the opportunity to perform in the adverse conditions.
“You’ve got to come out and play in different weather,’’ Elam said. “You’ve got to be able to adjust, so I feel like it was great for me to show off my mobility in the rain a little bit so they could see I can adjust.”
THEIR BIG DECISIONS
Former Gators tight end Jordan Reed runs a route during Tuesday's UF Pro Day.
Jelani Jenkins, Reed and Floyd joined Elam in opting to leave school a year early.
Jenkins did so despite an injury-plagued season that raised questions about his decision. He said Tuesday that he is fully healthy now and hasn’t looked back.
“I talked to a lot of people, some who thought I should stay and some who thought I should leave,’’ Jenkins said. “At the end of the day, it was my decision. [Another injury] was definitely something I thought about. It would have definitely been a lot worse if I came back and got hurt again.”
Meanwhile, Reed voiced a similar sentiment.
“It was a difficult choice,’’ he said. “I talked to my family and we all came to a conclusion. They helped me out with my choice and that meant a lot to me. I’m just happy to be here today and I’m glad with my choice.”
While Floyd didn’t work out Tuesday due to an ankle sprain, his former teammates are not surprised at how Floyd’s draft stock has climbed since the Sugar Bowl. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock views Floyd as a top-five pick and some analysts have even mentioned him as a potential No. 1 overall selection.
“Not at all,’’ Evans said. “I knew from Day 1 that Sharrif is going to be impressive and be one of those guys who are going to be drafted pretty high due to his work ethic, how strong he is, his quickness. I mean he is just a big athlete. The way he dominates the line of scrimmage is like no other.”
Hunter is thankful for Floyd’s stature in the draft.
“When a guy like Sharrif is being scouted so much, they have to look at me,’’ Hunter said. “I’m right next to him every play. That’s a good thing. He’s staying humble. He is still the same Sharrif when he was here. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I love it.”
NOTES AND NUGGETS
Gillislee said he has a workout scheduled with Atlanta on Friday and one with St. Louis on April 2. Despite becoming the first Gators running back to rush for 1,000 yards in eight years last season, Gillislee views himself as underrated so far in the draft process. “I see myself as a sleeper. I think I’m the best back for my opinion. I’m getting a little bit of credit but not as much as I expected.” … Reed said scouts have told him the biggest improvements he needs to make are getting stronger and becoming a better blocker. “That’s what I’ve got to work on. I knew that already.” … Former Gators running back Chris Rainey took in the scene on Pro Day, where his former coach in Pittsburgh, Tomlin, was watching prospects. Despite getting cut from Pittsburgh in the offseason due to an off-the-field issue, Rainey hopes to play in the NFL this season. “When I get that phone call, it’s time to work. I guess they just wanted to teach everybody else a lesson or something. That’s the way I look at it. That’s a good team. I just hope I go to another good team.” … Evans, who said he tweaked a hamstring in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, was pleased with his performance in the 40 Tuesday. He said he was told his best time was 4.45 seconds, his lowest 4.53 seconds. … Former Gators Riley Cooper (Eagles), Carlos Dunlap (Bengals), Brandon Siler (Chiefs) and Reidel Anthony were among those on hand Tuesday. … Sturgis kicked a 58-yard field goal in the rain and has been working out with former Gators punter/kicker Chas Henry to prepare for the draft. … Former Gators assistant and Duke head coach Carl Franks drove up from Tampa to check out Pro Day.
Gators coach Will Muschamp talks to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, center, and Eagles receiver Riley Cooper.
Tuesday March 12, 2013NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock's quick take on Gators in draft
Updated: 4:05pm, March 12
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Mike Mayock was in his element on Tuesday.
One minute he was chatting with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin about a prospect, the next writing down numbers on sheet of paper attached to a clipboard that he carried from station to station during Florida’s Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
NFL Draft season is when Mayock shines brightest as the NFL Network’s lead draft analyst. You can check out his latest position rankings here.
A former standout defensive back at Boston College, Mayock has spent months studying film and taking measurements on this year’s crop of players.
Shortly before conducting an on-field interview with Gators coach Will Muschamp, GatorZone.com caught up with Mayock to get quick thoughts on the Gators most likely to get drafted.
Here are Mayock’s comments on several players:
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd
“The first time I put the tape on I thought he was phenomenal. I think he is a legitimate top-five pick and I think he is a prototype 4-3 technique.”
Safety Matt Elam
“On tape he plays so close to the line of scrimmage, especially in their nickel package, he’s on the slot. He’s quick-footed, an aggressive tough kid. What I saw today was what I wanted to see, his ball skills, especially on deep balls. I could see him open his hips, take angles like a deep half or deep third. I thought he really helped himself today.”
Tight end Jordan Reed
“It was important to see him. He initially told the tight end coaches that he wasn’t going to go and they kind of shamed him into it. I think it was good for the kid. He caught the ball extremely well, not just the one-handed catches that look good, but every catch was solid, no double catches. I’d put a third-round grade on him but it wouldn’t surprise me in today’s NFL if he ended up in the second round somewhere.”
Linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins
“I think both of them are solid players. I don’t think they are going in the first three rounds, but they are kind of like the 4-3 Will linebackers even though Bostic has played inside. I think they are both good and solid, will play special teams, will cover kicks. They will do everything you ask of them in the kicking game and on top of that they have a chance to develop into solid starters.”
Running back Mike Gillislee
“I think he plays bigger than he weighs. I think he weighed in at 208. I like him because I think he’ll pass protect and I think he’s tough. I don’t think he is a natural hands catcher, but I think he’ll pass protect and that’s important.”
Safety Josh Evans
“He is a big solid kid. To be honest with you, I’ve got to go back and do a little more work on him. I kind of like the way he moved around today. I’ve got to do more homework on him.”
Offensive lineman Xavier Nixon
“He is a draftable offensive lineman. The question is where? To me he’s either a right tackle or guard, and I’m thinking he’s a guard. He doesn’t have great feet. He’s got good size, long arms.”
Monday March 11, 2013Billy D commercials, Floyd's ankle, experience a Tebow workout, plus more tidbits
Updated: 12:18pm, March 11
You may remember a few weeks ago when colleague Chris Harry wrote this about Gators coach Billy Donovan and his staff working with accomplished filmmaker Joy Pytka on a UPS commercial.
Well, Pytka's work is now complete and those commercial spots Donovan shot that day are ready to roll out.
There are three versions released over the weekend on YouTube and all three are here for your viewing.
As for me, I'm finishing up some previews on the Gators heading into spring practice to post later today on GatorZone.com.
For now, here are some fresh links from around the Internet on some items of interest to Gator fans:
--Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel offers his list of five things to watch during Florida’s spring football practice.
--Former Gators DT Sharrif Floyd will not participate in UF’s Pro Day on Tuesdaydue to a sprained ankle. Click here for more from ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco.
--The UF men’s basketball team has some questions to answer entering the NCAA Tournament writes ESPN.com blogger Myron Medcalf.
--If you are interested in working out Tim Tebow style, you have a chance in Tampa and Orlando writes the Orlando Sentinel. Tebow will be there working out too.
--In case you missed this piece on Gators coach Billy Donovan by Rick Reilly of ESPN.com, here goes the link. It’s worth the read.
--Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun caught up with former Gators standout Andrew Moten, who was recently passed by Gators senior Kenny Boynton for second all-time on the school’s scoring list.
--In addition to the new UPS commercial featuring Donovan from above -- you'll be seeing these during March Madness -- here are two other versions set to appear on a TV near you...
And this one...
Thursday March 7, 2013New NCAA Rule: Targeting a defenseless player equals automatic ejection, more new rules
Updated: 5:32pm, March 7
VIDEO: A look at the kind of hits that can earn a player an automatic ejection starting in 2013.
Players ready to deliver a helmet-rattling hit next season need to be careful. If the officials determine that a player targeted an opponent and made contact with the defenseless player above the shoulders, he will be ejected.
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the new rule Tuesday based on a recommendation last month by the NCAA Football Rules Committee in its mission to improve player safety in college football.
Besides the player getting ejected for targeting a defenseless player, a 15-yard penalty will be enforced. According to the NCAA, the rule’s punishment will mirror that of the current penalty for fighting. If a player is penalized in the first half he will miss the remainder of the game; if he is penalized in the second half he will miss the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game.
In addition, the penalty will be reviewable through video replay to address concerns that the call on the field was an error.
While the targeting rule is the most prominent new rule the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved for the 2013 season, several other rules were approved:
--A rule clarifying what blocks below the waist are acceptable. The NCAA streamlined the rule to allow all blocks below the waist that occur in front of a stationary defender during typical line play.
--A rule that adds a 10-second runoff when there is less than a minute remaining in the first and second half and the clock stops due to an injury.
--A rule prohibiting teams from spiking the football when there are less than three seconds remaining on the clock. Instead, the offense can run only one more play when there are one or two seconds left.
--A rule that allows replay officials to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. In the past, the NCAA only allowed for such clock changes at the end of each half.
--A rule that requires any number changes made during a game to be reported directly to the referee, who then will officially announce the number change.
--A rule preventing players on the same team who play the same position from wearing the same number.
--A rule that clarifies the uniform font and color rules to the letter. Here is the adopted rule: "Jerseys must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, andbe of one solid color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number."
--A rule to allow officials to use electronic communication during games, following the lead of the Southeastern Conference. This rule is not required but will be allowed.
--Finally, the panel denied a recommendation called the “Boise State Rule.” The proposed rule sought to deny teams from wearing uniforms that were the same color as their playing field. Boise State often wears all-blue uniforms on its all-blue field.
(Sources: NCAA.org, USA Today)
Wednesday March 6, 2013Johnny Mags, Senior Night at O'Dome, Tebow's future in NY, UF-Bama softball, more tidbits
Updated: 2:24pm, March 6
It's Senior Night at the O'Dome on Wednesday for Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario.
Hey folks, the Gators men’s basketball team hosts Vanderbilt tonight in its last home game of the season.
That’s the headliner in Florida sports for Wednesday, but as always, there is plenty more happening. Here are some fresh links to keep you updated:
--Florida closer Johnny Magliozzi finished off Jacksonville Tuesday night and Cody Dent is now playing shortstop writes Adam Pincus of The Independent Florida Alligator.
--The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway writes about the trio of Florida seniors – Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario – playing their final home game.
--The UF seniors have a chance to make history writes Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union.
--The Florida women are ready to face Arkansas in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament writes Jim Harvin of The Gainesville Sun.
--For more on the SECWomen’s Basketball Tournament, check out this blog from Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com.
--The contracts for assistant football coaches D.J. Durkin, Joker Phillips and Brad Lawing were released by the UAA recently writes The Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser.
--ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco takes a look at some of the father-son combinations to play football at UF over the years.
--The Gators softball team visits SEC rival Alabama tonight in a game that won’t count in the conference standings writes Tommy Deas of The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News.
--New York Jets GM John Idzik has not ruled out former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow being back in New York this season writes Conor Orr of The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger.
--In case you missed it, former Gators running back Robert Gillespie is now running backs coach at Tennessee writes Nooga.com.
--The Gators lacrosse team improved to 8-0 on Tuesday with a victory over Loyala. For more on the Gators lacrosse program's 'Journey to the Top', check out this video from GatorVision:
Tuesday March 5, 2013A look at where Gators baseball team stands as it heads into a five-game week
Updated: 5:50pm, March 5
Florida baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan continues to search for ways to maximize his team's potential.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It was a 10-day stretch foreign to the Florida baseball program since head coach Kevin O’Sullivan took over in 2008.
Starting with a home loss to Georgia Southern on Feb. 20 in which the Gators committed six errors, Florida dropped six consecutive games – all at McKethan Stadium – to fall to 3-7 after 10 games.
You could say the mood around the ballpark was a little chippy for a program with three consecutive trips to the College World Series on its résumé.
The Gators finally snapped the skid with a 6-4 win over Miami on Saturday night, handing Miami its first loss of the season. The Gators followed that victory with a series win over the Hurricanes on Sunday, taking the rubber game 6-3 thanks to a four-run third inning that provided starter Eric Hanhold with an early cushion.
The back-to-back wins delivered a measure of relief for the Gators heading into a busy week. The Gators play at Jacksonville on Tuesday, and then return home to face the Dolphins on Wednesday before hosting Indiana in a three-game series this weekend.
“As far as we’re concerned, winning feels a lot better than losing,’’ O’Sullivan said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll take it, but we’ve still got some work to do.”
The Gators are just 12 games into a 56-game regular season, so there remains a ton to learn about this team, one with just two seniors on the roster.
A good start for the Gators to turn their fortunes around would be simply to climb back to .500 or better before opening SEC play March 15 at home against Kentucky.
Sophomore outfielder/pitcher Justin Shafer, who had a pair of doubles and an RBI in Sunday’s series-clinching win, is optimistic better days are ahead.
“Just like losing is contagious, so is winning,’’ Shafer said. “Hopefully we just keep the roll on. It’s all about confidence. You win a couple of games, you’re confidence level goes up.”
Let’s take a look at some current factors the Gators face as they seek to improve:
The Gators have had their issues early on, but freshman shortstop Richie Martin was not one of them. Martin had reached base safely in the first 12 games of his college career and was riding a 10-game hitting streak (.357, 15-for-42) when he squared to bunt in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game.
He had also been steady defensively since an error in his debut, making just one over the next 11 games.
However, the news Monday was not good. Martin (photo, left) suffered a broken finger on his right hand when his hand slid up the barrel and was hit by the pitch. Martin, batting .327 as the leadoff man, is expected to be out three to four weeks.
O’Sullivan turned to senior Cody Dent to replace Martin on Sunday. Dent is expected to get the bulk of the playing time in Martin’s absence. A sure-handed fielder who started the season in center field and has significant experience at third base, Dent faces a tough task to match Martin in the batter’s box. Dent is hitting .172 (5-for-29) with no homers and three RBIs.
A STOUT SEC
Have you checked out the latest national rankings of late? If the pundits know what they are talking about, the SEC is going to be a dogfight every night.
Baseball America has Vanderbilt ranked second, Mississippi State third, South Carolina sixth, Ole Miss seventh, LSU eighth, Kentucky 11th and Arkansas No. 16.
The other polls offer similar respect to the league. The Gators face six of the seven SEC teams currently in Baseball America’s Top 25, missing only Arkansas on the regular-season schedule.
BETTER PLATE APPROACH
O’Sullivan made it clear in a team meeting after Friday’s loss to Miami that he wanted to see the Gators have better at-bats. During Florida’s six-game losing streak, it left 52 runners on base, including nine or more four times. They also made some uncharacteristic mistakes on the bases.
The pep talk seems to have resonated. In the two wins over Miami the Gators scored 12 runs and stranded 11 runners.
Thus far the hottest bats in the lineup belong to Shafer, Martin and Zack Powers. Shafer is hitting a team-leading .413 with eight extra-base hits and six RBIs entering Tuesday night’s game at Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Powers is batting .351 with a team-high three homers and 11 RBIs.
While Martin is out, O’Sullivan could use more production from second baseman Casey Turgeon (.245), catcher Taylor Gushue (.237) and sophomore Josh Tobias (.192). Center fielder Harrison Bader has shown signs of being a good potential top-of-the-order player. Bader is hitting .261 and has three stolen bases in five attempts.
STAY STEADY DEFENSIVELY
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Gators’ young season was a rash of errors they made in the first week. The Gators committed 15 errors in their first five games, including a head-scratching six in the loss to Georgia Southern.
Those close to the program figured it was an anomaly and it appears to have been. Over the last seven games Florida has played error-free five times and has made just three errors.
With Martin out, the Turgeon (photo, left) and Dent duo is strong up the middle though Dent lacks Martin’s range. Tobias is solid when he is at third and Bader has good defensive skills in center. Gushue has a team-leading five errors from behind the plate as he continues to adjust to his first full-time starting assignment.
MORE STARTER INNINGS
A former All-ACC catcher at Virginia, O’Sullivan has a reputation as one of the best college coaches in developing arms and managing pitching staffs.
He is still trying to find the right buttons to push with this staff. First, he lost projected No. 2 starter Karsten Whitson for the season due to a shoulder procedure. The Gators have already used 14 pitchers – the same total as last season in 67 games -- and seven of those are freshmen (six true, one redshirt).
Florida is currently ranked 11th in the SEC with a 4.26 team ERA. O’Sullivan reiterated following the Miami series that the Gators need to get more innings from their starters to help save the bullpen.
While No. 1 starter Jonathon Crawford (photo) has thrown 15 innings in three starts – Crawford tossed a season-high six innings in a no-decision Friday against Miami – no other starter among the group of Tucker Simpson, Eric Hanhold, Kennan Kish or Shafer has been able to get through five innings.
The lack of innings from the starters has meant extended work for the bullpen. Four relievers (Jay Carmichael, Ryan Harris, Daniel Gibson and closer Johnny Magliozzi) have already appeared in seven or more games. Harris leads the staff in innings pitch with 15 1/3.
The Gators will need senior Jennifer George at her best to make a run in the SEC Tournament.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators women’s basketball team departs Tuesday night for Duluth, Ga., site of this year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament. The No. 9-seed Gators (17-13, 6-10) face No. 8-seed Arkansas (18-11, 6-10) at noon Thursday in a rematch of Florida’s regular-season home finale on Feb. 28.
The Gators defeated Arkansas at the O'Connell Center 69-58 behind a double-double from senior forward Jennifer George, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Florida will practice Wednesday at The Arena at Gwinnett Center as it seeks to win a third consecutive opening-round game in the SEC Tournament, including a win over Arkansas in 2011.
You can follow each game of the tournament here at SECDigitalNetwork.com.
Razorbacks coach Tom Collen said Monday that he sees the Florida-Arkansas rematch as a close one that could easily go either way, with severe ramifications for the loser.
"We probably feel like it's an elimination game for the NCAA Tournament,'' Collen said. "The loser probably loses an opportunity, the winner probably stays on the board and advances with a chance to still make the NCAA Tournament."
Gators coach Amanda Butler (photo at left with Jaterra Bonds) is counting on veterans Jennifer George, Jaterra Bonds and Lily Svete -- the only UF players who have played in the SEC Tournament -- to set the tone for her young team.
Six of Florida's 10 SEC losses were by seven points or less as the Gators often struggled late in games that were winnable with a play or two.
"We’ve got to have balance and an awareness of what we're doing well and what we're not doing well,'' Butler said Monday. "We all have to be on the same page on those things. You’ve got to be the tougher team. How much knowledge of the other team only goes so far.”
On an SEC media teleconference Monday afternoon, several coaches discussed how deep the league is this season compared to past years. While Tennessee, in the Vols' first season since the 1973-74 campaign without Pat Summit on the bench, is the tournament's No. 1 seed, no one is willing to concede Tennessee is the clear favorite.
The Vols finished 14-2 in conference play, losing their regular-season finale on Sunday at Kentucky. The Wildcats finished second at 13-3, followed by Georgia (12-4) and Texas A&M and South Carolina at 11-5. LSU finished 10-6.
"We feel like our league is as competitive as it has been in several years,'' Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "The play and talent in the league is higher and very well-distributed throughout the league."
Collen said he wouldn't be surprised if any of the top-six seeds win the tournament and isn't ruling out others such as No. 7-seed Vanderbilt, which finished 9-7 in league play.
With the tournament slated to start on Wednesday night when No. 12-seed Mississippi State faces No. 13 Alabama, here is a primer to get you ready:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Meighan Simmons, Tennessee -- A junior guard, Simmons scored 27 points to help the Vols escape Gainesville with a 78-75 overtime victory over the Gators in mid-January. Simmons averaged 17.7 points a game to lead the league in scoring and also shot an SEC-best 83.9 percent from the foul line.
Tiffany Clarke, Vanderbilt -- The senior forward is the reigning SEC Player of the Week who scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots in a victory over the Gators Feb. 21. The tournament is also in Clarke's hometown, so she should be comfortable in her surroundings.
A'Dia Mathies, Kentucky -- The reigning SEC Player of the Year is the first player in Kentucky history -- men or women -- to accumulate more than 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 250 steals in her career. Mathies has helped the Wildcats advance to the Elite Eight two consecutive years and is seeking a three-peat in her final season.
Kelsey Bone, Texas A&M -- The 6-foot-4 center was SEC Newcomer of the Year in 2010 at South Carolina and then sat out a season after transferring to Texas A&M. Bone has not disappointed in Aggieland. She is third in the league in scoring (17.3 points) and second in rebounding (9.7) while leading the conference in field-goal percentage (56.7 percent).
Morgan Eye, Missouri -- The Tigers finished 6-10 in their first season in the SEC but if Eye gets hot, watch out. She helped Missouri upset Tennessee earlier this season and her 108 3-pointers led the league. Eye needs one more 3-pointer to break a tie with Mississippi State's Alexis Rack (2010) for the single-season SEC record for 3-pointers.
Theresa Plaisance, LSU -- The 6-foot-5 junior forward is a big reason why the Tigers enter the tournament as the hottest team, winners of six in a row. Plaisance is second in the league in scoring (17.6), sixth in rebounding (8.2) and first in blocked shots (2.8).
For the Gators to make a run, they will have to get by Arkansas in the first round and then upset top-seed Tennessee in the second round. They beat Arkansas and narrowly missed defeating Tennessee in the regular season, so they know they can compete with both teams.
"We all know each other so well at this point,'' Butler said.
George must be healthy and play assertive the way she did before multiple shoulder injuries slowed her down this season. If George can average a double-double and Bonds plays in control and makes good decisions at point guard, the Gators could surprise. Even if the two veterans come through, young players like Sydney Moss, Christin Mercer, January Miller and Carlie Needles have to offer significant contributions.
Kayla Lewis -- The redshirt sophomore (photo, left) has been plagued by injuries during her career but finally got on the court regularly and averaged 7.8 points and 6.1 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game. Lewis scored 11 points and had eight rebounds in Florida's win over Arkansas, and in the loss to the Vols, she scored five points and had a team-high 11 rebounds.
Lewis, the 2010 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year, also enjoyed the highlight of her prep career at The Arena at Gwinnett Place, leading her Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) High team to a state championship there in her final game in 2010.
Butler and Moss both celebrate birthdays on Wednesday. Butler, in her sixth season as Florida's head coach, turns 41. Moss turns 19. You can bet both would like nothing more for a gift than a deep run in the tournament.
33 -- SEC women's basketball tournaments since the event debuted in 1980
22 -- Times winning team has come from the state of Tennessee (Tennessee -- 16 titles; Vanderbilt -- 6)
9 -- Consecutive years either Tennessee or Vanderbilt has claimed the title
128 -- Career games for Florida's George. She needs one more to tie school record.
3-5 -- Gators' record in SEC Tournament under Butler
17-32 -- Florida's all-time record in SEC Tournament
2 -- Gators with at least 100 assists this season, making Florida only team in league with that distinction (Bonds and Moss)
11 -- SEC teams to finish the regular season with winning records; only Mississippi State (13-16), Alabama (12-17) and Ole Miss (9-20) failed to finish above .500
20.4 -- Scoring margin for Kentucky, which leads the league; Wildcats averaged 77.3 points, allowed 56.9
6-21 -- South Carolina's all-time record in SEC Tournament, worst among the field
Former UF standout Sophia Witherspoon is the Gators' SEC Great being recognized at the tournament. Witherspoon will be honored at halftime Thursday of the Florida-Arkansas game. A 5-foot-11 guard from Fort Pierce, Fla., Witherspoon finished her career as the school's sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,381 points. She was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Witherspoon was a first-team All-SEC selection in 1991 when she averaged 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
When Witherspoon completed her UF career, she went on to play for several seasons in the WNBA, spending time with the New York Liberty, Portland Fire and Los Angeles Sparks. The 43-year-old Witherspoon returned to Fort Pierce Central High, her alma mater, to become the girls' basketball coach in 2009.
Monday March 4, 2013Gators softball tosses perfect game, Parsons goes off, UF baseball back in win column, more tidbits
Updated: 11:32am, March 4
The Gators softball team capped a successful weekend with a combined perfect game.
If you like to start out the week with fresh links from around the Internet to catch up on what you may have missed in the world of Florida sports over the weekend, well, we've got you covered.
Here are some fresh links that cover items likely of interest to Gator fans:
--The Gators baseball team won two out of three against Miami over the weekend to snap a six-game losing skid writes Jim Harvin of The Gainesville Sun.
--The Gators men’s basketball team clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season title with a victory over Alabama on Saturday. Here is the Alabama perspective after the loss from Don Kausler Jr. of Al.com.
--The UF women’s basketball team closed out the regular season Sunday with a 67-56 loss at South Carolina writes Phillip Heilman of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Pat Summit may no longer be in charge, but the Tennessee women earned the No. 1 seed in the SEC women’s basketball tournament. Here is a primer from Michelle Voepel of ESPN.com.
--The Gators lacrosse team knocked off Syracuse Saturday at Sun Life Stadium as the sport’s popularity is on the rise in South Florida writes Kally Saco of The Miami Herald.
--Florida softball pitchers Hannah Rogers, Lauren Haeger and Alyssa Bache combined for a perfect game in Sunday’s win over Presbyterian writes Adam Lichtenstein of the Alligator.
--Rockets second-year player Chandler Parsons continues to prove he was a steal in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, scoring a career-high 32 points for Houston Sunday from Rockets.com. Here is more on Parsons’ performance from The Houston Chronicle.
--Former Gators two-sport star Jeff Demps has returned to the track near his central Florida home to resume his track career while still a member of the New England Patriots writes Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
--Speaking of track, Gators junior Sean Obinwa won the Alex Wilson 800 in South Bend, Ind., over the weekend to improve his NCAA standing. Click here for more details from GatorZone.com.
--Another former Gators standout, Wizards rookie Bradley Beal, suffered a scare Sunday writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post.
--In case you missed it, the UF gymnastics team closed out its regular-season home schedule in impressive fashion with a school-record score writes Jim Harvin of The Gainesville Sun.
--The UF men’s tennis team opened SEC play Sunday with a victory at Texas A&M. Click here for details from GatorZone.com.
--Meanwhile, the UF women’s tennis team had its 37-match SEC regular-season win streak snapped by the Aggies. Click here for details from GatorZone.com.
--TheFantasyFix.com breaks down former Gators catcher Mike Zunino, a rookie in the Seattle organization, if you are interested in adding him to your fantasy team.
--The latest on the UF swimming teams adding more NCAA provisional times at the Last Chance Meet. Click here for details from GatorZone.com.
Friday March 1, 2013Gators-Canes baseball, King has special visitors, Boynton's shot, plus more tidbits
Updated: 4:39pm, March 1
The Gators host Miami for a three-game series starting Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
Those folks who turn over the O’Connell Center from gymnastics to basketball are going to be working late.
The UF gymnastics team hosts Minnesota at 7 p.m., and then Saturday at noon Billy D’s Gators host Alabama in an important game in the Southeastern Conference race.
Meanwhile, the Gators baseball team hosts Miami in a three-game series at McKethan Stadium that opens tonight.
With so much going on, here are some fresh links for your perusal:
--The Gators have dominated Miami on the diamond in recent years, but the Hurricanes are the team off to a hot start writes Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun.
--For more on Florida’s opponent this weekend, here is a blog about the Hurricanes by the Miami Herald’s Susan Miller Degnan.
--Did you catch Joakim Noah’s big game for the Bulls on Thursdaynight? Philly fans should not have cheered in last season’s playoffs when Noah went down with an ankle injury writes ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell.
--Senior Night at the O’Dome for the women’s gymnastics team is going to be special for Marissa King writes Chuck Kingsbury of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Sophomore pitcher Alyssa Bache is one of the reasons the UF softball team is off to a 17-1 start writes Jim Harvin of the Gainesville Sun.
--Senior guard Kenny Boynton’s shots have not been falling of late, but the Gators are confident Boynton will regain his touch writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.
--ESPN.com ranks all 75 NCAA men’s basketball champions and has the 2006 Gators at No. 38 and the 2007 Gators at No. 14.
--The Gators lacrosse team faces Syracuse at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturdayin a rematch of a national semifinal last year writes Max Mattern of the Alligator.
--Seven members of the Gators track and field team are competing in South Bend, Ind., in a final attempt to qualify for NCAAs. Click here for more details from GatorZone.
Thursday February 28, 2013Al Horford's big night, Gators softball's big win, Demps on track, plus more tidbits
Updated: 9:53am, February 28
Former Gators standout Al Horford set a new career high with 34 points on Wednesday (Photo: USA Today).
The Gators women's basketball team closes out the home regular-season schedule tonight at the O'Connell Center against Arkansas. It's Senior Night and Florida's Jennifer George will be honored.
There's a lot more going on in Gators athletics and to help you stay informed, here are a dozen links -- and a Ryan Lochte TV promo.
--The UF softball team knocked off USF on Wednesday night in front of a crowded house in Tampa writes Greg Auman of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Former Gators SS Nolan Fontana is one of Houston's top minor-league prospects in major-league camp writes Astros.com.
--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley writes about the road woes of SEC men's basketball teams in his latest column.
--Gators point guard Jaterra Bonds driven by a past failure against Razorbacks as Arkansas visits UF tonight writes Phillip Heilman of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--VIDEO: Gators Sharrif Floyd continues to draw praise for his performance at NFL combine. Here is video of his 40-yard dash.
--The Gators are returning to full strength entering their showdown with Alabama on Saturday writes Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun.
--Slumping Gators baseball team needs to relax writes Adam Pincus of Independent Florida Alligator.
--ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco breaks down the 10 Gators who performed at the NFL Combine.
--ESPN.com's Ed Aschoff takes an early look at the SEC East in his latest spring football blog.
--Former Gators standout Al Horford poured in a career-high 34 points in Atlanta's win over Utah on Wednesday night.
--Former Gators RB Jeff Demps is returning to track writes NFL.com, fate with Patriots unclear.
--Is America ready for another reality TV show? A show featuring former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte? Here is a sneak peek. You can decide:
Wednesday February 27, 2013NFL veteran, former Gators LB Siler reconnects with program as he prepares for law school
Updated: 3:43pm, February 27
Former Gators LB Brandon Siler, No. 52, is back at UF working toward his degree (Getty Images).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Former Gators linebacker Brandon Siler knew it then but not as well as he knows it now as a six-year NFL veteran.
The 2006 Gators national championship team wasn’t your average team.
“Our team was special in a lot of ways,’’ he said. “We had guys behind guys, guys on first-, second- and third-string who were the best in the country. We felt that any time you put that many guys together in the same place, you are going to do something special.”
The Gators answered the challenge by winning the program’s second national title and first in a decade. Siler was a starting linebacker drafted in the seventh round by San Diego a few months after Florida defeated Ohio State for the national title.
In the years since his final season at Florida, Siler has not been back to campus very often. He’s been busy establishing himself in the NFL, spending his first four seasons with the Chargers and the last two with Kansas City.
Siler is set to become an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires in late March. While he is anticipating a new opportunity with a new team next season, Siler is also working toward his post-football life.
Siler (photo at left during college) is taking 16 credit hours at UF this spring toward finish his undergraduate degree. He needs 29 credits to graduate and plans to return next spring to complete his degree, and then start preparing for law school.
A fellow UF alum and good friend of Siler’s sparked his interest in going to law school. But it’s not a coach or former teammate.
“I want to be a personal injury lawyer,’’ he said. “I’ve been trying to decide what I want to do after the game. A big influence on me is John Morgan.”
Unless you haven’t watched TV the last 25 years or so, you probably know who Morgan is. He runs the Orlando-based law firm Morgan & Morgan and has appeared in commercials regularly for more than two decades.
Siler lives in Orlando with his wife and young son. Since January they have split their time between an apartment in Gainesville on weekdays and their home on weekends.
Siler didn’t know Gators coach Will Muschamp prior to returning to school this spring, but Muschamp welcomed him back into the program quickly. Siler works out in the Gators’ weight room and has gotten to know Florida’s coaches and players while reconnecting with the program.
“The guy has a great work ethic. He is trying to extend his career,’’ Muschamp said. “We always embrace the former players to come back. They understand what it takes to be a Gator, and certainly Brandon did it at a high level.
“He was a guy who was a physical, tough, hard-nosed player and played the game the right way. He is a great example for all of our players, especially our young linebackers for his work ethic and the time and effort that he is putting in.”
Siler isn’t sure what’s next for him in the NFL. He played in 16 games last year for Kansas City after missing the 2011 season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. He moved into the starting lineup the last four games following the death of teammate Javon Belcher.
Siler has also developed into a presence on special teams in his NFL career, which adds to his market value.
“I’ll test the market to see where I’ll be,’’ he said. “I’ve got a lot of things I want to do before I leave the league. I want to be one of the premiere linebackers and I want to be an every down linebacker and I want to win a Super Bowl. Those were the goals that I set out to achieve and that I’m still working on.”
For now Siler is focused on finishing out the semester and being back in familiar surroundings. From what he has seen the Gators are on track for some special moments in the future to add to those from the past.
“I’m enjoying myself. I think we have a good group of guys and they are pushing each other,’’ he said. “It’s nice being back around. I think we’ve got something good going on around here and I’m enjoying it. I think they can take us to where we want to be, which is putting more rings on our fingers.
“We had something special [in 2006] – that’s something you can never take away from us. When you step away from it, you kind of see what it means. Florida has been around for a long time and Florida has only three national championships, and I was part of one of them. That’s how I always look at it.”
Tuesday February 26, 2013Troy saw Gators' determination to win SEC title on display from start to finish
Gators coach Gregg Troy celebrates the UF men's SEC title (Janna Schulze/SwimSwam.com).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators swimming coach Gregg Troy knows success. Actually, Troy and success are rarely apart.
The 62-year-old Troy, a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has won championships on the high school, college and international levels. He served as the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team coach last summer in London and led the Gators women’s team to the 2010 national title.
But until Saturday at Texas A&M, Troy had never experienced the thrill of leading the Florida men to a Southeastern Conference championship. That trophy had gone to Auburn for 16 consecutive years, a streak that started even before Troy took over the Florida men’s program in 1999.
The Gators had been runner-up over and over – 11 consecutive years. The streak was way past old for Troy and his swimmers. Troy noticed a laser-like focus in the men from the start of the season.
“They started out with a purpose,’’ he said Monday. “We were in a dynamic where there was a real concern for one another.”
As the Gators racked up the points at the SEC Championships last weekend, a rival coach stopped Troy and pointed out how determined the Gators appeared. Troy agreed, a fact he had seen for months.
When the meet was over Saturday night, Troy and his assistants took a dip in the pool with the rest of the team. The Gators had done it, winning their first SEC title in 20 years and finally snapping Auburn’s historic streak. The Tigers’ streak of 16 consecutive conference titles was third in league history, trailing only an 18-year streak for the Florida volleyball team and 17-year streak by the Arkansas men’s cross-country program.
“A good weekend for the Gators in College Station,’’ Troy said. “Our athletes did a tremendous job. Every time we had a little disappointment where maybe a guy would miss the final in the morning and be in the consolation final, we had somebody step up in the next heat we didn’t expect.”
The Gators performed well from top to bottom. Marcin Cieslak won conference titles in the 100 and 200 fly, freshman Pawel Werner won the 200 free title and Matt Elliott won the 200 breast. Meanwhile, the 800-free relay team of Cieslak, Werner, Sebastien Rousseau and Eduardo Solache-Gomez also captured a league title.
A deeper roster and deeper commitment proved too much for the rest of the field as the Gators scored 212 more points than runner-up Auburn and nearly 400 points more than third-place Georgia.
“Three years ago the NCAA meet wasn’t as fast as what this year’s conference meet was in a lot of events,’’ Troy said. “A true team performance. I think it bodes well for the future. Looking ahead to the NCAA meet, we know what to do. We handled the competition.
“There was a real purpose to what they were doing.”
The Gators will take the same approach to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis in late March. If Troy ends up taking another dip in the pool, you know things went well for the Gators.
Tuesday February 26, 2013Gators football coach Will Muschamp's spring speaking tour schedule announced
Updated: 2:49pm, March 20
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators football coach Will Muschamp’s annual 10-stop speaking tour opens April 2 when Muschamp speaks to the Gainesville Quarterback Club.
Muschamp and several of his assistant coaches will hit the road regularly this spring to speak to Florida football fans once the Gators complete spring practice with the Orange & Blue Debut spring game on April 6. Muschamp’s speaking engagement at the Gainesville Quarterback Club is his only appearance prior to the spring game.
In an attempt to give as many Florida fans the opportunity to hear Muschamp or one of his assistants speak around the state and in the Atlanta area – a hotbed for UF alumni – the speaking tour is a product of a collaborative effort by the UF Alumni Association, Gator Boosters, and the University Athletic Association.
Muschamp will open his third season at Florida when the Gators host Toledo in the 2013 season opener on Aug. 31.
Other scheduled speaking engagements for Muschamp this spring include May 1 (Titletown Gator Club in Gainesville), May 2 (Tampa Gator Club/Pinellas County Gator Club), May 7 (Polk County Gator Club in Lakeland), May 8 (Central Florida Gator Club in Orlando), May 14 (Gator Club of Jacksonville), May 20 (Jacksonville Quarterback Club), May 21 (Atlanta Gator Club), and a Daytona Quarterback Club appearance date to be determined.
Muschamp also has a speaking engagement scheduled May 23 with the Fighting Gator Touchdown Club in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, assistant coaches D.J. Durkin, Bryant Young, Joker Phillips and Tim Davis also have speaking engagements planned.
Durkin, Florida’s new defensive coordinator, will speak May 6 to the Southwest Florida Gator Club in Fort Myers; Young, the defensive tackles coach, will speak to the Panhandle Gator Club in Panama City on May 7; Phillips, the former Kentucky head coach in his first year as the Gators’ receivers coach, will speak to the Palm Beach County Gator Club on May 7; and offensive line coach Davis is speaking to the Space Coast Gator Club in Brevard County on May 14.
Monday February 25, 2013Troy jumps in pool, Floyd's football IQ, Caquatto sisters, plus more tidbits
Updated: 2:58pm, February 25
The Gators avenged an earlier loss to Arkansas with a 71-54 victory Saturday over the Hogs.
It was a busy weekend for University of Florida sports. Here are some fresh links from around the Internet to help you catch up in case you missed something:
--Coming off Saturday’s 71-54 win over Arkansas, the Gators are No. 4 in the latest ESPN.com power rankings.
--ICYMI, Gators long jumper Marquis Dendy did not fall short in quest to repeat as SECIndoor Champion. Click here for more from ESPN.com via AP story.
--The UF men’s swimming team won its first SEC title in 20 years and broke Auburn’s 16-year grip on the crown, which was worth a dip in the pool for Florida coach Gregg Troy.
--ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco takes a look at Florida safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans and kicker Caleb Sturgis at the NFL Combine.
--(VIDEO) Ex-Gators DT Sharrif Floyd talks to the NFL Network after his workout at the combine and shows off his football IQ.
--If you want to take a look at how Florida’s players at the NFL Combine performed on some of their physical tests, OnlyGators.com has posted many of the results.
--The Caquatto sisters had a big night on Friday when they competed for the first time together on the UF gymnastics team writes Katie Agostin of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--UF graduate Erin Andrews remains a prominent figure in sports broadcasting in her role at FOX Sports and showed off her quick segue skills in this awkward encounter with rapper 50 Cent on Sunday at the Daytona 500.
--Not the best weekend for the Gators baseball team, which was swept at home by Florida Gulf Coast University writes the Gainesville Sun.
--The UF women’s basketball team got back on the winning track at Alabama on Sunday writes Phillip Heilman of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Former Gators receiver David Nelson is now a restricted free agent after the Buffalo Bills declined to extend a qualifying offer writes the Buffalo News.
--The Florida lacrosse team stayed perfect with a win over Albany on Sunday as Shannon Gilroy set a school record writes the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Former Gators soccer standout Abby Wambach says she is “excited about what’s ahead” after a memorable couple of years writes the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.
--Bradley Beal is taking a more assertive role in his rookie season with the NBA’s Washington Wizards writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post.
Thursday February 21, 2013NCAA proposes 10 football rule changes to go before Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6
Updated: 4:41pm, February 21
According to a new rule proposal, South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger would have been ejected for this hit.
The NFL has implemented rule changes in recent years in the name of player safety. The NCAA Football Rules Committee is trying to do the same.
The committee recently proposed a rule to eject players who target and hit a defenseless player above the shoulders. The committee voted unanimously to increase what is now a 15-yard penalty for the type of helmet-to-helmet hits that are linked to concussions.
If the rule is approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6, a player would be automatically ejected if the referees determine the hit in question targeted a defenseless player.
“Student-athlete safety will always be one of our primary concerns,” said Air Force coach Troy Calhoun in a press release. Calhoun is chair of the committee. “We all have a role to embrace when making a positive impact on our game. Taking measures to remove targeting, or above the shoulder hits on defenseless players, will improve our great sport.”
According to NCAA.org, the proposed rule will mirror the penalty for fighting. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the second half or overtime of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.
“The general consensus is that the officials on the field make this call properly the vast majority of the time and know what the committee is looking for with this foul,” said Rogers Redding, secretary-editor of the rules committee and national coordinator of officials for College Football Officiating, LLC. “This move is being made to directly change player behavior and impact player safety.”
The targeting penalty is one of 10 rule changes the committee proposed. The others:
--The committee proposed another tweak to the “blocking below the waist” penalty that has confused fans and coaches the past two years due to various adjustments of the rule. To help make the call clearer, the committee proposed that any block below the waist in front of a defender is legal. All other blocks below the waist are not.
“What we’re trying to do is write the rule to protect the player that will need to take on this block,” said Calhoun. “So, the blocks from the front of this type in your typical line play are legal and anything that is from the side or back are not.”
--To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock to stop is an injury.
--To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play. **(This proposal has not gone over well based on social media comments).**
--To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce this.
--To only allow one player number to be worn by the same team and participate at the same position (e.g., two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).
--To require teams to have either their jersey or pants contrast in color to the playing field. This proposal is being called the Boise State Rule.
The blue uniforms Boise State wears at home sometimes are in jeopardy due to a new rule proposal.
--To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew after successful experimentation by the Southeastern Conference. This is not a required piece of equipment but will allow officiating crews to use this tool.
--To allow the Big 12 Conference to experiment with using an eighth official on the field in conference games. This official would be placed in the backfield opposite the referee.
--To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously this provision was only in place for the end of each half.