Welcome to Carter's Corner!
The Florida lacrosse team swarmed Stony Brook on Wednesday in its 2013 home debut.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest links from around the Internet covering topics of interest to Gator fans:
--The Gators baseball team had trouble catching the ball in Wednesday night’s 8-7, 12-inning home loss to Georgia Southern writes Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun.
--Interesting connection between Gators coach Billy Donovan and Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien as told by the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
--More from Florida’s loss at Missouri on Tuesday night from Jason King of ESPN.com.
--Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News examines the Gators’ late loss at Missouri and how worrisome it should be.
--The No.3-ranked UF lacrosse team kept its perfect record intact with a victory over Stony Brook on Wednesday in the Gators’ home debut writes Jim Harvin of the Gainesville Sun.
--The Gators and Auburn are in a close battle for first on the men’s side at the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships. Click here for more details from GatorZone.com.
--The UF women’s basketball team hosts Vanderbilt on Thursday and will try to overcome its knack of lackluster finishes writes the Independent Florida Alligator’s Phillip Heilman.
--Former Gators standout Chandler Parsons suffered an injured ankle in Houston’s game against Oklahoma City on Wednesday night writes SBNation.com.
--The Pouncey Twins and Charles Barkley playing golf in Lakeland on Friday could make for some interesting moments. Click here for details from the Lakeland Ledger.
--Seattle Times baseball writer Larry Stone catches up with the hottest rookie in Mariners camp, former Gators catcher Mike Zunino.
--The spat between former Gators offensive lineman Lomas Brown and his quarterback in Detroit, Scott Mitchell, appears to be settled writes NBCSports.com.
--Former Gators receiver David Nelson declares injured knee will be 100 percent wrote The Buffalo News recently.
Monday February 18, 2013Baseball rewind: Powers' power surge, O'Sullivan on more strikes, Dent opens strong, more tidbits
Updated: 8:56am, April 18
The Gators took two out of three against Duke to open the 2013 season over the weekend.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 13-ranked Gators’ season-opening series against Duke ended up a successful one following a pair of tight games on Friday and Saturday.
The Gators dropped the opener 4-3 on Friday and came back to even the series with a 4-2 victory on Saturday. The bats finally woke up on Sunday as the Gators rallied for 14 runs in their last three at-bats for a 16-5 victory. The victory extended Florida’s streak of taking the opening series to six consecutive years since Kevin O’Sullivan took over the program in 2008.
O’Sullivan spent most of the cooler-than-normal weekend (weather and Florida’s bats) perched on the top dugout step as the tense action unfolded at McKethan Stadium. When the Gators erupted for four runs in the sixth inning Sunday on redshirt sophomore Zack Powers’ grand slam, O’Sullivan could relax a tad.
“All in all, we needed an inning like that,’’ he said afterward. “We had been kind of scraping by all weekend.”
Powers wasn’t done showing off his power, becoming the first player in school history to hit grand slams in back-to-back innings when he did it again in the seventh inning. Former Gators outfielder Preston Tucker is the only other player to hit two grand slams in one game, a feat he accomplished in 2008 when he homered three times against UCF – adding a three-run homer sandwiched by a pair of slams.
The Gators are off Monday but return to action Tuesday night at UCF and at home Wednesday against Georgia Southern.
Despite losing the season opener for the first time under O’Sullivan, coming back to win the series was an important step for a Gators team that lost nine regulars from last year’s team to the MLB draft.
“It’s a big deep breath for everybody,’’ reliever Ryan Harris said. “We’ve got a young team. They got in there and got their first weekend and we did well. I think we’re getting ready to start hitting our stride.”
Anytime a player hits a grand slam, it’s notable due to the rarity of slams. Consider this: Florida led the nation in home runs last season with 75, but didn’t hit a grand slam.
And then Powers, who had never homered in 68 at-bats for the Gators, hit two slams in back-to-back trips to the plate.
“It’s great to be back and playing. To have a game like this is special,’’ Powers said. “The first time up I was just trying to get a base hit. The second time I got kind of greedy and wanted to go for it.”
Powers (photo, left) missed most of his freshman season in 2011 due to a torn meniscus. And then as a sophomore, Powers was redshirted after suffering a labrum injury. Finally healthy, the former standout at Armwood High could be seeing a lot more time in the lineup after Sunday’s nine-RBI performance – Powers had a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
“I’m just pleased he’s healthy and contributing the way we knew he could,’’ O’Sullivan said. “He’s a baseball player. We need to obviously get his bat in the lineup.”’
One stat O’Sullivan didn’t like from the weekend was that Florida’s starters faced only 46 batters while the bullpen faced 66.
The starting rotation of Jonathon Crawford, Tucker Simpson and Justin Shafer combined to pitch only 10 1/3 innings, surrendering eight hits and six runs for a 5.23 ERA. They walked five and struck out seven.
While Crawford made 14 starts a year ago, Simpson and Shafer were making their first career starts with expected No. 2 starter Karsten Whitson sidelined for the season due to shoulder issues.
“I wasn’t real pleased with how our starters threw,’’ O’Sullivan said. “They’ve got to get better. You can’t be going to the bullpen in the third and fourth inning. I know we are on a pitch count, but they’ve got to get better. Our starting pitching was fair at best this weekend.”
O’Sullivan said that he won’t hesitate to tinker with the rotation to get more production and save the bullpen from extended outings. The bullpen did its job, limiting the Blue Devils to five runs (two earned) in 16 2/3 innings over the three-game series.
Harris was Florida’s busiest reliever, pitching 4 2/3 shutout innings over two games and giving up just two hits.
Another concern O’Sullivan emphasized was that he wants to see the pitching staff be more aggressive in coming right at hitters, one of Florida’s strengths in recent years. The Gators issued five leadoff walks to Duke.
“You can’t just keep doing that. It’s like a turnover in other sports. It does lead to big innings,’’ O’Sullivan said. “There is only so many times you can go to the well before you fall in. If guys aren’t going to get ahead and do the things we taught them, we’ve got plenty of options, simple as that.”
Senior Cody Dent has spent most of his career playing the infield and as a late-inning defensive replacement.
However, Dent opened the season as Florida’s starting center fielder and showed signs the position might be a good fit.
Dent handled his 10 chances defensively without an error and some tweaks in the offseason to his approach at the plate helped Dent go 3-for-8 with a double and two RBIs in the series.
A career .180 hitter, Dent is two RBIs short of already matching his total from last season. He said he made a small tweak to his leg kick that helps him stay back in the batter’s box that seems to be making a difference.
“I get timed up for a fastball,’’ Dent said. “I was getting stopped [my old way]. My rhythm was getting interrupted.”
Dent hit in the ninth hole against Duke but if he continues to hit well, that could change according to O’Sullivan.
The Gators committed just 59 errors in 67 games last season and strong defense has been a staple of the program since O’Sullivan took over.
That was not the case in the three-game series against Duke as Florida made eight errors. Sophomore catcher Tyler Gushue committed four of those, three of them throwing errors on stolen-base attempts. In Gushue’s defense, two of the throws looked playable by Florida’s middle infielders but sailed into the outfield.
Shortstop Richie Martin and second baseman Casey Turgeon had fielding errors on Friday, and in Sunday’s game right fielder Vickash Ramjit, normally a sure-handed defender at first base, made two errors.
O’Sullivan doesn’t expect the uncharacteristic drops to continue and viewed the miscues more of an anomaly than anything else.
“I know we didn’t play great defense this weekend, but I’m very confident that our team defensively is going to be really, really good,’’ he said. “We just are not in sync.”
NEWS OF NOTE
Florida learned late last week that junior transfer Taylor Ratliff, an infielder/outfielder who played for two seasons at Jacksonville University, was denied his waiver request by the NCAA to be eligible to play this season.
Ratliff must sit out this season and will have two years of eligibility remaining starting next season. Ratliff started 82 games the past two seasons for the Dolphins and batted .281 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 31 games last season before a hand injury caused him to miss the season’s second half.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“I don’t like to think about Preston very much because I get depressed he’s gone.” – O’Sullivan when asked if Powers’ performance reminded him of Tucker, who finished his career last season as the school’s all-time hits leader (341) and second on the career home-run list (57)
Saturday February 16, 2013A ho-hum opening night for Gators, who didn't come back like Chipper hoped
Updated: 8:40am, February 16
Gators outfielder Cory Reid picked up his first career hit on opening night.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The pieces were in place for a festive opening night at McKethan Stadium on Friday.
A season-opening record crowd of 5,771 showed up on a cool night to watch the Gators open the 2013 season against Duke.
Based on recent history, the Blue Devils had no chance. The Gators entered a perfect 5-0 in season openers under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. The Gators had won 12 consecutive games against ACC opponents, including a 10-0 mark last season.
And you had to like Florida's chances with junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford on the mound where he threw a no-hitter eight months ago in one of the more memorable moments in the program's history.
For good measure, future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones -- a big Gators fan -- stopped by the dugout prior to the game and spent the next few innings watching from his seat behind home plate when he wasn't taking pictures with fans.
The only piece that didn't fall into place at the end was the final score: Duke 4, Florida 3.
"There is a lot of emphasis on opening night,'' O'Sullivan said afterward. "Everybody wants to play well on opening night. You want to win at home, but Duke played better than we did -- simple as that."
Hard to argue with O'Sullivan's analysis.
Blue Devils starter Trent Swart kept the Gators guessing for six innings and third baseman Jordan Betts drove a Crawford pitch over the left-center wall in the fourth inning for a two-run homer, an early reminder that Duke didn't take that long bus ride on Thursday to simply show up and roll over.
The Gators eventually tied the game 2-2 on Vickash Ramjit's RBI sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, but a leadoff walk by Gators reliever Corey Stump in the eighth set up Mike Rosenfield's go-ahead RBI triple. Rosenfield later scored on an error by Gators second baseman Casey Turgeon.
Florida rallied for a run in the eighth but went quietly in its final at-bat to drop the season opener for the first time since 2007 to VMI.
As a throng of Duke fans cheered the Blue Devils as they emptied their dugout and headed for the team bus, Gators reliever Ryan Harris (two shutout innings) said the Gators have 55 more games to play better than they did in their first one.
"We're ready to bounce back tomorrow and try to even the series,'' Harris said. "It's just one game. We know we didn't play our best game but we're going to come back and be resilient."
As opening nights go, the Gators have had better. Still, one game does not make a season.
The most famous fan at Friday's game knows that. Jones left after a few innings to head to Orlando and visit his former teammates with the Braves for spring training, but he did say goodbye on Twitter.
(Photo: Chipper Jones, left)
"Enjoyed being round Gator nation tonite. Hopefully they come back and get the W. Met a ton of nice people. Go Gators!"
The Gators will try to do better on Saturday. First pitch is shortly after 4 p.m.
NOTES AND NUGGETS
--In his first career game, redshirt freshman Cory Reid started in right field and went 1-for-2 with an RBI. Reid's RBI single in the second inning gave the Gators a 1-0 lead.
"It felt pretty good,'' said Reid, a product of Port St. Lucie High on the Treasure Coast in South Florida.
O'Sullivan liked the way the inexperienced Reid handled the opening-night start.
"He's been swinging the bat really good He plays really good defense,'' O'Sullivan said. "When we got back in January, it felt like he had made that turn. He earned it."
--Working on a pitch count, Crawford lasted 3 2/3 innings. He threw 74 pitches and gave up three hits and two runs. Crawford walked one and struck out four and threw the ball well according to O'Sullivan.
--Reid may be inexperience and a relative newcomer, but the big crowd wasn't lost on him.
"The crowd was great. We liked it. Hopefully they come out again tomorrow,'' he said.
The crowd filled in nicely by the end of the first inning and most hung around until the late innings when the temperature dipped into the high 40s.
--One area O'Sullivan wants to see the Gators do a better job at Saturday is patience at the plate.
"I thought we swung at some balls out of the zone early in the count,'' he said. "When we got into offensive counts, I thought we re-routed some swings when we need to stay in our stance and get a better pitch to hit."
Florida left four runners on base and went down 1-2-3 in five of the nine innings.
"We said this all along -- this isn't going to be a finished product by no means when we start the season. We've got a lot of young players and they'll get better as they go along,'' O'Sullivan said.
Friday February 15, 2013Ballpark notes: O'Sullivan likes young team, Whitson to miss season, Reid ready
Updated: 5:17pm, February 15
Cody Dent is one of just two seniors on this year's Gators baseball team, joining Vickash Ramjit.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators baseball team opens the 2013 season at 7 tonight in front of the home fans at McKethan Stadium.
While this year’s team is missing most of the players that helped the Gators reach three consecutive College World Series, there is no need to stop by the dugout to console Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan is one of the game’s top recruiters and while the roster doesn’t have as much experience as the past few seasons, Florida’s sixth-year skipper is confident in the talent.
“I’m very proud of who we have right now and what we’ve been able to do,’’ O’Sullivan said earlier this week. “This team has got a chance to be very successful. It is just going to be in a different way."
Several newcomers are expected to play regularly, including freshman shortstop Richie Martin and freshman outfielder Harrison Bader. O’Sullivan was impressed by both in preseason camp and is comfortable with them in the starting lineup to open the season.
To get you ready for opening night, here are some news and notes:
Turns out Gators junior right-hander Karsten Whitson will be sidelined longer than expected.
According to Whitson's father, Kent, his son underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder Thursday performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.
Kent Whitson told PerfectGame.org that Karsten’s rehabilitation is expected to last at least four months, a timetable that means Whitson will miss Florida’s 2013 season.
Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan announced Wednesday that Whitson was sidelined with shoulder fatigue and that there was no timetable on his return.
After Whitson's father revealed his son's procedure Thursday, O'Sullivan told PerfectGame.org that he is optimistic that Whitson can return to full strength and resume his promising career.
Whitson was San Diego's first-round draft pick in 2010 and turned down a $2.1 million signing bonus to play for the Gators. Whitson was 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA as a freshman but was limited to only 33 innings last season due to assorted arm issues.
"We're very disappointed that Karsten won't be able to pitch for us this season,'' O'Sullivan said. “But on the other side of it, we're very excited he's going to be 100 percent at the end of this process. We look forward to getting him back on the mound in '14."
Whitson was expected to be Florida's No. 2 starter entering the season. However, O'Sullivan said the Gators' rotation for this weekend's season-opening series against Duke will be Jonathon Crawford on Friday, freshman Tucker Simpson on Saturday and sophomore Justin Shafer on Sunday.
A player to keep a watch on in tonight’s season opener against Duke is outfielder Cory Reid, a redshirt freshman who did not play last season after joining the program from Port St. Lucie High, the same school that produced one-time big-league phenom Rick Ankiel.
Reid is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and bats and throws right-handed. He is expected to start in right field to open the season. O’Sullivan said Reid played well in the fall and carried that into preseason camp.
Reid played for the North Shore Navigators in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League last summer, and hit .194 and with three doubles and two RBIs. He stole four bases in seven attempts.
A familiar face in a not-so-familiar position is infielder Cody Dent, who is expected to play some in center field because of his defensive ability. Dent has shined defensively at third base during his career but an inconsistent bat has prevented him from a regular spot on the lineup.
A senior, Dent hit .134 a year ago (11-for-82) as freshman Josh Tobias came in and took over as the starting third basemen. If Dent flashes his glove as usual and can improve at the plate, he could help fill the void left when center fielder Tyler Thompson left the program earlier this year.
28 – Number of players Florida has lost the past two seasons (17 on roster, 11 commitments who signed professionally)
.820 – O’Sullivan’s winning percentage at McKethan Stadium in his five seasons (155 wins, 34 losses)
18 – Letterwinners returning for Gators, including four positional starters (1B Vickash Ramjit, 2B Casey Turgeon, 3B Josh Tobias and LF Justin Shafer)
12 – Consecutive games won against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, including a 10-0 record in 2012
99 – Number of seasons in Florida’s program history including 2013
61 -- Number of home runs lost from last season's NCAA-best 75
13 -- New players on this year's team
5 -- Consecutive wins on opening day for Gators
2 -- Seniors on the Gators' 34-man opening night roster
TENTATIVE LINEUP FOR OPENER
C Taylor Gushue
1B Vickash Ramjit
2B Casey Turgeon
SS Richie Martin
3B Josh Tobias
LF Harrison Bader
CF Cody Dent
RF Cory Reid
DH Justin Shafer
Thursday February 14, 2013The Harlem Shake, Harlem Shuffle, Wambach's 200th match, Floyd's rise, more tidbits
Maybe I'm showing my age here, but I'm not too into this whole Harlem Shake craze that seems to be popular with the cool kids these days.
I do know all about the Rolling Stones' Harlem Shuffle.
I'll take the Stones. The cool kids can have the Harlem Shake.
But in the spirit of fairness, a silly dance craze and a bad music video, here goes both for your viewing pleasure:
The Harlem Shake Gators style...
And The Harlem Shuffle Stones style...
Meanwhile, some fresh links around the Internet for your perusal:
--A memorable night on Wednesday for former Gators soccer star Abby Wambach in Nashville writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.
--Former Gators punter Chas Henry has signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs writes Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune.
--ICYMI, Gators coach Will Muschamp and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher agree on an early signing period according to Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi.
--The Saints could find help on the defensive line in Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd writes Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune.
--The Florida lacrosse team rolled to a 15-4 win Wednesday night at Jacksonville writes Max Mattern of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Former Gators receiver Percy Harvin’s days in Minnesota could be coming to an end based on reports writes Talal Elmasry of the Gainesville Sun.
--In wake of the knee injury to Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel on Tuesday in loss to Gators, ESPN.com columnist Dana O’Neil reminds us that there’s more to Noel’s injury than how it impacts the Wildcats on the floor.
--Gators coach Billy Donovan’s team is playing pretty well, but so is another Sunshine State program in Miami, which Donovan says is “good for the state” writes Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun.
--Here is a look at the challenge the UF women’s basketball team faces tonight on the road at Texas A&M writes Robert Cessna of The Bryan-College Station (Texas) Eagle.
--Also, Gators coach Amanda Butler is no Rod Stewart fan writes the Independent Florida Alligator – there is a Texas A&M connection.
Wednesday February 13, 2013Gators freshman Simpson moves into rotation with Whitson sidelined
Updated: 8:55am, April 18
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Gators freshman right-hander Tucker Simpson will stand out when he makes his collegiate debut on Saturday against Duke.
“He’s huge,’’ Florida second baseman Casey Turgeon said Wednesday.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan announced Wednesday that junior right-hander Karsten Whitson, the projected No. 2 starter, will be sidelined to start the season due to shoulder fatigue.
O’Sullivan said there is no timetable for Whitson’s return and that he is comfortable with sliding Simpson, the Class 6A Alabama Player of the Year last season at Oxford High, into Whitson’s spot in the rotation.
“He’s very competitive and he’s pitched in some big games,’’ O’Sullivan said. “He’s been a guy that’s been on the national scene for quite some time. He’s certainly ready for this challenge.”
Simpson went 9-3 with a 1.89 ERA a year ago and struck out 149 in 83 innings. He capped his prep career ranked as the No. 1 prep right-hander in the state by Perfect Game. His brother, Trent Simpson, recently signed a football scholarship at Mississippi State.
Simpson (photo, above) led Oxford to a state championship and in 2011 he participated in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
Sophomore catcher Tyler Gushue said that while Whitson will be missed, he believes the Gators can overcome the loss of San Diego’s first-round pick in the 2010 MLB draft.
“Karsten Whitson is an awesome pitcher, but our younger guys are definitely going to have to step up,’’ Gushue said. “I’m not worried about it. Karsten obviously has a lot of talent, but I think our team is good enough to handle it and take it in stride.”
With the season opener two days away, O’Sullivan said junior Jonathon Crawford will start Friday’s opener, Simpson on Saturday followed by right-hander Justin Shafer on Sunday.
Simpson pitched well in the fall and preseason camp according to O’Sullivan.
“He’s throwing strikes,’’ he said. “He’s got great downhill [movement] to his ball. For a young pitcher, he’s got a great feel for the strike zone. He throws four pitches for strike.”
Besides a fastball, Simpson throws a curve, slider and change-up.
Meanwhile, Whitson’s status remains uncertain. After going 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA as a true freshman in 2011, Whitson pitched only 33.1 innings as a sophomore due to arm fatigue and other ailments.
It became apparent to O’Sullivan recently that Whitson would not be ready to start the season.
“We knew there was a possibility that he might not pitch the first two weekends,’’ O’Sullivan said. “We were kind of prepared. It hasn’t really changed a whole lot in regard to this weekend. He’s disappointed. I think anybody in his shoes would be disappointed, but we’re still staying optimistic.”
The Gators open the 2013 season Friday night at 7 on Sun Sports.
Tuesday February 12, 2013Swimming community takes to Twitter to remember former Gators swimmer Lorraine Perkins
Updated: 4:37pm, February 12
Former UF swimmers Dara Torres, Lorraine Perkins, Paige Zemina and Stephanie Zunich (from left to right).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The blog you are reading originated from a simple and impactful tweet.
It was Sunday night and I was home relaxing while the final few hours of my birthday ticked away. I checked my Twitter account after spending most of the day away from modern technology. A message earlier in the day from @SportsTough popped up.
The message was a request: can you plz RT for prayers for UF alum swimmer Lorraine Perkins giving the fight of her life to battle cancer #LoveforLola
I had never heard of Perkins nor did I know who operated the @SportsTough Twitter account. Curious, I did a Google search and quickly gathered information on Perkins. Some items of note after clicking through a few pages:
--Perkins was a world-class swimmer during her career at Florida from 1987-91 and competed at the 1988 and ’92 U.S. Olympic Trials and went to Cuba in 1991 with the U.S. Pan American Team.
--She was a standout at Largo High prior to UF, winning state championships in the 100-meter butterfly and 100 backstroke.
--Perkins won four NCAA titles at UF, three on 200 medley and 400 medley relay teams that included future Olympian and UF Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Dara Torres.
--She gained a small measure of notoriety after leaving UF when, according to media reports from the day, Perkins appeared on an ESPN “Outside the Lines” segment that focused on a history of sexual harassment by former Olympian and longtime swim coach Mitch Ivey, who had taken over the UF women’s swim team late in Perkins’ career and was later dismissed.
Those are some of the quick nuggets revealed about Perkins through that initial Google search. Some others surfaced by pulling her file from the UF sports-information library at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Perkins was signed by former UF coach Randy Reese, and in the official press release announcing her addition, Perkins was joined by two other new signees in Dady Vincent and Stephanie Zunich.
She lived in Sledd Hall when she first arrived on campus. She listed dancing as a favorite hobby. She was interested in becoming a sports psychologist. She was born July 17, 1969.
After the Google search on Perkins, I did a quick search on Twitter to find out more about the account @SportsTough. I noticed the account sent the same tweet that I had received to many others. Some of those people also retweeted the message about Perkins, including ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, ABC’s Josh Elliott, Perkins’ former teammate Dara Torres, former UF swimmer Ryan Lochte and three-time Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett.
Who was this @SportsTough? And what could they tell me about the present-day Perkins?
After noticing a “thank you” for the retweet, I sent a direct message to @SportsTough.
Soon, I learned that the woman behind the account was Mary DeMilia, a breast-cancer survivor who had heard of Perkins through Swim Across America, an organization that holds swimming meets around the country to raise money for cancer research and whose motto is “Making Waves to Fight Cancer.”
DeMilia lives in Raleigh, N.C. She didn’t know Perkins personally but felt moved by what she had heard. Perkins was in the final stages of her battle with metastic melanoma – also know as Stage IV melanoma – a deadly form of skin cancer with a 10-year survival rate of less than 10 percent.
Perkins had battled the disease since November 2007 with many ups and downs. DeMilia was informed that Perkins was recently placed in hospice care, which prompted DeMilia and Bennett to take to Twitter on Sunday to ask for prayers and to honor Perkins.
“We were trying to get her to trend,’’ DeMilia said Monday afternoon. “When we were doing that, we contacted the family and they loved it. She did a trial [study] and it didn’t work [the cancer] off. Do you know how devastating that is? But you know what, the research that came out of that was just incredible.
(Photo: Perkins more recently, via Facebook)
“She’s my hero for what she went through. As a cancer survivor, that could have been me. As a cancer patient, they said if I had waited three more months, I could have been terminal myself. That’s just the angle I have. I just feel this special bond with her and I appreciate what she went through.”
Meanwhile, Bennett’s connection to Perkins is rooted in the Tampa Bay swimming community. While Perkins is about a decade older than Bennett, the two got to know each other last year when the Tampa Bay chapter of Swim Across America held its inaugural swim to raise funds for the Moffitt Cancer Center based in Tampa.
Feeling healthy and energetic, Perkins formed a team to swim in the open-water event. Four days before the swim, however, tests at Moffitt discovered that the cancer had spread to Perkins’ spine. She had to begin treatment immediately and was unable to swim.
Bennett, who won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics, empathized with her new friend’s devastating diagnosis.
“It is quite an interesting link when you put the swimming world together. We all kind of consider ourselves family through water,’’ Bennett said Monday. “Instantaneously we just had a connection. Her personality is contagious.
“She was in the Florida sun her whole life. I’ve been in the Florida sun my whole life. You lose someone in your swimming family and you see what it does, it definitely hits very, very hard. Lorraine, until these last days, she was a fighter. It says a whole lot about how swimmers are. You want to make the awareness even stronger for the generation of swimmers now because the sun is even stronger than it was before.”
As they fired off those tweets Sunday evening to see if they could get Perkins to trend, Bennett and DeMilia learned that the 43-year-old Perkins had passed away with her family by her side in Largo. DeMilia sent me a direct message on Twitter to share the news. A sudden sadness swept over me in the knowledge that as I enjoyed the last few hours of my birthday, a woman too young to die had taken her final breaths.
Reese, now coaching in Clearwater at the Long Center, stopped by to pay Perkins a final visit on Saturday afternoon. He recalled Monday afternoon how Perkins never backed down from cancer the same way she fought in the pool.
“She was a very tough competitor and didn’t put up with much if somebody tried to give her some problems,’’ Reese said. “She was a very tough girl, very strong mentally. She didn’t quite have the background of a lot of the people that came in [to Florida] back then, but she still had a lot of success.
“She was really a talent.”
According to Bennett, Perkins asked her family not to hold a memorial service. They plan to hold a celebration of her life in the coming weeks instead.
Meanwhile, as honorary chair of the Tampa Bay chapter of Swim Across America, Bennett is busy planning the organization’s second annual race on May 18 at Clearwater Beach. The organization is also accepting donations on behalf of Perkins, nicknamed “Lola” by her friends and family.
To donate, click Swim Across America’s “Love for Lola” campaign to raise money for cancer research.
Finally, there is also a “Love for Lola” Facebook page set up in memory of Perkins.
“She went down very fast,’’ Bennett said. “We want to make sure people know what kind of fight she put up and to raise awareness for cancer research.”
Bennett and DeMilia didn’t get Lorraine Perkins to trend on Twitter on Sunday night, but they made sure she got a proper goodbye during her final hours.
Friday February 8, 2013Gymnastics battle, Bonner gets to shoot, Townsend, Purifoy, plus more tidbits
Former Gators sharpshooter Matt Bonner (Photo: SanAntonioSpurs.com)
Hey folks, wanted to pass along some fresh links from around the Internet for your perusal this afternoon.
The big event on campus is tonight's gymnastics meet between the No. 1-ranked Gators and defending national champion Alabama.
There's plenty of other action involving Gator-related sports news, so here goes:
--For more on the Gators-Alabama gymnastics meet, here is an advance by Jim Harvin of the Gainesville Sun.
--The UF softball team opens the season today and the Independent Florida Alligator's Adam Lichtenstein writes about freshman Taylore Fuller joining the team.
--Gators defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy, who is expected to move to receiver in the spring, now has off-the-field issues he must deal with writes David Jones of USA Today.
--Orlando Boone punter Johnny Townsend signed with the Gators over Ohio State and Alabama writes the Orlando Sentinel's Chris Hays.
--Former Gators standout Matt Bonner has been invited to NBA's 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend after a popular social-media campaign from fans.
--Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi weighs in on Florida's 2013 recruiting class.
--Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley offers his take on the Gators' latest recruiting class.
--Gators forward Will Yeguete to miss rest of regular season with a knee injury writes Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post.
--The UF-FSU rivalry is renewed in Tallahassee on Saturday in men's tennis. Click here for more info from GatorZone.com.
--ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff looks at recruiting hits and misses in the SEC East in his latest blog post.
Thursday February 7, 2013Gators NSD Leftovers: More receivers talk, including Robinson's 'high imagination quotient'
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators emphasized adding talent and depth at receiver on the recruiting trail and accomplished that by signing five receivers in this year’s class: Demarcus Robinson, Chris Thompson, Alvin Bailey, Ahmad Fullwood and Marqui Hawkins.
I posted a blog earlier today with receivers coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Brent Pease talking about Thompson.
Let’s take a look at the other receivers including Hawkins, a 6-foot-1, 179-pound receiver out of Carver High in Columbus, Ga. Hawkins caught 31 passes for 635 yards and six touchdowns as a junior, elevating his status on the recruiting trail.
He committed to the Gators in May and remained committed despite heavy interest from Clemson and others.
Here is our Q&A with Phillips on Hawkins:
Q: What impresses you about Hawkins?
A: He is just so physical. I got a chance to watch him in the weight room and train at his high school. He is an animal in the weight room. You've got to have toughness at the position and he's a guy who can go in and dig out safeties in the run game. Again, we have to continue to have success in running the ball. If you look around this league, the teams that are having success are running the ball and having success in the play-action passing game. I just think having a guy like him who can go in and dig out safeties will give us a chance to free up our backs in the secondary.
Q: What kind of skill does he bring at catching the ball?
A: He's an athlete. He plays basketball and those things I think all help in playing the position.
Before becoming an offensive coordinator, Pease coached receivers at Boise State.
He is impressed by the overall talent the Gators landed at the position.
Here is a Q&A with Pease on Fullwood:
Q: What impresses you about Ahmad?
A: I’m excited about Ahmad because he’s a kid I think who has strong convictions and understands. I’ve seen him in person. I’ve seen him on film. I’ve been around him when he isn’t on the football field and he is a really, really good character kid. Watching on the field, he played a lot of positions. He played safety, not that he is going to play safety here. He is a very smart football-intelligence kid.
Q: What does he do on the field well?
A: He’s got good range in catching the ball. I think where he’s at, he understands how to run routes and does a good job of catching the ball, of going and getting it, of catching the ball in short routes, intermediate routes. He’s got good hands. He’s willing to block. I like just being around him. All along, I think he has understood the University of Florida is for him and that he can help the University of Florida. He has stuck with us the whole way.
Q: What helped in keeping him committed through the recruiting process?
A: The one thing about him, he and [fellow signee] Nick Washington and a bunch of other kids formed a bond real early and they’ve all been strong with each other on that.
Here is a Q&A with Pease on Robinson:
Q: What sticks out about his ability?
A: On film he shines, a kid with tremendous talent. He has speed and range – he understands how to get open as a receiver. He’s got that knack that you just tell him to run a route and he is going to know how to do it. And he competes. That’s the thing that kind of stands out. As we recruit and try to get the next-level kid, we want to get kids that are just willing to compete. You’ve got to have that kid that has that little edge, that chip on his shoulder. And DeMarcus is one of those guys. He is not going to be denied.
Q: What does his addition do for this class of receivers?
A: This class of receivers, they all have something. DeMarcus and Ahmad are two of the best in the nation. They have proven it. They have been there to the all-star games and they have competed. I think they fit into the profile of the next step of what the University of Florida needs.
Our Q&A with Pease on Bailey:
Q: What makes Alvin a good prospect in your eyes?
A: Alvin has shown that he is a play-maker, he’s got great quickness. Once again, he’ll compete and he is pretty versatile in what he can do. We use people in a lot of positions, so he can do a wildcat spot, he can catch screens and get the additional yardage that you need off it, and he comes from a good program. He is going to be familiar with [sophomore running back] Matt Jones. They went to the same school and they won.
Q: Sounds as if this group has some natural instincts at the position?
A: Especially with Ahmad and DeMarcus, you can see the offenses they come from. They’ve got the abilities to understand route concepts, pass coverage, defensive schemes – some recognition of the other side of the ball that should put them a little farther ahead.
Meanwhile, running backs coach Brian White was also involved in the recruitment of Robinson, an early enrollee from Peach County High in Fort Valley, Ga.
Robinson is 6-2, 195 pounds and based on recruiting analysts is the highest-ranked of Florida’s incoming receivers.
Here is our Q&A with White on Robinson:
Q: What makes him a special talent at this stage of his career?
A: He’s a real athletic guy. He’s got great size and great length. He has a really good catching radius, outstanding body control, ball skills, leaping ability. I’ve seen him play basketball. He was really good. I think he has a lot of talent. He’s smooth in and out of breaks. He can make acrobatic catches. He is going to be fun to work with. I’m glad he’s here this spring. I think he is going to really benefit from it.
Q: Does he have natural receiving skills that should help the learning curve at this level?
A: He does. He’s got a pretty good uncle who has mentored him played for the Chicago Bears, who was an All-Pro, Marcus Robinson. That’s helped him.
Q: What’s his greatest asset at this stage?
A: He’s got great strength but he is really elusive off the line of scrimmage. Usually big receivers have a hard time getting off the line and he doesn’t because he’s got great flexibility. He’s got what I call a high imagination quotient.
Thursday February 7, 2013Gators National Signing Day Leftovers: Joker Phillips and Brent Pease on WR Chris Thompson
VIDEO: Gators coach Will Muschamp's NSD interview with ESPNU.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Now that the dust has settled a bit after National Signing Day, I want to get back to some of the information gathered from Florida’s assistant coaches on players they individually recruited.
I posted some Q&As with the assistants on Wednesday as the LOIs arrived and were officially validated by UF’s compliance office.
However, I didn’t have enough time to get to them all. So, here are leftovers from a good NSD for the Gators, whose class was ranked No. 2 overall by ESPN.
While the Gators added players from all parts of the Sunshine State and 10 from out of state, receiver Chris Thompson was by far the recruit who lived closest to The Swamp. He grew up in Gainesville and starred at Gainesville High.
A 5-foot-11, 170-pound receiver, Thompson has the kind of speed that makes him a natural vertical threat down the field. He ran a 4.37 40-yard dash last summer at the FAU camp and finished the season with 25 catches for 465 yards and seven touchdowns.
I caught up with receivers coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Brent Pease to talk about Thompson.
Here is my Q&A with Phillips:
Q: What makes Thompson an intriguing prospect?
A: First of all, he's local, which means he has grown up following the program and it's a place that he really truly wants to be. I think that's important. He has grown up wanting to be a Gator. I think you get more out of kids who really want to be Gators.
Q: What does he do on the field well?
A: Just his overall athleticism. He is a great athlete. He's got the necessary speed to play the position. The thing we have to have on the perimeter is play-making ability and he has that.
Q: What's been your role with him in the recruiting process?
A: He was already committed. The thing I've tried to do since I've gotten here is just try to start establishing a relationship with all the guys that were committed and he's one I had a chance to see more than the others because he is local. I feel like I am building a pretty good relationship with him.
Here is my Q&A with Pease about Thompson:
Q: How well have you gotten to know him since he is local?
A: I really like Chris. He came to our camp and he competed. I think we always knew about him, but I think when he came here he competed and showed that he is willing to go. He’s got the ability to go deep, he’s got some quickness, he’ll use his hands. He’s just got that attitude. He’s been around here, so he’s very comfortable with us and we’re familiar with him. He understands that just being around Gainesville, he understands what Florida football is all about, but he wants to take himself to the next level of playing in a program like this.
Q: As a coach, do you always like to have a guy or two who is local?
A: I think you do but they still have to be a good fit and have to be capable. You want them to have a good experience in this whole deal.
Tuesday February 5, 2013Billy D impersonations, David Lee's award, Figueroa's invite, plus other tidbits
Updated: 12:23pm, February 5
VIDEO: Who does the best Coach Donovan impersonation?
The No. 2-ranked Gators play at Arkansas tonight in search of their 11th consecutive win.
GatorZone.com senior writer Chris Harry will be courtside at Bud Walton Arena. You can follow him on Twitter @GatorZoneChris for real-time updates during the game and then read his story afterward on GatorZone.com.
For now let’s take a look at some fresh links from around the Internet covering the Gators men’s basketball team and other items of interest to Gators fans.
--Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan is trying to make sure his team, which moved up to No. 2 Monday in the national polls, avoids complacency atop the SEC writes Davie Jones of USA Today Sports.
--For a look around the SEC, click here to read a notebook by Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
--Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville writes that “Florida won’t be the only team on the court Tuesday night trying to extend some dominance in Southeastern Conference play.”
--VIDEO: For the mood in Arkansas about facing a red-hot Gators team, click here to watch Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson discuss his view of the Gators.
--National Signing Day is Wednesday and ESPN.com offers its final pre-signing day class rankings.
--ESPNU to broadcast National Signing Day from 13 schools, including Florida writes Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post.
--Saw a couple of tweets this morning that former Gators running back Chris Rainey was officially released by the Steelers today and will be a free agent if not picked up by 4 p.m. The Tampa Bay Times writes that his recent legal issues have been resolved.
--Former Gators shortstop Cole Figueroa, who played for the Gators in 2007 and ’08, has been invited to camp by the Tampa Bay Rays writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune.
--ICYMI, former Gators standout David Lee was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday. Click here for story and video from NBA.com.
--Former Gators star Joakim Noah is not only out with an injury, but the NBA dress police asked him to change clothes while on the bench in Monday’s game at Indiana writes Yahoo!.com.
Friday February 1, 2013Floyd considers Gators DTs coach Young a key influence; his draft stock on rise
Updated: 4:35pm, February 1
Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd considers DT coach Bryant Young (right) an important mentor.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In the world of draft projections, it has been a good week for Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
According to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, Floyd is “generating a ton of buzz” in the scouting community and Jeremiah reported on Twitter that he spoke to at least one high-ranking NFL executive who views Floyd as a top-10 pick.
Meanwhile, former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli ranks Floyd as his No. 3 underclassmen in the entire draft, trailing only Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
And one of the NFL Draft’s best-known evaluators, ESPN’s Todd McShay, went on Twitter this week to sing his praises of Floyd as he watched film of the Gators’ win over Florida State in late November.
"Locates, disengages, pursues," McShay wrote. “Floyd is a name the general public will be hearing more and more about throughout the process, since he likely fits either a three- or four-man front. Built like an ox, Floyd can flash violence on first contact and enough burst to penetrate the backfield.”
McShay also pointed out how much Floyd has improved in the way he uses his hands, a huge point of emphasis for former Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Florida defensive tackles coach Bryant Young.
Young, the former 49ers All-Pro and one of the top defensive tackles to play in the NFL over the last two decades, worked with Floyd his final two years at UF.
Floyd said recently that Young was a great resource to have after Florida coach Will Muschamp hired Young to his inaugural staff in early 2011.
“He had a great impact on me,’’ Floyd said. “I sit down and talk to him all the time just about ball and sometimes just about life. He has six kids. Six. You can learn more from him than just ball. He’s a great guy and really down to earth.
“You take advantage of those types of guys. You learn as much as you can from them. I try to pick his brain all the time just to know what he’s thinking, even if it’s just the smallest thing -- ‘In this situation, what would you do?’ --learning from him and try to take my game to the next level.”
The Gators host Ole Miss on Saturday in the big sports event on campus this weekend.
The O’Dome will be rocking with the game officially sold out.
Let’s take a look at some fresh links from around the Internet touching on the game and other topics of interest to Gator fans:
--The Gators remain atop of ESPN.com’s SEC power rankings, drawing a comparison to boxer Mike Tyson in blogger Myron Medcalf’s latest post.
--Gators junior guard Scottie Wilbekin’s defense is starting to gain notice, including in this blog from Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com.
--I anticipate the Rowdy Reptiles to be fired up for Ole Miss gunner Marshall Henderson when the Rebels come to town Saturday. Here is a takeout on Henderson this week from USA Today for those who might not be familiar with one of college basketball’s most intriguing players/characters this season.
--The fourth-ranked Gators host Ole Miss on Saturday at the O’Connell Center – a Rebels team that will be without key reserve Aaron Jones for rest of season writes the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
--The UF women’s basketball team lost at Missouri on Thursday night; click here for the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune’s coverage.
--The Miami Herald takes a look at Gators early enrollee DeMarcus Robinson, a receiver from Peach County (Ga.) High.
--Florida’s track teams split up this weekend, some athletes off to Nebraska and others to New York City writes Alligator Army.
--ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco examines how the Gators will try to replace kicker Caleb Sturgis.
--Former Gators safety Josh Evans is doing a weekly draft diary for OnlyGators.com, and here he addresses that haircut he recently got and other topics entering the draft.
--Senior UF senior Sarra Lajnef’s living her dream with Gators swim team writes Robert Judin of the Independent Florida Alligator.
--The UF lacrosse team is ranked No. 1 by Lacrosse Magazine in its preseason poll; check out the magazine’s take on the Gators.
Thursday January 31, 2013O'Sullivan comfortable with roster as Gators baseball team prepares for opener
Florida baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan is preparing for the start of his sixth season.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Over the past five years, Gator baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his staff have built one of the country’s winningest programs.
Florida has made three consecutive trips to the College World Series for the first time in the program’s existence. As O’Sullivan prepares to open his sixth season on Feb. 15 against Duke, the core of the group that led Florida to Omaha the past three years is gone.
The Gators said goodbye to players such as catcher Mike Zunino, pitcher Hudson Randall, shortstop Nolan Fontana, outfielder Preston Tucker, closer Austin Maddox, two-way standout Brian Johnson and lefty reliever Steven Rodriguez, who made his big-league debut with the Dodgers less than three months after leaving UF.
That talent drain is enough to make some coaches consider leaving, too.
But O’Sullivan hung around, knowing that while his 2013 ballclub will be much different from the one that led the nation with 75 home runs a year ago – topped by Zunino’s 19 round-trippers – he still has ample good players to pencil into the lineup card.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of new faces,’’ O’Sullivan said. “I do like our pitching. I like our defense. Obviously our offense is going to be young. We certainly have enough to be successful.”
The Gators are young, with only two seniors on the roster: infielder Cody Dent and infielder/outfielder Vickash Ramjit.
Still, O’Sullivan is confident he has a good combination of experience and youth.
There’s a strong group of sophomores who got significant playing time last season, led by second baseman Casey Turgeon, outfielder/pitcher Justin Shafer, infielder Josh Tobias and catcher Taylor Gushue. On the mound, juniors Jonathon Crawford and Karsten Whitson are back to anchor the top of the rotation.
“Now it’s time for these players to make a name for themselves,’’ O’Sullivan said. “Our personnel is different. It’s certainly can be as successful, we’re just going to have to do it a different way.”
In baseball parlance that means less reliance on the long ball. It means good pitching and defense supplemented by an offense that can manufacture runs rather than rely on home runs.
Even with players like Zunino and Tucker knocking baseballs out of the park regularly the past few years, O’Sullivan never wavered from stocking players that could win without the home runs.
“Everything as far as recruiting is concerned, from our standpoint it’s always been pitching and defense,’’ O’Sullivan said. “I do feel good about that. I feel good about our offense. There are just going to be some ups and downs. Our offense is going to be different this year.”
The pitching staff is young but has plenty of arms in guys like Kennan Kish, Johnny Magliozzi, Corey Stump and Ryan Harris. Newcomer Richie Martin is expected to start at shortstop as a freshman. Outfielder Harrison Bader could do the same in center field if he keeps playing the way he has early in camp.
There are still many questions to be answered before the end of camp, primarily deciding on a closer and No. 3 starter. First base and right field remain uncertain.
Ramjit is in the mix at both first and the outfield. Regardless of where he plays, Ramjit isn’t concerned about a significant drop-off in the program.
“I think the talent is there. We’re going to compete and the young guys have been working really hard,’’ he said. “They’ve opened our eyes a lot; we have a lot to look forward, too. At first, we didn’t know what to expect but I feel like now everyone is ready to go.”
O’Sullivan sounds like he is.
“I think we have a decent feel for where we’re at right now,’’ he said.
(Photo: Vickash Ramjit)
Wednesday January 30, 2013Gators to wear a new style of jersey made by Nike next season
Updated: 11:06am, January 30
Photo: The front of the new Nike jersey (on the right) the Gators football team will wear next season.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If you have been to a game at The Swamp on a hot and humid Florida afternoon, you know how the sweat pours.
Now imagine being on the field in a helmet and pads. The Gators hope to get a little relief next season.
In the latest attempt to improve its product line of jerseys supplied to college football teams, Nike has unveiled a new type of jersey being used only by select schools. The jerseys could also be used in the NFL one day.
Texas wore the jerseys at practice this season and Alabama wore them in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame.
The Gators will wear them next season and take a test run in the jerseys this spring at practice and in the Orange & Blue Debut spring game April 6.
“It’s durable, it has more breathability and it lightens the weight on the athletes,’’ said Jason Baisden, UF’s football equipment manager.
Internet reports surfaced Tuesday that the Gators are changing uniforms but that is somewhat misleading.
There are two notable differences in the new Florida jerseys from Nike:
--The fonts for the numbers have changed to reflect the font used in UF’s official athletics brand identity.
--The sides of the jerseys are constructed of a mesh material instead of a solid material, which increases breathability to help reduce heat.
Photo: Back of the new style Nike jersey (on the right) the Gators football team will wear next season.
Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow's book was a big winner in 2012.
The Gators men's basketball team continued to roll through the SEC with a 35-point win at Mississippi State on Saturday night.
GatorZone.com's Chris Harry was there and you can check out his coverage on the website.
But the Gators were in action in several sports over the weekend. Here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering Gator-related news and notes:
--Former Gators standout David Lee discusses being first Golden State All-Star in 16 years with RealGM.com.
--Gators running back Mike Gillislee had a good week at the Senior Bowl, capped with 46 yards on 10 carries in Saturday's game writes the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
--Gators left tackle Xavier Nixon also played in Senior Bowl but according to the National Football Post, Nixon needs to improve to climb draft boards.
--Former Gators defensive back De'Ante "Pop" Saunders is now at Tennessee State, joining former UF teammate A.C. Leonard at the school writes Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel.
--A big weekend for the Gators women's track team. Florida's 4x400 relay team set world-best time this year by winning the Razorback Invitational.
--Florida's women's basketball dropped its fourth straight game on Sunday, losing at Georgia writes the Independent Florida Alligator.
--Not that Florida fans need proof, but former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is a popular figure based on book sales in 2012 writes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
--SI.com NFL writer Don Banks has Sharrif Floyd to the Colts and Matt Elam to the Patriots in his first mock draft.
--ICYMI, Gators men's tennis team defeated UNC-Wilmington on Sunday to advance to ITA National Indoors. Click here for more from GatorZone.com.
--The Gators swimming and diving teams split a weekend meet with Auburn writes the Independent Florida Alligator.
Friday January 25, 2013Gators senior Dashiell shoots for spot on U.S.National Team's World Cup roster
Updated: 10:05am, January 25
Brittany Dashiell is one of 5 college players vying for spot on U.S. National Team's World Cup roster.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Brittany Dashiell is in the midst of preparing for her final season with the Gators lacrosse team.
In Thursday night’s exhibition win over England’s National Team, Dashiell introduced herself to the Brits early by scoring Florida’s first goal and adding an assist on UF’s second goal.
That’s nothing new for the senior from Bel Air, Md. Dashiell scored a team-high 69 points (44 goals, 25 assists) as a junior, helping the third-year program make it all the way to the Final Four.
But before the Gators open the season Feb. 9 at North Carolina, Dashiell wants to make her mark with another team. She is one of 25 players vying for 18 spots on the 2013 U.S. Women’s National Team that will try to repeat as World Cup champions in Canada in July.
Dashiell is in Orlando this weekend competing with Team USA in the Champions Challenge at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. She is one of five college players trying to make the final cut.
The U.S. plays Syracuse and Northwestern in its final two games before the World Cup roster is selected. The team will be announced early next week according to USA Lacrosse.
“I tried out my freshman year just to see what it was like,’’ Dashiell said. “It was really tough, so I wanted to take a couple more years to get myself prepared for it.”
In the two years since last trying out, Dashiell has developed into one of the nation’s top college players. She was one of five finalists last season for the Tewaaraton Award (women’s college lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy) and one of four finalists for the Honda Sports Award.
A senior midfielder, Dashiell is dangerous offensively and defensively and one of the reasons why the Gators are expected to challenge for a national title this season.
Dashiell is more confident in her chances to make the U.S. National Team than two years ago. She competed with the team last fall in tournaments and camp and held her own.
“It’s awesome to be able to play with the best players in the nation,’’ she said. “Some of them are coaches, some are players. It’s a lot of fun. Half the time I am playing I’m just staring at them in amazement how incredible they are at lacrosse.
“I have no clue what’s going to happen. I’m hoping for the best and that I play well this weekend. I think I’ve shown them what I’m capable of and hopefully that will be enough to make it.”
One of the players on the U.S. team is Caitlyn McFadden, a former Tewaaraton Award winner at Maryland who spent the past two seasons as a Gators assistant. McFadden returned to Maryland as an assistant after last season. Former Vanderbilt standout Allyson Carey is also competing for a spot as a midfielder; Carey is a former high school teammate of Dashiell’s and the two have been good friends since they were 6.
While Dashiell is one of the youngest players vying for a spot on the team, she isn’t overwhelmed going up against players sometimes four or five years older than she is.
“I feel like I’ve been taught so much here at Florida,’’ she said. “That’s why I feel like I made it [to this stage] this year. Just having more experience at Florida and from playing against some of the other best players in the nation has really prepared me for playing for the U.S.”
Dashiell will know early next week if her play this weekend was good enough for a berth on the team. She’ll be back in Gainesville with the Gators by that time.
Regardless of whether she makes the U.S. National Team’s World Cup roster, Dashiell envisions a memorable final season at UF.
“Last year was our first time in the Final Four,’’ she said. “We were so excited about being there. We’ve just learned to stay more focused and building on what we did last year.”
Thursday January 24, 2013Gators coach Will Muschamp has close ties to 3 players in Sunday's Pro Bowl
Gators coach Will Muschamp at a Sugar Bowl practice in New Orleans.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If Gators coach Will Muschamp turns on the NFL Pro Bowl Sunday, you can’t blame him if he keeps a close eye on three players in particular.
New York Jets safety LaRon Landry is on the AFC roster and Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton and Seahawks defensive back Earl Thomas are on the NFC. All three played for Muschamp in college.
“And all three of those guys are different stories,’’ Muschamp said.
Landry was the first to work with Muschamp, showing up at LSU in 2003 as playmaker in pads.
The Tigers won the 2003 national title and Muschamp credits Landry as one of the primary reasons why.
“He’s a guy I remember our first scrimmage at LSU, he has unreal production,’’ Muschamp said. “I remember Nick [Saban] coming to me and saying, ‘We need to find a way to get this guy out on the field somehow.’ He was able to learn the defense. He is very intelligent, very smart and he has a great feel for the game.”
Landry’s emergence in camp allowed the Tigers to move Travis Daniels from safety to cornerback. Landry replaced Daniels at safety and the Tigers went on to lead the nation in total defense with Muschamp as defensive coordinator.
He recently completed his first season with the Jets after five years with the Redskins. Landry finished with a career-high 99 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles as one of New York’s top players.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Melton, a defensive tackle and the 105th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He rarely got his jersey dirty when he first got to Texas to play for the Longhorns.
“Henry Melton was a seldom-used defensive lineman when I got to Texas [in 2008] and then I really saw a lot of athleticism and huge upside for him,’’ Muschamp said. “You’ve really got to credit [Bears scout] Chris Ballard of recognizing his talent level and drafting him, and [former Chicago defensive coordinator] Rod Marinelli has done a fantastic job with him -- a guy who just had some untapped potential.
“He had some ability and you just needed to pull it out of him. Certainly Henry has capitalized on his opportunities there in Chicago.”
Melton, in his fourth season, finished with 44 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles this season.
Finally, there is Thomas, the 14th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft who has put together three strong seasons with the Seahawks. Thomas was an All-American at Texas and is one of the most talented players Muschamp has coached.
“Earl was as productive of a safety/nickel that I’ve been around as far as production on the field,’’ Muschamp said. “He just had a phenomenal year the year we played for the national championship at Texas and won the Big 12 championship.’’
Thomas had 66 tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumble and one interception return for a touchdown this season for Seattle.
“When you coach good players, you like to see them succeed,’’ Muschamp said. “Those are all good guys that you enjoyed coaching and being a part of their development.”
Tuesday January 22, 2013More Brad Lawing, Bostic out of Senior Bowl, #LetBonnerShoot, plus more tidbits
Updated: 5:01pm, January 22
New Florida assistant head coach/defensive line coach Brad Lawing (Gamecocksonline.com).
Gators coach Will Muschamp made it official earlier today, announcing the hiring of former South Carolina assistant Brad Lawing as Florida’s new assistant head coach/defensive line coach.
For more on Lawing and other items, here are some fresh links from around the Internet covering Gator-related items:
--Former Gators LB Jon Bostic one of several players not playing in Saturday’s Senior Bowl due to an injury writes NationalFootballPost.com.
--More on new Gators assistant head coach/defensive line coach Brad Lawing from The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.
--Rock bands War on Drugs, Arcade Fire and Deer Tick are among those lobbying for former Gators basketball player Matt Bonner to make the NBA 3-point shootout writes Spin.com.
--PODCAST: CBSSports.com senior blogger Matt Norlander and Bomani Jones talk Florida hoops and Billy D at this link.
--An early preview for Gators at Georgia on Wednesday night from CBSSports.com.
--Former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn got a nice deal to return to Seattle writes ESPN.com.
--Mariners add veteran catcher Ronny Paulino to mix at catcher until former Gators catcher Mike Zunino is ready writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
--VIDEO: First Coast News caught up recently with former Gators/NFL running back Ciatrick Fason, last UF running back with 1,000 yards in a season until Mike Gillislee this season.
--Gators baseball team ranked No. 7 in Perfect Game Preseason Top 25 poll. Click here for more details from GatorZone.com.
Longtime UAA employee Bo Lauramore, center, being honored at Jacksonville State game.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Bo Lauramore was somewhere in the woods last week when he answered his cellphone.
He had enough reception that the phone call somehow made it through. That’s often not the case and will continue to be as Lauramore opens the next chapter of his life.
Those who are closest to Winford Bo Lauramore will have to get used to leaving voicemails because he plans to spend a lot more time in the woods and on his boat than he has the last five decades.
The 62-year-old Lauramore, longtime director of maintenance at the University Athletic Association, recently announced his retirement after 38 years at the UAA. His first Gators football game was the 1974 season opener against California.
“Some fans I have seen for years and years and years,’’ he said. “I like the other sports, but to me there is nothing like college football. The process you go through to get ready for a game. Come Saturday and you look around and everything is fresh-painted and everything is clean and the field looks great. People just get really charged up about the Florida Gators.”
Lauramore was back on campus Tuesday for a reception in his honor.
Lauramore’s first job for the UAA was as a carpenter’s helper. The woodshop was to the right of Gate 1 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium where the Smith Conference Room now is. Instead of a woodshop, the room now hosts meetings and football press conferences.
Lauramore quickly moved up the chain, taking over as maintenance director in 1989. In reality he was the ultimate Mr. Handy Man. Lauramore served as a carpenter, painter, electrician, welder, mechanic and whatever else needed to be done around the UAA.
Born in Macclenny and one of 14 children – he was the seventh born – Lauramore developed his affable personality early in such a big family. He joined the UAA family after time spent as a mechanic and as an airplane painter during the Vietnam War.
While working for Aero Corp. in Lake City, Lauramore said they would paint C-130 and C-41 transport planes camouflage to get them prepared to fly over to Vietnam.
A few years later he found himself spray painting Florida football helmets orange the day before games, branding the then-wooden bleachers at Ben Hill Griffin with seat numbers, and spray painting signs around the stadium.
Those signs are now vinyl thanks to a vinyl-making machine the department got several years ago.
“That was probably one of the biggest steps we took,’’ he said. “It made some things easier. We’ve had some great sign painters there over the years.”
Lauramore likes to joke that he has a Ph. D. degree – Post Hole Digger – since he didn’t go to college. While he didn’t attend UF as a student, he certainly found a home here.
“I became a Gator fan probably when I was about 16 when I could start hearing some of it on the radio,’’ he said.
Lauramore plans to enjoy his retirement and go back to being a fan on game days at The Swamp, where he would usually show up around 6 a.m. for work on fall Saturdays during the football season.
“I’m doing quite a bit of hunting,’’ Lauramore said. “Fishing will be ready before long. Try to spend a lot more time with my [three] grandkids. I’m not looking for another job -- that’s for sure.”
As such a constant presence around the UAA, Lauramore got to know many coaches and players over the years.
One of his favorites was the late Charley Pell, who took over the Gators football program a few years after Lauramore started working for the UAA.
“Charley Pell was a good guy. He would speak to you and talk to you just like you were neighbors,’’ he said.
Later in his career at the UAA Lauramore attended the Gators’ bowl games and appearances in three national championship games. He had a difficult time picking a favorite, finally settling on Florida’s win over Ohio State in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
“I really loved that one because of the way the game started off,’’ he said. “They run [the opening kickoff] back and the people started point at us, doing the Gator chomp at us,’’ he said. “After we scored a couple of times, all the guys that were trying to Gator chomp us, they try to sneak out of the stadium. And we started hollering at them. That was a great game.”
One of the first goals Lauramore has in retirement is to join a hunting club in Georgia where he hunts at occasionally. The place has 25,000 acres to hunt and a campsite to park the RV for a week or two if he wants.
Good luck trying to reach him on his cellphone then. But if you do, he might end the call the way he did with a recent caller.