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51 posts from February 2009

February 28, 2009

EXCLUSIVE! Tim Tebow's pro scouting report

An MLB scout offers his opinion of the UF quarterback's chances as a pro baseball pitcher.

GAINESVILLE -- UF quarterback Tim Tebow threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday night before the Gators' home baseball game against the Miami Hurricanes. Well, to be accurate, Tebow threw two first pitches.

Tebow Lefty's first effort went all the way to the backstop. Pretty funny considering Riley Cooper was the ceremonial catcher. Cooper, of course, is a receiver on the football team and a right-fielder on the baseball team. He's also Tebow's roommate. I've never seen Tebow so nervous. 

Cooper hustled to get the wild pitch and tossed it back to Tebow for another try. Tebow's second effort was much better. After the quick show of encouragement from Cooper, Tebow went into the stretch wind-up one more time and this time hit his target. Fastball. Just for kicks, I went into the stands and talked to a pro scout about Tebow's effort. The scout played along.

Tebow's MLB scouting report: "The kid's got a nice little three-quarters action going for him; a little natural movement on the heater," said the scout, who requested anonymity. They always do.

"Could he make it in the pros?" I asked. "After all, that's what everyone wants to know these days."

[SCOUT LAUGHS]

"Needs to lose some of that bulk," the scout said with a smile. "Not very flexible."

The crowd's reaction to Tebow's wild pitch was SOOOO funny. You could actually hear people gasping. As it turns out, the wild pitch was a bad omen. The Gators lost to Miami 8-5. No.12 UF (5-1) and No.10 UM (4-1) resume their weekend series at 2 p.m. today and play at noon on Sunday.

Tebow wasn't the only recognizable Florida sports figure in attendance on Friday. UF coach Urban Meyer watched from the press box. (But didn't want to speak to any reporters.) Basketball players Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, Adam Allen and Vernon Macklin watched from the stands.

-jo-

February 27, 2009

UF's Riley Cooper goes for double chomp

(Extended version of today's baseball story in The Herald)

Florida's two-star athlete, Riley Cooper, already defeated Miami in football this year. Today he takes his shot at the 'Canes in baseball.
*
GAINESVILLE -- Beat the Miami Hurricanes twice in one year — that’s the dream of every Florida Gator worth his long and jagged teeth. Riley Cooper gets his chance to double chomp the ‘Canes on Friday.

*

Best known as a receiver for the University of Florida’s national championship football team, Cooper is also a right fielder for the Gators’ baseball team. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, No. 12 Florida (5-0) Cooperthrow hosts No.10 Miami (3-1) in the two teams’ annual early season series. Just as he did on the football field last September, Cooper [PICTURED] is looking forward to knocking off the Hurricanes on the baseball diamond.

*

“Whatever team it is, I want to beat them,” Cooper said. “No matter if it’s the ‘Canes or Florida State or anybody but this is going to be a big weekend for us and I’m real excited to get out there and get after it.”

*

Miami won the annual rivalry series last season in Coral Gables, winning two of three games. The roles are somewhat reversed this year. This time around, Miami is the younger of the two teams playing away from home for the first time. Florida will need the home-field advantage on Friday against mighty left-hander Chris Hernandez (1-0). The Gators will counter with their best pitcher, senior right-hander Patrick Keating (1-0).

*

“I think it’s going to be a good match-up,” Keating said. “Hernandez is a good pitcher and they have a good team. It’s going to come down to who executes and sticks with their plan and whoever pitches the best.”

*

Confidence is high at McKethan Stadium after the Gators swept their season opening series against No.16 Louisville and obliterated Eastern Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday’s 17-6 win was highlighted by Florida’s first three home runs of the season, including a towering drive to left from Cooper.

*

“I lost the ball when it went over the trees,” said UF third-baseman Josh Adams. “I have no idea where it landed. We’re used to seeing that in B.P., so for [Cooper] to finally put it together and get his first one, that’s definitely good for him.”

*

Cooperdives Cooper, a 15th round draft pick by the Phillies out of high school, spent most of his first two years at Florida focusing on football. He has given more time to baseball this year and it’s beginning to show on the field. Cooper is batting .389 through five games with two doubles and a home run.

Over the summer, Cooper [PICTURED] played in the Valley League in Virginia and was rated the league’s top prospect. He took time off from baseball during football’s regular season but started hitting again after the Gators’ SEC championship game in Atlanta. He practiced baseball in the mornings and prepared for the football national championship game in the afternoons.

*

“This is the closest I’ve been to playing year round,” Cooper said. “I play football, I guess, seven months out of the year. It’s definitely fun but it’s a lot of work, trying to keep your grades up.”

There is a plus side, of course. Getting a chance to beat Miami twice in one year.

“It’s going to be an emotional weekend for everybody,” said Keating, Florida’s ace. “It’s going to be an important weekend for us. ... We’re going to have to stay calm but get excited at the same time.”

PROBABLE STARTERS
GAME 1, 6:30 Fri
.: Miami LHP Chris Hernandez (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Florida RHP Patrick Keating (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
GAME 2, 2 p.m. Sat.: Miami RHP David Gutierrez (0-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Florida LHP Alex Panteliodis (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
GAME 3, noon Sun.: Miami LHP Iden Nazario (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Florida LHP Nick Maronde (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Adams
JOSH ADAMS [pictured] , UF third-baseman: Adams is the Gators' utility infielder. He can play everywhere and oftentimes does. A sophomore, Adams is also one of the Gators' best hitters. He's batting .500 through five games with a double and a triple.

ON MIAMI: "It's a big rivalry," Adams said. "We definitely have a bad taste in our mouth from last year, so we've just been preparing this whole week. It'll be fun."

BUDDY MUNROE, UF catcher: Munroe gets the start today, catching for UF ace Patrick Keating. A Miami native, Munroe is batting a team-best .556. 

MORE ON COOPER
Remember Cooper's long hair during the national football championship? Well, the long-hair experiment is official over for Cooper. By order of the king, UF baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan, Cooper cut trimmed his locks before the baseball season.

"It's off," Cooper said, lifting his cap. "Baseball is a different game and [Sullivan] wasn't having the long hair, so he's the boss."

-jo-

February 26, 2009

OFFSEASON UPDATE: UF safety Ahmad Black

GAINESVILLE -- A quick offseason update on one of the heroes of the Gators' national championship team, Florida safety Ahmad Black.

Ahmad Black is one of Gator Nation's fan favorites after making a miraculous interception in the fourth quarter of the national championship game. It was a beautiful play. Here's a YouTube link in case you want to relive the moment. CLICK ME! I love the delayed celebration and how no one of the field even knew what happened except for Black and, of course, the official who made the correct call. The look on OU quarterback Sam Bradford's face says it all.

Black is a living legend these days in his hometown of Lakeland. Last Thursday he spoke at a Lakeland Dreadnaughts football banquet. Black's message was simple: Enjoy high school while it lasts.

Long before Black saved the Gators' national championship, he did the same thing for the Dreadnaughts in the 2006 state championship game against Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. In double overtime, Black made a fourth-down, game-saving tackle on the goal line to propel his team to a Class 5A state title and a mythical high school football national championship. Pretty good career. And pretty remarkable that both plays -- the interception against OU and the tackle against St. Thomas -- happened at Dolphin Stadium.

According to Bruce Black, Ahmad's father, his son is trying to stack on a few extra pounds to his already chiseled frame this offseason. The goal is to get Ahmad up to 200 pounds before the fall. It has been a pretty quiet offseason for Ahmad except for one minor run-in, literally, with fellow Gator Dustin Doe, a linebacker. Black rear-ended Doe two weeks ago while driving in Gainesville. Both Black and Doe are fine but Black's 2008 Dodge Charger needed a new bumper.

-jo-

Riley Cooper bombs ... in a good way

GAINESVILLE -- Took in the baseball team's hump-day special on Wednesday night. It was the team's last warm-up game before Friday, when the Gators welcome the Miami Hurricanes to town for a three-game set.

The highlight of UF's 17-6 victory against Eastern Michigan was a towering grand slam to left field by sophomore Riley Cooper in the fifth inning that, had it not smacked a car in a parking lot far, far away, might have one-hopped the CoopO'Dome. It was a bomb, folks. After the game, Cooper [PICTURED] shrugged off the homer with a just-another-hit attitude, but the baseball in his back pocket told you everything you needed to know about what the rightfielder thought of the blast.

"I'm keeping that one," Cooper said.

Cooper might be your favorite receiver next season on the football team, but this guy has the look of a future professional baseball player. He appears to be coming into his own on the diamond after dedicating himself this offseason to preparing for the baseball season. He said on Wednesday night that he began working on his swing while also preparing for the national championship game. He worked around football practice for about a month, taking batting practice in the mornings and running routes in the afternoon.

Munroe Florida is 5-0 and ranked No.12 by Collegiate Baseball. Two other Gators homered on Wednesday night, including catcher Buddy Munroe of Miami Christopher Columbus [PICTURED]. Munroe's three-run blast came in the sixth inning and gave UF a 16-5 lead. Munroe went 2-for-2 on Wednesday with a career-high three RBI. He also scored two runs and is batting a team-best .556 after five games. UF leftfielder Avery Barnes led off the game with a solo home run to right-center field.

Are the Gators excited about the Canes coming to town? Of course they are but they wouldn't offer any emotion on Wednesday night. "Just another game," said centerfielder Matt den Dekker of Fort Lauderdale. Den Dekker went 3-for-5 on Wednesday.

SEC HOOPS UPDATE
South Carolina defeated Kentucky 77-59 on Wednesday night in Columbia, S.C., grabbing sole possession of first place in the SEC East with three games remaining on the Gamecocks' regular-season schedule.

South Carolina (20-6, 9-4 in the SEC) has an RPI rating of 44 and is 1-4 against the RPI's top 50 teams. (Sheesh, talk about an indictment. The SEC is bad, bad, bad this season). The Gamecocks are in a good position to win the SEC East and earn a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament. The three games remaining on South Carolina's schedule: at Vandy, Tennessee at home and at Georgia.

Kentucky's loss moved the Wildcats (19-9, 8-5) into a three-way tie for second place in the SEC East with Florida ( 21-7, 8-5) and Tennessee (17-10, 8-5). Tennessee defeated Mississippi State 81-76 in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday night. Florida hosts Tennessee on Sunday. 

-jo-

February 25, 2009

TE recruit Orson Charles eliminates Gators

GAINESVILLE -- It's official. Florida is out of the running in the Orson Charles sweepstakes. Charles eliminated Florida from his short list on Wednesday. Only UGA, Tennessee and Southern Cal remain.

"I appreciate Florida's interest. I think very highly of Coach Meyer and the Gators," Charles said in a statement. "This was a tough decision for my family. Please understand me and my family's call. Thank you and God bless."

For some reason, I don't think this is the last Florida fans have heard of Mr. Charles. If he stays in the SEC, he'll be lining up against the Gators next season. Good luck.

AROUND THE SEC
--Mobile Press-Register columnist Paul Finebaum brings his usual dose of sarcasm to an important subject. CLICK ME!

--Former Alabama lineman, Andre Smith, is surrounded by stupid people. CLICK ME!

--So is prep running back David Oku, a sought-after recruit by Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Syracuse. CLICK ME!

--Former UGA receiver Andre Hastings is into dogs. CLICK ME!

--Not a dog lover. CLICK ME!

--Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen on Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin. "I guess everybody has their own style," Mullen said on Monday during a radio interview. "You coach within what your style and your personality is. I guess that's his style and his personality."

-jo-

Florida Gators fall to LSU 81-75

GAINESVILLE -- Predictable loss for the Gators on Tuesday in Baton Rouge. UF looked good in spurts but fizzled in the end, losing to LSU 81-75 on Fat Tuesday.

LSU went without a field goal for more than five minutes (9:09-3:57) late in the second half but held off the Gators in the end by sinking 12 of 12 free throws. LSU senior guard Marcus Thornton scored 32 points, including six three-pointers. UF senior Walter Hodge led the Gators with 16 points. He made four three-pointers but two of those came in the final minute with the outcome already decided.

Playing with the flu for the second straight game, UF guard Nick Calathes had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists. With three games left of the season, the Gators' No.1 goal right now should be getting Calathes healthy before Tennessee comes to Gainesville on Sunday.

The Gators (21-7, 8-5 in SEC) entered the game tied for first in the SEC East but slipped behind Kentucky and South Carolina with the loss. LSU claimed at least a share of the SEC regular season title with the win. The final two weeks of the SEC should be an interesting affair. It's believed that Florida needs to win a few more games to shore up its NCAA Tournament portfolio.

UF is 2-5 on the road in SEC play this season and undefeated at home. The Gators final away game is against Mississippi State next Wednesday, sandwiched by home games against Tennessee (Sunday) and Kentucky (next Saturday.)

-jo-

February 24, 2009

Carl Johnson case to be continued ...

GAINESVILLE -- The mysterious saga involving Florida football player Carl Johnson, his ex-girlfriend and a temporary restraining order will last at least until spring.

The attorney representing the ex-girlfriend requested and was granted a continuance on the case today at the Alachua County Courthouse. The lawyer wouldn't say why he needed more time. No criminal charges have been filed against Johnson but the ex-girlfriend has successfully humiliated her former boyfriend with some rather detailed accusations. You can go to another blog for those details. We're not going to drag this guy through the mud anymore until we hear from Johnson or his lawyer and they're not commenting.

The ex-girlfriend filed for a temporary injunction on Feb.9. Today's court hearing was to determine if the restraining order should be made permanent. The new court date is set for April 7. Oh, joy! More nonsense to cover during spring football.

Johnson violated the terms of the temporary injunction on Feb.10 when he rode on the same campus bus as his ex-girlfriend, sitting about three-feet away from her and speaking to an acquaintance, 18-year-old Nia Phillips, of his ex-girlfriend. Phillips and the ex-girlfriend filed sworn statements of the incident and Johnson was arrested for a misdemeanor. He spent the night in jail and was released the next morning on his own recognizance.

Johnson, a talented offensive lineman, is expected to compete for a starting tackle position this spring. Practice begins on March 25. The University of Florida is not commenting on Johnson's status with the team.

-jo-

EMAILS I GET: Doesn't Orson Charles owe the Gators?

GAINESVILLE -- Every once in awhile, the editorial board here at Gator Clause, Inc. publishes the emails that fill our inboxes. This latest email comes to us from Paul in Chattanooga, Tenn. Paul lives in enemy territory but is a Gators fan through and through. His No.1 goal in life is to choke slam Lane Kiffin from atop Lookout Mountain, or so we assume. Paul offers up three questions today:

1. Orson Charles -- isn't this the kid that dropped the crystal trophy? Where will he go and doesn't he owe us?
ANSWER: Paul, you're going to want to do more than choke slam Lane Kiffin if he swipes another nationally ranked recruit out of the Sunshine State. Unfortunately for Kiffin's safety, I think that might happen. Orson Charles is a mix between a tight end and a receiver who played high school football at Tampa Plant. That's the same high school that produced quarterbacks Robert Marve (Miami) and Aaron Murray (Georgia). Charles will announce his decision to attend either Tennessee, Georgia, USC or Florida next week. Many believe Georgia is the frontrunner for the simple fact that Murray, Charles' prep QB, is now at UGA. Last year when Charles was visiting UF, he accidentally knocked over Florida's 2006 BCS national championship trophy (the crystal football) and shattered it. Florida got a replacement. Does Charles owe Florida? That's a funny perspective but I think if Charles was going to sign with Florida it would have already happened. Florida is holding a scholarship for Charles but I doubt he's coming to UF. Would Florida coach Urban Meyer leave the country if he thought he still had a shot at Charles? Or, maybe he knew Charles was already in the bag, so he went on vacation?

2. Have you heard if the national championship game that was offered live in 3D is available in 3D anywhere?
ANSWER: I haven't heard about a 3D version, but I did see some rentals at Blockbuster yesterday of Gators highlights. Speaking of movies, has anyone seen Quarantine? Pretty scary, I thought. Kind of like a mix between 28 Days Later, Blair Witch Project and Melrose Place.

3. Which coach will be able to break into the Miami talent pool and when?
ANSWER: If anyone at Florida breaks through in Miami and lands a few recruits, then it's going to be assistant coach Vance Bedford, whose recruiting territory is Miami-Dade. Bedford should have a shot at signing a few 2010 prospects from Miami. He seemed optimistic when I talked to him about it before the national championship game.

-jo-

February 23, 2009

TIM TEBOW: 'Come watch us beat Georgia again'

GAINESVILLE -- When it comes to the Georgia-Florida rivalry these days, it's never too early to start talking a little smack. Not even for UF quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow was up in the Panhandle this weekend accepting yet another postseason award. This time it was the Wuerffel Award, presented by the good folks of Fort Walton Beach. After accepting his award, Tebow helped raise money for local charities by auctioning off a package of four tickets to the UF-UGA game in Jacksonville. Tebow got $5,500 for the tickets, sealing the deal with this zinger: "Four tickets to come watch us beat Georgia again."

SPRING FOOTBALL 5 QUESTIONS
We know spring football doesn't start for about three more weeks, but it's never too early to toss a few ideas around. Who replaces Percy Harvin? Who plays right tackle? Who plays left tackle? The Herald asked five questions regarding the Gators as spring football nears in Monday's paper. CLICK ME! 

-jo-

February 22, 2009

Impressive showing for UF receivers at NFL Combine

GAINESVILLE -- Here's a quick update from Indianapolis. Former Florida receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy showed off their speed at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday.

Harvin ran an impressive 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, which was the seventh fastest time among wide receivers. In the bench press portion of the Combine, Harvin had 19 reps of 225 pounds, which ranked him fifth among receivers. Harvin's combination of speed and strength was the best of any receiver on Sunday. Receiver Louis Murphy clocked a 4.43 in the 40, which was the ninth fastest time of the day.

Former Maryland receiver Darrius Howard-Bey had the fastest 40 time among receivers with a 4.30. It was the third fastest time at Combine among receivers since 2000.

BASEBALL: GATORS SWEEP LOUISVILLE
Mooney Florida swept its seaon-opening series with Louisville on Sunday in dramatic fashion when junior Mike Mooney [PICTURED] singled home pinch hitter Clayton Pisani with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 3-2 victory.

Pisani, pinch hitting for freshman Jerico Weitzel, started the rally with a two-out single to centerfield. Junior Buddy Munroe of Miami Christopher Columbus kept the rally alive with a base hit through the right side of the infield. Pisani advanced to second, setting the stage for Mooney's game-winning hit. Mooney is a JUCO transfer from Palm Beach Community College.

Florida reliever Jeff Barfield (1-0), another JUCO transfer, pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win. UF freshman left-hander Nick Maronde pitched 6 1/3 innings in his first collegiate start. He allowed two runs on five hits.

-jo-

Big day for Gators fans and lime green track shoes

GAINESVILLE -- Florida was a triple winner on Saturday. Let's review before we question former Florida offensive lineman Jason Watkins' fashion sense.

1. The Gators men's basketball team played its best game of the season (just my opinion) on Saturday, defeating Vanderbilt 82-68. Check Sunday's Herald for my game story. A few highlights: 

-- Freshman center Kenny Kadji appears to be breaking out of his shell. He had four blocks on Saturday, including two consecutive blocks on Vandy sophomore center A.J. Ogilvy. Then, later in the game when Kadji checked back into the line-up, one of the Rowdy Reptiles standing behind me offered Ogilvy this colorful reminder: "Hey, Ogilvy. It's your buddy. He's going to stuff your junk on you ... twice!" Love those Rowdies.

--Five Gators scored in double figures including this fan fav. That's right. He didn't miss a shot. Made 4 of 4 from the field, including three 3-pointers. 

--What impressed me most with Saturday's win was the fact that Nick Calathes wasn't at his best and the Gators still won convincingly. Calathes scored 14 points, his lowest scoring total in 15 games. After the game, coach Billy Donovan said Calathes played ill. And I don't mean ill'n like this! 

--Nick Calathes complimented my haircut during post-game interviews. Seriously, he did. And so did Jeremy Foley. Two thoughts: Either it's a good haircut or my last one was really bad. Hmmmmm? Anyway, my beautiful wife shaved my head the other day (man she's going to kill me after she reads this) and the funniest thing happened. My dogs freaked out. Then one of them, Cahaba, started eating my hair. The ultimate tribute!

--Alex Tyus is the hardest working man in the game. Just wait until next year when this guy is surrounded by some qualities bigs. Tyus gonna _______! (OK, OK. No more corny links.)

--Florida plays at LSU on Tuesday. Thoughts? I'm sticking by my earlier prediction on this one. At the time, I thought Florida needed five wins to insure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Two wins later, the magic number is at three. Either three wins before the SEC Tournament in Tampa or two wins in the next four games and one win in Tampa.

--Gator great Jack Youngblood was at the game. He's looking good. Some weirdo was later arrested after giving Jack Youngblood the ultimate tribute!

BASEBALL
2. The Gators' baseball team defeated Louisville 10-4 on Saturday to clinch their weekend series with the Cards. Freshman left-hander Alex Penteliodis pitched six innings, allowing two runs, to earn a win in his collegiate debut. UF senior Brandon McArthur had a three-run double in the fourth, giving him five RBI in two days. Sophomore Riley Cooper went 2-for-4 with two doubles.

SWIMMING
3. The Gators' women's swimming team won its 17th SEC crown on Saturday. Read all about it right here. CLICK ME!

NFL DRAFT HOORAY!
OK, now to the NFL Combine. Televised workouts began on Saturday with offensive linemen and tight ends running 40-yard dashes and shuttle runs and all that fun stuff. Florida was represented by offensive tackle Jason Watkins and tight end Cornelius. A few thoughts:

--Most importantly, what exactly was Jason Watkins thinking with those neon lime green track shoes? Seriously, I wanted to crack open a Corona just watching the guy run. Mmmmmm, Corona! Actually, as Mexican beer goes, I'm a much bigger fan of Pacifico! Anyway, if you think of beer while watching Jason Watkins run the 40, then you're probably an alcoholic.

--Jason Watkins ran a 5.53 in the 40-yard dash. But who cares how fast an offensive lineman runs the 40, right? In the bench press workout, Watkins did the up-down 18 times. Is 18 reps a lot for an offensive lineman? Who knows? Who cares? The guy wore neon lime green track shoes. Give that man a fat NFL contract!

--Saturday was a big day for Cornelius Ingram, who missed his senior year with a knee injury. Ingram clocked a great time in the 40 (4.62 seconds) and also showed off his vertical leaping ability (33 inches). Congrats, C.I., on the comeback!

--Cornelius Ingram apparently spent about six hours with NFL doctors during his NFL medical examination. Percy Harvin got the special treatment, too. According to one article, Harvin missed the interview portion of his NFL Combine because he was busy with NFL doctors.  

-jo-

February 20, 2009

Gators down Louisville in season opener

GAINESVILLE -- The aluminum ping of college baseball is back and the No.23 Gators started their season on Friday night with a 6-3 win against No.16 Louisville.

UF senior pitcher Patrick Keating (1-0) allowed four hits and three runs in seven innings and struck out a career-high seven batters. Junior pitcher Billy Bullock recorded the first save of his career, allowing two hits in two innings. 

Florida took a 3-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run triple by sixth-year senior Brandon McArthur and a sacrifice fly from freshman designated hitter Preston Tucker. Florida went up 4-0 in the second inning when sophomore Riley Cooper scored on an error by Louisville shortstop John Dao. Cooper reached on a single and went 1-for-3.

Louisville cut the Gators' lead to 4-3 in the seventh inning on a home run by Cardinals' second baseman Adam Duvall. Florida extended its lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh when Gators' senior Avery Barnes singled in junior catcher Buddy Munroe and UF junior Matt den Dekker knocked in freshman shortstop Mike Mooney with an infield single. Den Dekker, who starred at Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy, went 1-for-4.

A few thoughts: UF sophomore Josh Adams is a solid baseball player. Expect a big year from Adams. He went 2-for-4 at the plate and showed good instincts at third base. Keating is a quality Friday starter. He only made two mistakes in his season debut: the home run to Duvall and a lead-off double to Louisville first baseman Andrew Clark in the fourth. 

-jo-  

SEC forever blowing bubbles

GAINESVILLE -- It's bubble time for college basketball. Call me Mr. Bubble of the SEC. As the song goes, "I'm forever blowing bubbles. Pretty bubbles in the air."

So many bubble games for teams to blow this weekend around the SEC. Let's take a look around the bubble factory.

Mr[1]. Bubble VANDERBILT (16-9, 5-6) AT FLORIDA (20-6, 7-4), 3 p.m. Sat
The Commodores appear bound for the NIT at this point but they did just defeat Kentucky and have important bubble games remaining against UF, South Carolina and LSU (away). Vandy is 1-4 in road conference games this season with its lone away victory coming against Auburn. Some people say Florida plays basketball like this famous person lived his life. I strongly disagree! The Gators are trying the best they can, according to their coach, and they're only "bad" loss was to Georgia, according to me. People also say UF can't win an important conference game on the road. I strongly disagree! UF knocked off Auburn and Vandy. As you're about to find out, that win at Auburn is looking sweeter every day.

AUBURN (17-9, 6-5) AT LSU (22-4, 10-1), 8 p.m. Sat
Winners of their last four games (Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Georgia), the Auburn Tigers are the hottest team in the league. Auburn still doesn't have a ticket to the SEC's NCAA Tournament bubble party, but Tigers could earn one very quickly with a win at LSU. LSU is a bubble eater, though.

TENNESSEE (16-9, 7-4) AT KENTUCKY (18-8, 7-4), 1 p.m. Sat
People tell me that Tennessee is on the bubble. I disagree. While some SEC teams were playing non-conference games against opponents like Florida A&M, Tennessee was actually playing (and defeating) real basketball teams. Tennessee is in. No Bubbles. Kentucky, on the other hand, needs a few more wins to bolster their resume. The Wildcats can't lose another game at home.

ARKANSAS (13-11, 1-10) AT SOUTH CAROLINA (18-6, 7-4), 7 p.m. Sat
South Carolina can't afford a home loss this late in the season either. Especially to a team that has lost 10 of its last 11 games. Arkansas might be terrible when it comes to conference play, but the Hogs did (somehow) defeat Texas and Oklahoma this season.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (17-9, 7-4) AT ALABAMA (13-12, 3-8), 3 p.m. Sat
If State loses this game, then its days on the bubble are done.

-jo-

UF baseball opens season tonight and other stuff

GAINESVILLE -- Senior Patrick Keating takes the mound at 6:30 tonight for the Gators in their season opener against Louisville. UF is ranked No.23 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason Top 25 while Louisville is ranked No.16.

The Gators host Eastern Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday before a visit from rival Miami Feb. 27-Mar. 1. 

Second-year coach Kevin O'Sullivan appears to be moving the Gators in the right direction. Florida finished the 2008 season 34-24 and were 27-6 at home. That was a huge improvement from the 2007 season, in which Florida was 17-17 at home.

O'Sullivan's first recruiting class was ranked No.5 by Baseball America. Four of those newcomers are talented pitchers who will contribute immediately. Left handers Nick Morande and Alex Panteliodis will make their first career starts this weekend against Louisville. Freshmen pitchers Will Jolin and Anthony DeSclafani will start weekday games.

Overall, UF is a young squad (12 freshmen) but the Gators are led by a strong core of returning players. Corner infielder Brandon McArthur was awarded a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Senior outfielder Avery Barnes is the Gators' lead-off man. Junior Matt den Dekker of Fort Lauderdale, who played with the U.S. National Team during the offseason, is a preseason all-American.

Sophomore infielder Josh Adams has emerged as the Gators' best hitter. Outfielder Riley Cooper, a receiver on the football team, joined the baseball team immediately after the football national championship and could be a significant contributor this season.

UF ROSTER LINK
UF SCHEDULE LINK
SEC coaches pick UF to finish second in SEC East; LSU to win league

HARVIN'S CHARACTER BEING QUESTIONED
Pro Football Weekly writer Nolan Nawrocki breaks down the good and bad of former UF receiver Percy Harvin, who will be participating in the NFL Combine this weekend. Nawrocki calls into question Harvin's character. "Not a likeable person and tends to rub teammates the wrong way," writes Nawrocki. Ouch. There is no doubt that Harvin has his demons (this blog was pretty critical of Harvin after his preseason incident with Chris Rainey) but the guy did work extremely hard to prepare himself for the national championship game after injuring his ankle against Florida State.

BROMBACHER IMPROVES TO 5-0
Florida sophomore softball pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (5-0) of Broward County recorded her fifth shutout of the season on Thursday. Brombacher is 25-0 in her career at UF. Brombacher was named SEC Pitcher of Week last week. She tossed a no-hitter against Coastal Carolina. Florida defeated defending national champs Arizona State 8-2 in their second game on Thursday. UF pitcher Stacy Nelson recorded her 100th career victory and sophomore Megan Bush hit two home runs in the same inning. And one of the dingers was a grand slam. Wow!

-jo-

February 19, 2009

Details of Brian Butler's liquid diet revealed

Gravy  

Homer   

February 18, 2009

FINAL: Florida Gators 83, Alabama (Georgia of the West) 74

GAINESVILLE -- Florida snapped its two-game losing skid with an 83-74 victory against Alabama on Wednesday night.

UF guard Nick Calathes led the Gators with 22 pionts, six assists and three rebounds. Florida held Alabama star Alonzo Gee of Palm Beach County to 17 points. Gee scored over 30 against the Gators last season.

Florida sophomore forward Alex Tyus had 16 points and seven rebounds. Freshman point guard Erving Walker had 13 points. Walter Hodge had nine points and six assists.

LIVE BLOG BELOW
Blogging live tonight from the O'Connell Center, Alabama-Florida. Once again, no sellout. The public-address announcer just called the O'Dome the 'House of Horrors.' The Alabama Crimson Tide has lost 17-straight road conference games. Florida just lost to last-place Georgia. House of horrors, indeed. Should be a great game...

1ST HALF
15:32 Florida Gators 16, Alabama Crimson Tide 7
--What's this? The Florida Gators' basketball actually DOES have a pulse after all. Back-to-back dunks by Parsons in the game's first four minutes! A three ball from Dan Werner! A three ball by Erving Walker! All of sudden, this Florida team doesn't seem so bad. Am I dreaming on press row again?

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Alabama's unis are hideous...but not nearly as bad as the guys in the unis.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Bama sorely misses guard Ronald Steele, who quit the team awhile back. The Tide has five turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Andrew Declercq in the house or horrors!

Continue reading "FINAL: Florida Gators 83, Alabama (Georgia of the West) 74" »

Tim Tebow and Terrell Owens together in Gainesville?

GAINESVILLE -- Got something a bit odd to pass along this afternoon.

UF quarterback Tim Tebow and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens were in the Outback Steakhouse in Gainesville at the same time on Tuesday night, according to the restaurant's manager.

"There's not really much to it," said Adam, the manager who for some reason didn't want me to print his last name. "One of them came in right when we opened and the other one came in about an hour later. Terrell Owens was with a lady and another man and Tebow came in with one of his buddies."

Owens and Tebow did not eat together and, according to the restaurant's manager, the two football players did not speak to one another.

Weird, huh? Wonder if Tebow is a Bloomin' Onion guy? Doubt it.

-jo-

NFL Combine: TE Cornelius Ingram has much to prove

GAINESVILLE -- The NFL Scouting Combine begins today, Feb.18, and ends on Tuesday, Feb.24. It's a big week for a select few. Some players will one day be millionaires based upon this week and some will see their dreams of playing professional football come to an end. 

Four Gators -- Percy Harvin, Cornelius Ingram, Jason Watkins and Louis Murphy -- were invited to this year's NFL Combine. In case you were wondering, the Combine is a job fair for college players hoping to be employed by NFL football teams. If you want to know what players do at the NFL Combine, then CLICK ME! In addition to that fun stuff, players will also be weighed, measured, questioned and tested by NFL scouts, general managers, coaches, directors and doctors.

Every year there are one or two players whose measurable skills stand out among their peers. Last year it was Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jake Long (Michigan Wolverines), whose 11-inch hands and 35 3/4-inch arms wowed all. Then there was Tampa Bay Bucs receiver Dexter Jackson (Appalachian State) who ran a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. It was enough for the Bucs to draft him in the second round.

Ingram This year, tight end Cornelius Ingram [PICTURED] could be one of the players with the most to gain (or lose) based on his measurable skills. Ingram tore an anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee before the 2008 college football season. Since that time, he has been rehabilitating and training for the NFL Combine.

Ingram has a lot to prove his week after missing the 2008 season. NFL general managers are always on the look out for pass-catching tight ends who create match-up problems for opposing defenses. Has Ingram fully recovered from his injury? Is he worth the risk? Scouts will watch intently as Ingram races from point to point in the three-cone drill, which tests a player's ability to change directions. How will Ingram's reconstructed left knee respond? If Ingram can clock one of the fastest 40-yard dash times among tight ends this week, then his draft stock will rise considerably.

Like Ingram, receiver Percy Harvin will be judged by his measurable skills this week. Exactly how tall is Harvin, after all? He is listed at 5-11. If Harvin measures out at 5-9, then his draft stock could take a hit.

Receiver Louis Murphy (6-2, 205) never was the Gators' first option. Will his combination of height and speed overshadow his lack of production at the collegiate level?

Offensive tackle Jason Watkins is an intriguing prospect. He won't be the most experienced and polished offensive lineman at the NFL Combine but there is something to be said for a guy who only played two years of high school football only to emerge as the Gators' best at his position on a national championship team. Can Watkins prove that his raw athleticism is enough to warrant a draft pick?

Oh, and if you're keeping score at home, and we know you are, UF has more players at the NFL Combine this year than Florida State and Miami combined. Florida State sent two players to Indianapolis and only ONE Miami Hurricane was invited. South Florida will have two players at the NFL Combine this week. Other instate schools: Central Florida (1), FIU (0), Bethune-Cookman (0) and Florida A&M (0).

Among Southeastern Conference schools, LSU (9 players) and Georgia (8 players) will have the most representation at the NFL Combine. Here's the complete SEC breakdown. Alabama (5), Arkansas (2), Auburn (3), Florida (4), Georgia (8), Kentucky (3), LSU (9), Ole Miss (6), Mississippi State (1), South Carolina (6), Tennessee (6) and Vanderbilt (1). 

-jo-

February 17, 2009

UF's Brandon James has foot surgery

GAINESVILLE -- Brandon James, Florida's all-American kick return specialist, underwent surgery on Monday to repair a fractured metatarsal bone in his right foot, according to the University of Florida. James, a junior, will be on crutches for six to eight weeks, according to UF. 
 
In 2008 James was voted the Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Year. He holds school records for single-season (510 yards) and career punt-return yardage (1,127 yards).

UF's Carl Johnson accused of abusive relationship

GAINESVILLE -- Florida offensive lineman Carl Johnson was allegedly involved in an abusive relationship in 2008, according to a petition for injunction for protection against sexual violence filed in Alachua County on Feb. 9.

According to the petitioner, Johnson's former girlfriend, she was in a "violent dating relationship" with Johnson from July 2008 to Dec. 2008. During that time, Johnson's former girlfriend claimed that "physical and emotional abuse were regular."

Carl Johnson, 21, was arrested on Monday for violating the terms of his restraining order when he sat approximately three feet away from his former girlfriend on a public bus, according to an arrest report. The report also states that Johnson followed his former girlfriend once she exited the bus. He was booked into the Alachua County jail at 1:21 p.m. on Monday. Johnson had been ordered by the court to remain 500 feet away from his former girlfriend.

According to arrest records, Johnson’s former girlfriend and an eyewitness gave sworn statements on Monday of “the accounts that took place on the bus.”

Johnson spent the night in jail on Monday and appeared in court on Tuesday morning. He was then released under the condition that he remain at least 500 feet away from his former girlfriend at all times. Terms of the original restraining order indicate that Johnson and his former girlfriend are scheduled to appear in Alachua County court at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 24.

Johnson's former girlfriend included a lengthy and detailed description of her relationship with the football player in her petition for a restraining order. She also indicated in the petition that she reported sexual violence to law enforcement and is cooperating in any criminal proceeding. No criminal charges against Johnson have been filed "as of this time" with the State Attorney's Office, according to State Attorney's Office spokesperson Spencer Mann.

Johnson, a sophomore offensive guard, started nine games last season and is expected to compete for a starting position on the offensive line this spring. Florida’s spring practice begins on March 25 and the Gators’ spring football scrimmage is scheduled for April 18. Johnson, a native of Durham, N.C., was rated one of the top offensive line prospects in the nation as a high school senior.

-jo-


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