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9 posts from April 2008

April 28, 2008

Medder, Miller and Joiner sign free-agent contracts

GAINESVILLE -- Three Gators who went undrafted over the weekend moved quickly to sign free-agent contracts. Safety Tony Joiner and offensive linemen Carlton Medder and Drew Miller will each have the opportunity to make NFL rosters this offseason.

Joiner, who slimmed down considerably after the Gators' season, signed with the Tennessee Titans. Miller, who Florida coach Urban Meyer thought had a good chance to be drafted, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Medder, who has family in the Phoenix area, linked up with the Arizona Cardinals.

-jo-

April 27, 2008

Caldwell hoping Chad Johnson is still with Cincy next season

GAINESVILLE -- Just got off the phone with Florida receiver Andre Caldwell, who was drafted in the third round (97th overall) today by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Caldwell told me he's hoping Miami native Chad Johnson is still with the Bengals next season. Playing alongside one of the best receiver in the NFL would be a great teaching tool, says Caldwell. Johnson has demanded to be traded by the Bengals and might not be the team through the week.

Several Florida players remain undrafted as of the fourth round, including strong safety Tony Joiner and offensive linemen Carlton Medder and Drew Miller.

-jo-

DRAFT STUFF: Down year for in-state schools; Gators' highlight-reel defense

GAINESVILLE -- When Central Florida has just as many players drafted as Miami (and more than Florida), you know it was a down year for Florida football. Way to go Conference USA, I guess.

The Knights, Canes and Noles led the state with three players drafted this weekend. Florida offered the NFL to players (DE Derrick Harvey and WR Andre Caldwell). South Florida sent two cornerbacks to the NFL.

The Sunshine State had three players drafted in the first round: Harvey, Mike Jenkins (USF corner) and Kenny Phillips (UM safety).

--Sportswriters love the NFL Draft. "Oh, boy. Only seven more hours of Mel Kiper Jr. and Ron Jaworski." Thank God for Cris Carter.

--Anyone notice that every time an SEC skill player is taken in the draft ESPN always shows old highlight footage of said skill player scoring a touchdown against the Gators' pathetic 2007 defense? I can just imagine the ESPN producer in the studio.

Announcer: "Vandy's Earl Bennett was just taken in the third round."
Producer: "Quick, cue the Florida tape."

--FIRST 'NOLE TAKEN: Florida State's Andre Fluellen taken in the third round (87th overall).

--Miami native and Central Florida running back Kevin Smith taken in the third round (64th overall) by the Detroit Lions. What a steal! And, please, fight the urge of mentioning Barry Sanders and Kevin Smith in the same sentence. And for that matter, Bo Jackson and Darren McFadden.

--FIFTH-ROUND UPDATE: South Florida cornerback Trae Williams is taken by the Jacksonville Jags with the 159th overall pick. Williams is a solid corner and actually had a better senior season than his teammate, cornerback Mike Jenkins (nobody wanted to throw to Jenkins' side). Williams made The Miami Herald's All-Florida first-team defense.

MIAMI
Kenny Phillips, FS, first round (31)
Calais Campbell, DE, second round (50), Arizona Cardinals
Tavares Gooden, OLB, round three (71), Baltimore Ravens

FLORIDA
Derrick Harvey, DE, first round (8), Jacksonville Jaguars
Andre Caldwell, WR, third round (97), Cincinnati Bengals

SOUTH FLORIDA
Mike Jenkins, CB, first round (25), Dallas Cowboys
Trae Williams, CB fifth round (159), Jacksonville Jaguars

CENTRAL FLORIDA
Kevin Smith, RB, third round (64), Detroit Lions
Josh Sitton, OT, fourth round (135), Green Bay Packers
Mike Merritt, TE, seventh round (239), Kansas City Chiefs

FLORIDA STATE
Andre Fluellen, DT, third round (87), Detroit Lions
Letroy Guion, DT, fifth round (152), Minnesota Vikings
Geno Hayes, ILB, sixth round (175), Tampa Bay Bucs

Some in-state undrafted

MIAMI
WR Darnell Jenkins
CB Glenn Sharpe
QB Kyle Wright

FLORIDA
SS Tony Joiner
OL Carlton Medder
OL Drew Miller

FLORIDA STATE
WR De'Cody Fagg
QB Xavier Lee

BETHUNE-COOKMAN
LB Ronnie McCullough
CB Bobbie Williams

-jo-

April 26, 2008

Harvey taken eighth by Jags; Trend pointing toward Jags drafting Tebow

GAINESVILLE -- The University of Florida is turning into a minor-league affiliate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jags drafted UF defensive end Derrick Harvey on Saturday with the eighth overall pick, trading several picks with Baltimore to move up in the draft. Jacksonville originally had the 26th pick in the first round.

This is the second consecutive year the Jags have used their first pick on a Gator. Last year, Jacksonville drafted safety Reggie Nelson. This trend is not a coincidence. Jacksonville fans like the Gators more than they like their Jags. Don't be surprised if this pattern continues. Tebow to the Jags in 2010. You read it here first.

-jo-

April 12, 2008

So, Chris Rainey just ran a 4.24, no kidding...

GAINESVILLE -- Sitting in the press box in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field before the spring game. Urban Meyer's publicity stunt -- students vs. football players in the 40-yard dash -- was pretty fun to watch. Louis Murphy almost lost to a 5-foot-5 bolt of lightning.

The highlight was Chris Rainey's 40-yard dash time of 4.24. That's right, 4.24 seconds. That's a different kind of fast, folks. If you're reading this and you're skeptical of the time, know that Rainey first ran a 4.27 and then turned around and turned in his 4.24.

If you think the times were cooked, maybe they were, but Louis Murphy ran a 4.53 just before Rainey's sprints. No wonder Major Wright never could catch Rainey in all those state championship games.

Interested to see what Rainey can do on the field in the Orange & Blue Game. He toasted Florida's defense all spring and is quickly climbing the depth chart at both running back and receiver.   

April 11, 2008

Mitchell second Gator to quit Florida in a week

GAINESVILLE -- First Marreese Speights and now Jonathan Mitchell, Florida lost its second player in a week on Friday.

Mitchell announced on Friday that he's transferring out of Florida. No word where he's going yet. Does it matter? Not really. It's not like he's good enough to transfer to another SEC school (or a Big East squad for that matter). Unlike the case of Speights, subtraction is addition in the case of Mitchell.

Florida now has seven scholarship players on its roster and five incoming freshman. That puts the Gators at 12 scholarships. The maximum allowed by the NCAA for one season is 13. This could mean three things:

1) Speights figures out he isn't going to be drafted in the first round and he returns to Florida for a run at SEC player of the year (along with Nick Calathes, of course). Speights has not hired an agent, meaning he is still considered an amateur under NCAA rules.

2) Florida coach Billy Donovan can offer the scholarship to someone right now. (Perhaps someone who committed elsewhere because Florida didn't have any more scholarships to give).

3. Donovan can save the scholarship for next year. This is the most likely scenario. Florida's roster is already overcrowded with underclassmen. What's the point of adding one more if the guy's name isn't Michael Beasley?

-jo-

April 04, 2008

Spring notebook: When one speedy Gator falls; there's always one to take his place

LINK TO MY STORY ON HARVIN AND JAMES WILSON

GAINESVILLE -- The symbolism was there, blaring through a loudspeaker for all to hear. On the day Florida coach Urban Meyer told reporters that Percy Harvin needs surgery, there was news of a future Gator -- the next Percy Harvin, perhaps -- already filtering through spring practice. It seems there's always another speedy Gator waiting in the wings.

The latest speedster is Jeffrey Demps, a 2008 Florida commitment from Groveland South Lake. Demps clocked a 10.17 seconds in the 100-meter dash on Friday at the Florida Relays. The first day of the annual track meet took place on Friday within earshot of the Gators' football practice field. Shortly after Demps finished his race the track meet's personal address announcer declared the time to be the third fastest in world this year and the fifth fastest ever by a high school athlete.

"Word trickled down through our practice and I made couple comments to people that I know how to coach guys like that," Florida coach Urban Meyer said.

Harvin will have foot surgery in North Carolina on Monday to correct his ailing heel. Dr. Robert Anderson, a leading surgeon in the field, will perform the operation. Meyer expects Harvin to return to full strength no later than July.

PATCHAN WILL PLAY, SAYS MEYER
Freshman lineman Matt Patchan continues to impress coaches this spring, according to Meyer. Patchan was recruited as an offensive tackle but is now practicing with the defensive line. Meyer said that Patchan will play next season but doesn't yet know at what position. Patchan, who arrived at Florida this January a bit too small to play offensive line, isn't letting that setback affect him in practice.

"To think he's doing what he's doing and he did not have an offseason because he has been hurt, that tells you what kind of player he is," Meyer said. "I'm really impressed with him."

KEEP AN EYE ON THE SECONDARY
Florida will conduct another scrimmage on Saturday and all eyes will be on the Gators' defensive secondary, which Meyer said on Friday is the team's most improved position. Starters Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis are performing well in practice and Meyer says it's no secret why: "They were all freshmen and now they're sophomores with game experience."

While the secondary is receiving high marks, the defensive line remains a concern. Defensive tackle Torrey Davis did not practice on Friday, two days after he was kicked out of practice for fighting.

"I'd say our back end has improved more than our front end," Meyer said. "The front end still has a ways to go."

-jo-

April 01, 2008

NIT semifinal: UMass 78, Florida 66

NEW YORK -- Well, that's all, folks. Florida was too young, too small and too slow to beat Massachusetts. Florida shot 30 percent from the free-throw line. Yeah, it was ugly.

SECOND HALF RUNNING
Calathes breaks the record with 17:17 left in the second. He's got eight points on the night and two in the second half. Florida leads 42-35. Speights has just as many rebounds, 14, as all of UMass' bigs combined.

Billy Donovan goes with a bigger line-up for the second half, sitting Jai Lucas in favor of Chandler Parsons. Lucas has three fouls. Lucas enters the game with 17:41 left after a sloppy start. Speights (13 points and 13 rebounds) is carrying the team.

HALFTIME NOTE (One, that's all you get.)
Nick Calathes tied Florida's all-time freshman scoring record (546), set by Ronnie Williams 27 years ago, with six points in the first half.

FIRST HALF BELOW
Adam Allen is playing strong. He strokes a three-pointer and on the next possession drives to the hoop and gets fouled trying to dunk. He converts one of two free throws to give Florida 36-27 lead.

Jai Lucas picks up his third foul with 3:19 left. Calathes back in and Lucas out. This could be a problem.

It's been sloppy for the last four mintues but Florida has managed to increase its lead to 28-21. Florida dance team on the court now. Distracted... and that's all I got. Marreese Speights is having a great first half. (eight points and eight rebounds).

TV timeout here with 7:52 left. Florida is up 24-19 after a quick run, highlighted by a three-pointer from Dan Werner. Werner's entire family is in the crowd. His brother, Ron Werner, and five of his friends painted their chests for the occasion. On their collective chest spells: W-E-R-N-E-R. On the back: G-A-T-O-R-S.

Same story 10 minutes in. UMass is the stronger team; Florida is a quicker team. It's an even push with 11:12 left, tied 19-all. Nick Calathes leads Florida with six points but just picked up his second foul with 9:42 left.

Florida looks to be getting pushed around a little bit early on by the elder Minutemen. Seniors Etienne Bower, Dante Milligan and Gary Forbes are each physically stronger than every player on Florida's roster. Despite that, Florida has a 13-12 lead with 15:14 to go after Walter Hodge made one of two free throws.

BEFORE THE TIP
A pretty quaint crowd in Madison Square Garden for Florida's NIT semifinal. It's less than half full. Still, it's a pretty spirited bunch right now, before the game. Dan Werner, the Jersey boy, bot a big cheer from the Florida fans.

Looks like UMass fans out number Florida fans by more than 2-to-1. Sitting behind me is Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy. If Spike Lee were here, he apparently would be sitting right behind me.

-jo-

Tebow helped convince James Wilson to stay

GAINESVILLE -- It's official (for now). Wishy-washy offensive lineman James Wilson is staying put in Gainesville and playing football for the Gators. Wilson, a redshirt freshman, asked for a release from his scholarship before spring practice but (as of Monday, this could change any minute) Wilson wants to be a Gator for at least another week.

Just a side thought: Is Wilson attention starved, or what? I mean, this guy didn't even practice with the team last season, has two jacked up knees and looks to be overweight but he thinks he's good enough to make a big deal about him wanting to leave.

ANYWAY, Wilson is happy again. I spoke with Tebow for about 10 minutes on Monday before leaving for New York (typing this blog in Madison Square Garden) and His Heisman told me he meet several times with Wilson in the past month to convince the wavering offensive lineman to stick around. Wilson played with Tebow at Ponte Vedra Beach Nease High and Wilson committed to Gators over the Southern Cal, in part, because he wanted to play with Tebow.

Florida coach Urban Meyer is convinced that Wilson is worth the effort to keep happy and keep around. Meyer has pointed to starting tackle Jason Watkins as an offensive lineman who has gone from wanting to transfer to the first-team offense. Wilson was one of the top recruits in the nation in 2007. Guess that's the difference in him and the other former Gators that transferred after last season ... Bo Williams, Jarred Fayson, Chevy Walker, etc.

-jo-


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