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20 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

Serious questions about UF football player's plea deal

GAINESVILLE -- On Tuesday, University of Florida freshman football player Janoris Jenkins pleaded guilty to his misdemeanor of resisting arrest in exchange for a deferred prosecution program available to first-time offenders in Alachua County. The charge will be dropped if Jenkins stays out of trouble for six months, pays some court costs and maybe does a little community service.

Or, put another way, freshman All-American Janoris Jenkins, the Florida football player who laughed off a shot from a Gainesville police Taser and kept on going, agreed to six months probation on Tuesday for his remarkable demonstration of pain tolerance.

Jenkins was arrested on May 30 for his alleged involvement in a bar brawl outside a nightclub in downtown Gainesville. Cops broke up the fight with a Taser gun. According to employees of the nightclub who wished to remain anonymous, Jenkins wasn't the only football player involved in the alleged fight. Jenkins was, however, the only person to get shot by the Taser. Jenkins went down and then everyone scattered, according to an employee of the nightclub.

According to the police report, Jenkins rolled on top of the Taser probes, effectively knocking them lose and severing the electrical current. At that point, Jenkins found his feet and took off down the block where he was quickly arrested by other officers.

The Gainesville Police Department charged Jenkins with two misdemeanors: resisting arrest without violence and affray (fighting). The fighting charge was dropped on Tuesday by the Alachua County state attorney, Bill Cervone, due to lack of evidence.

This whole incident raises some serious questions:

1. If Cervone was so quick to drop the charge for fighting, then why the heck did Gainesville police shoot Jenkins with a Taser gun in the first place? Something is fishy here. Either the Gainesville district attorney is letting Jenkins off easy or the Gainesville police should be investigated for excessive use of force.

2. If the state attorney dropped the charge for fighting, does that mean Jenkins can sue the Gainesville police for getting shot with a Taser gun for essentially doing nothing wrong?

3. If there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the fighting charge, then why is there sufficient evidence to prosecute the misdemeanor for resisting arrest?

4. Do all football players run from a fight and leave one of their teammates behind, or just Florida football players? Maybe this is why Florida coach Urban Meyer (err...I mean strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti) made the entire team run stadiums for Jenkins' arrest.

5. So most of the football players involved in the fight got away? And I thought Janoris Jenkins was fast.


Incoming freshmen enrolled and working out

GAINESVILLE -- All 16 of the football team's incoming freshmen are currently enrolled in summer classes and working out with strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, according to a university official. Classes began Monday for the second summer term.

Marotti recently tested the freshmen in a variety of strength-and-conditioning disciplines, including the bench press, shuttle run and 40-yard dash. A request has been made by Gator Clause to publish some of those results but, according to UF, Marotti doesn't like to publicize the numbers. If anyone has heard anything, fell free to pass along the information. We'll keep trying on this end.

The University of Florida recently finished third in the Directors' Cup standings. Stanford won its 15th consecutive Directors' Cup while North Carolina finished second.

UF has finished in the top 10 of the national all-sports standings in each of the last 26 years, a record according to UF. In the Southeastern Conference, Florida led the league with six team championships. UF's third-place finish in the Directors' Cup was the UAA's best finish in the annual competition since the 2001-2002 academic year.

BUZZ: Gators safety Ahmad Black of Lakeland High was recently honored by the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame for his impressive sophomore season. Black led the Gators in interceptions.

--The Gators received a surprise motivational speech last week from Matt Eversmann, a former first sergeant in the U.S. Army who fought in the Battle of Mogadishu (Black Hawk Down).

--According to a source, the Gators' starting offensive line is shaping up this way over the offseason: Matt Patchan (left tackle), Carl Johnson (left guard), Maurkice Pouncey (center), Mike Pouncey (right guard), Marcus Gilbert (right tackle). Patchan is finally putting on some pounds and will likely be ready to compete for a starting left tackle spot by two-a-days. The addition of Patchan to the offensive line woud push Johnson to guard and Maurkice Pouncey to center. Johnson practiced at tackle during the spring and Maurkice Pouncey practiced at guard.

--Offensive lineman James Wilson is struggling in the weight room this offseason, according to the source.


June 26, 2009

Three Gators nominated for ESPY Awards

GAINESVILLE -- Gators from the past, present and future were nominated recently for ESPY awards. Quarterback Tim Tebow is a nominee in two categories, incoming freshman Andre Debose (a receiver) is a nominee for a high school award and former Gators swimmer Dara Torres will receive the 2009 Best Comeback Award.

The 2009 ESPY Awards will be televised at 9 p.m. on July 19. Fans may vote online at www.espys.tv or via mobile phone at www.espn.mobi. I don't know how feel about the ESPY Awards. It's a summertime gimmick, but it is pretty neat that three players with ties to UF will be featured.

Tebow, the SEC's Male Athlete of the Year, is up for two awards: Best Male College Athlete, for which he won last year, and Best Moment Award, for his promise speech after the Ole Miss loss. Debose is a nominee for the Under Armor All-American Moment. Torres will receive the Comeback Award for her performance in the 2008 Beijing Games. As a 41-year-old, Torres won three medals and became the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games.

After leading UF to its second national title in three years, Tebow seems to be a shoe-in for the Male Athlete of the Year Award. Tebow won the award in 2008 after becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman. Winning the Best Moment Award might be a little more difficult. As memorable a moment as Tebow's so-called promise speech was for college football fans, another nominee for Best Moment Award is probably the favorite. Anchored by swimmer Michael Phelps, the U.S. men's 4x100-meter relay team is also a nominee for the award. The relay team's dramatic gold medal win in the Beijing Games was one of the greatest moments in American sports history, at least for this writer.  

Debose of Sanford Seminole High is a co-nominee along with LSU incoming freshman quarterback Russell Shepard for a 92-yard touchdown throw and catch in the Under Armor All-American Game. I didn't watch the Under Armor All-American Game but I did see Debose's miraculous game-winning touchdown catch in the championship game of the 2009 Class 6A state championship game. Quite a player, that kid.


UPDATED: Minnesota drafts Calathes in second round

GAINESVILLE -- The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted former Florida point guard Nick Calathes in the second round (45th overall) on Friday night with the team's fifth pick. Later Friday night, Calathes was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a second-round 2010 draft pick and cash.

Calathes was one of five guards selected by the Timberwolves, which drafted Spanish guard Ricky Rubio fifth overall. Minnesota drafted former Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn sixth overall. While the Mavericks now hold the rights to sign Calathes to an NBA contract, it's unlikely the former Gators all-time single-season assists leader will play for the Mavs next season, if ever.

Calathes has already signed a two-year deal with Panathinaikos of Athens. The contract guarantees him $1.1 million per year with an option for a third season if Calathes stays in Europe rather than return to the U.S. Because Calathes was selected in the NBA's second round, where nothing is guaranteed, he could return to the U.S. in two years and negotiate an unrestricted free agent contract.

Where does all this news leave the Gators? Still searching for a point guard to replace Calathes, that's where. Florida had hoped to sign late commitment Lamont Jones before the fall semester but Jones recently committed to Arizona, according to reports.

That Florida has failed to land a point guard since Calathes' departure from the team is baffling. For now, the fate of the team's backcourt is in the small but skillful hands of sophomore guard Erving Walker.  


June 25, 2009

What should I ask Lane Kiffin?

GAINESVILLE -- Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin meets the press on July 24 at the Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Ala. (Here's a link to the tentative schedule of SEC Media Days).

There's going to be quite a buzz when Kiffin takes his place on the dais. This post is simple and short: What should I ask Kiffin? What would you ask Kiffin? Creative responses welcomed. PG-13, please.


Spikes and Tebow to represent UF at SEC Media Days

GAINESVILLE -- Remember last year when Florida thought it was a good idea to send offensive lineman Phil Trautwein to represent UF at the Southeastern Conference Media Days? Thank goodness UF didn't make that mistake again.

No offense to Trautwein. Everyone loves the guy. But, come on. Who the heck is Phil Trautwein?

UF got it right this time around. Florida is sending senior quarterback Tim Tebow and senior linebacker Brandon Spikes to Hoover this year. SEC Media Days is July 22-24 at a hotel attached to a mall in suburbian Birmingham, Ala.

Tebow will be as generic as Publix-brand tomato sauce but I'm already excited to hear what Spikes has to say to a few well-conceived questions. A few come to mind: 1. Why the heck did you turn down the money of the NFL? 2. What word comes to mind when you hear the name Lane Kiffin?

Other SEC Media Days players of interest include: Georgia QB Joe Cox, Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Vanderbilt cornerback Myron Lewis (Pompano Beach native), Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman (Fort Lauderdale native), Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead and defensive end Greg Hardy and South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood.

Three incoming freshmen missed orientation earlier this week: safety Joshua Evans, defensive tackle Gary Brown and defensive end Kedric Johnson. All three players are awaiting news from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Brown, the five-star recruit, needed to complete an online course to be eligible. What's with defensive tackles and online courses? Hope this isn't another Torrey Davis/John Brown situation. What a headache that was for UF.


June 24, 2009

Off-season topic: U.S. Soccer vs. Florida Gators football

GAINESVILLE -- Here's an off-season topic to pass the time. Like many of you, I just watched the U.S. defeat Spain 2-0 in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. It got me thinking.

Now, this question isn't for everyone out there. If you don't enjoy international soccer, then your answer is obvious. But for the Gators fans out there who also enjoy soccer, I have a question for you. Look ahead to 2010. You can either be in the Rose Bowl in January celebrating a national college football championship for the Gators or you can be in South Africa next summer cheering on the U.S. to a World Cup win. You can only choose one. Where would you be?


June 18, 2009

Florida Gators add a pair of receivers recruits but top lineman picks UGA

GAINESVILLE -- The University of Florida football team welcomed two more commitments into the program earlier in the week. Stephen Alli, a receiver from Andover, N.H., and Solomon Patton, a receiver from Mobile, Ala., are UF's 14th and 15th commitments for the class of 2010.

Alli, a 6-5, 203-pound receiver, attended Florida's football camp and impressed coaches enough to earn a scholarship offer. Alli committed to the Gators despite previous scholarship offers from Boston College, Rutgers and Connecticut. Alli only had 13 receptions as a junior but seven of those receptions were for touchdowns.

Patton, more widely known than Alli, is a 5-10, 175-pound receiver from Mobile (Ala.) Murphy High. He too attended Florida's camp last week and committed to UF despite offers from schools closer to his home, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.

While the Gators picked up commitments from a pair of out-of-state prospects, the University of Georgia received a commitment from one of the Sunshine State's top offensive lineman. Brent Benedict of Jacksonville Bolles committed to the Bulldogs on Monday. Benedict is one of the nation's highest-rated offensive tackles, according to Rivals.com. Georgia now has commitments from four Floridians.


June 11, 2009

Former Florida Gators star Cornelius Ingram signs $1.9 million contract

GAINESVILLE -- Congratulations are in order to Cornelius Ingram. The Gators' former tight end signed a four-year, $1.9 million deal on Wednesday with the Philadelphia Eagles.

A fifth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Ingram has performed well during the Eagles' offseason training camps. With his contract in order, Ingram can now focus on earning playing time with his new team. He is expected to compete for the Eagles' back-up tight end job this offseason.

Ingram's signing bonus: $183, 000. Way to go, C.I.!


June 10, 2009

You've got to have thugs to win football games

Just came back from a run. If you want to know why Florida football players are better than most, just go to Gainesville during June and jog three miles during the heat of the day. Your lungs burn. Your head aches. Your muscles revolt. It's an oppressive feeling of dread that attacks the senses from all directions. Now imagine two-a-days in August. Imagine getting smacked around by Brandon Spikes. Imagine attempting to cover Deonte Thompson at speeds approaching terminal velocity. Imagine the pain of blocking Carlos Dunlap. There simply is no escaping The Swamp.

GAINESVILLE -- A former Florida running back now coaching high school football in Broward County told me one time that you have to have your fair share of thugs to win college and NFL football games. I think of this every time I read a blog or column admonishing the Gators and UF coach Urban Meyer for the football team's rap sheet over the last five years.

Florida's arrest record since Meyer took over is extensive. So is its wins total. A grand total of 20 players have been ordered to appear before the court for 24 infractions. Most of the charges were misdemeanors. Some were felonies. All reflect poorly on the University of Florida when filtered through the scrutinizing prism of a newspaper.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley issued this statement regarding the recent rash of player arrests. Six players have been charged since November.

"It is really easy to focus on the negative issues and negative press," Foley said. "This is part of the world we live in, and we understand this. No one here condones our players stepping out of line, and everyone here wants to get better.

"However, Urban Meyer and his staff are the best that I have seen in modifying behavior and, at the end of day, the majority of the players who come through this program will make us all proud -- and not just because they are good football players."

I'm not writing this blog to condone the arrests of Florida's players, but I can write without reservation that my opinion on the matter leans towards that of an apologist. You've got to have thugs to win football games. This ideology is ingrained in football players. Should players be punished for breaking the law? Without question, yes. People -- you, me, everyone -- should be punished for breaking the law. Should coaches and administrators be held accountable when their players break the law. Without question, yes. Jeremy Foley knows better than most that behavior modification is a two-way street. Should newspaper writers demand a cleaner football program from the state's flagship university? Yeah, sure. That's what we think we're supposed to do.

But people should understand that our love of football in its current state helps to fuel this thuggish behavior. It's a byproduct of the game just like coaching salaries, television contracts ... my job as a football writer. There's a reason why Harvard won't be winning a national championship in football anytime soon. Does Harvard even have a football team? I wouldn't know. Its players' names don't show up on arrest reports. Jeremy Foley said it best: "This is part of the world we live in, and we understand this."


June 09, 2009

Florida Gators freshman tabbed by U.S.A. Baseball

GAINESVILLE -- The honors continue to role in for Preston Tucker, the University of Florida freshman first baseman who was named national Freshman Hitter of the Year by NCBWA. On Tuesday, U.S.A. Baseball announced that Tucker recently accepted an invitation to try out for the 2009 National Baseball Team.

U.S.A. Baseball will hold its trials June 15-24 at the U.S.A. Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Thirty-six collegiate baseball players will try out for the team and 22 will make the final roster.


Florida Gators first baseman Preston Tucker named Freshman Hitter of the Year

GAINESVILLE -- Florida freshman first baseman Preston Tucker was named Freshman Hitter of the Year on Tuesday by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Tucker Tucker led the Gators in batting average (.364), RBI (85) and home runs (15) -- a remarkable accomplishment considering he was not named a full-time starter by UF head coach Kevin O'Sullivan until the 23rd game of the season. Tucker also led the Gators in slugging percentage (.628), multiple-hit games (27) and multiple-RBI games (23) and total bases (152). He was second on the team in hits (88) and doubles (13).

A list of Tucker's awards and honors this season: Southeastern Conference Co-Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA, Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Gainesville regional, All-SEC Tournament Team and the SEC's All-Freshman Team. 

Tucker went 9-for-13 (.692) during the NCAA's Gainesville Regional. He had four hits in UF's regional championship game against Miami. In Florida's five NCAA games, Tucker batted .650 and hit .471 (4-for-7) in UF's super regional against Southern Miss.


June 07, 2009

Gators' season ends with second loss to Southern Miss

GAINESVILLE -- Well, that five-run lead in the third inning didn't hold. The Gators lost to Southern Miss 7-6 in the second game of the double-elimination Gainesville super regional on Sunday night. UF lost to USM 9-7 on Saturday. Florida ended its season with a record of 42-22 and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (40-24) advanced to their first College World Series in school history.

Southern Miss scored three runs in the eighth inning to take a 7-6 lead. UF freshman Preston Tucker singled with one out in the top of the ninth inning but UF second baseman Josh Adams grounded into a double play on the next at-bat to end the game.


No need to criticize the Gators here on this blog for Monday's loss. UF had a fine season in coach Kevin O'Sullivan's second year on the job. Florida won 34 games in O'Sullivan's first season, so UF's baseball stock is on the rise.

The Gators return several talented freshman pitchers next season, including Nick Maronde, Alex Panteliodis and Anthony DeSclafani. Offensively the 2010 UF baseball team will be led by sophomore-to-be first baseman Preston Tucker, who set the Gators single-season RBI record (85) this year. One of the nation's best recruiting classes should account for the loss of upperclassmen Brandon McArthur (third base), Stephen Locke (ace pitcher) and Patrick Keating (pitcher).

UF could lose centerfielder Matt den Dekker of Fort Lauderdale and closer Billy Bullock to the 2009 MLB amateur draft, which takes place June 9-10.

--Florida is leading Southern Miss 6-1 in the fourth inning here at McKethan Stadium. A quick PSA. If Florida wins tonight, then Monday's game will be played at 1 p.m.

--A freshman is starting today for the Gators against Southern Miss but it isn't Alex Panteliodis or Anthony DeSclafani. Left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde gets the start today for the Gators in what could be UF's final game of the season.

If you read my game story of Saturday's opener of the double-elimination Gainesville super regional(CLICK ME), then you already know that I postulated incorrectly about today's starting pitcher. Since Panteliodis and DeSclafani started for UF in the regional, I only assumed one them would start today. But no. Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan pulled a fast one today and is starting Maronde, who last started for the Gators during the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament.

Maronde lasted 2 and 1/3 innings in the Gators' second loss to Arkansas in Hoover. Well see if he's any better today.


June 06, 2009

Gators lose to Southern Miss 9-7

Game story from Game One.

GAINESVILLE -- So much for the sweep. (At least for the Gators.)

UF lost to Southern Miss 9-7 on Saturday in a game that lasted more than four hours and featured four lead changes. The Gators will start a freshmen pitcher against USM on Sunday but UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan wouldn't say if it's going to be Alex Panteliodis or Anthony DeSclafani.

--Big third inning for the Gators. UF scored two more after Teddy Foster's two-run homer to take a 4-2 lead. Josh Adams and Jonathan Pigott both doubled in the inning.

--UF catcher Teddy Foster tied the game at 2-2 with a two-run homer minutes after rain delay ended. The rain delay appears to have helped the Gators and hurt the Golden Eagles.

--The tarp is off the field and the players are about to retake the field here at McKethan Stadium. (59-minute rain delay.)

--The University of Florida baseball team is losing to Southern Miss 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning. The game is currently being delayed by rain.

USM took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when B.A. Vollmuth (best name in the business) hit a solo home run off of UF starter Stephen Locke. The Golden Eagles went up 2-0 in the third when USM's Corey Stevens drove in Taylor Walker with a sacrifice fly to the right field.

Locke, the Gators' ace, is struggling through three innings. He walked two batters in the third inning and during one stretch threw eight balls in a nine-pitch sequence. Meanwhile, USM pitcher J.R. Ballinger has faced the minimum through two innings.


REMINDER: Live blog today for Florida Gators baseball Super Regional

GAINESVILLE -- So, I just returned from a quick trip to Birmingham just in time for the Gators super regional against Southern Miss. UF hosts the Golden Eagles at 3 p.m. You can read my advance story of the game here, CLICK ME! It's a pretty good story about the relationship between UF stars Preston Tucker and Josh Adams.

I'll be blogging live from the game tonight. Nothing major. Just a few updates while I'm working on deadline. You can follow the game live right here, CLICK ME!

The Southeastern Conference is undefeated through Friday in the super-regional round. Arkansas defeated Florida State 7-2 on Friday while Ole Miss edged Virginia 4-3 and Louisiana State knocked off Rice 12-9.

--All the rage up in Alabama is about the recent comments of high school recruit Lache Seastrunk, who got a little carried away during an Auburn recruiting visit, and told a microphone that Alabama coach "Nick Saban is S.O.L." Seastrunk later called Saban and apologized. This is the kind of nonsense that makes headlines in the summer. Can't wait for September to get here.


June 04, 2009

Low number of Florida Gators transfers a credit to coaching staff

GAINESVILLE -- If you told me back in January that only one University of Florida football player would transfer come summer, then I wouldn't have believed you.

It appears that reserve linebacker John Jones is going to be the Gators' only mid-summer transfer. Seeking more playing time, he is expected to transfer to Tennessee State this fall. If it's true that Jones is the only player transferring this summer, then consider the offseason a success.

Continue reading "Low number of Florida Gators transfers a credit to coaching staff" »

June 03, 2009

Amazing run ends for softball team

GAINESVILLE -- Stacey Nelson never got her ring. After two amazing seasons, the senior pitcher came close to winning two national championship but came up short both times. 

The Gators lost to Washington 3-2 on Tuesday night in the national finals after taking an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Here's a game story. UF lost to Washington 8-0 in the championship series' first game.

Congratulations, softballers, on a magnificent season. Former Plantation American Heritage star Stephanie Brombacher will be the team's ace next season. Brombacher, who will be a junior next season, is undefeated in two seasons at UF.


June 02, 2009

All aboard the Omaha Express

GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators are but one weekend series away from the College World Series and all that stands in their way is a Southern Miss team making its first appearance in a Super Regional.

The Gators are heavy favorites to advance past this weekend. Southern Miss (38-24) is the only regional No.3 seed in the NCAA baseball tournament to advance to a Super Regional. The Golden Eagles defeated Georgia Tech 12-8 on Monday to win the Atlanta Regional.

Game 1 of the Gainesville Super Regional begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday (ESPNU). Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2). In necessary, Game 3 will be played at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. on Monday (ESPN or ESPN2).

The Gators advanced to the Women's College World Series championship series on Sunday in dramatic fashion -- a walk-off grand slam -- but then lost the first game of the finals 8-0 to Washington on Monday. The Gators and Huskies return to action on Tuesday night.


June 01, 2009

Janoris Jenkins fights off Taser but, alas, is arrested

GAINESVILLE -- UF cornerback Janoris Jenkins was arrested on Saturday for fighting and resisting arrest. But let's not focus on the negative. There is something positive to take away from this incident, the football team's third arrest of 2009 and 24th arrest in the last five years.

We all knew Jenkins was tough, but -- man -- the guy must have the pain tolerence of a Himalayan yak. Jenkins was hit by a Taser on Saturday morning but still had the strength to fight through the electricity and briefly run away from the cops. Now that is exactly the type of warrior you need to win two national championships in two seasons. Florida coach Urban Meyer should recruit as many kids cut from the Janoris Jenkins mold as possible. (Minus the off-field problems, of course.)

OK, OK. Enough already with the cheeky blog stuff ...

Continue reading "Janoris Jenkins fights off Taser but, alas, is arrested" »

Gators get the best of 'Canes in baseball regional

GAINESVILLE -- Florida trounced the Miami Hurricanes 16-5 on Sunday night. It was the first time in team history that Gators eliminated Miami from the playoffs. Entering the weekend, Miami had eliminated Florida from the NCAA tournament eight times.

Florida will now play either Southern Miss or Georgia Tech in the Super Regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament. Southern Miss and Georgia Tech play today in Atlanta. Tech defeated Southern Miss on Sunday night to force today's game.

Amazingly, Sunday was only the second time UM coach Jim Morris had been eliminated from the regional round of the NCAA tournament since he began coaching at Miami in 1994. Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan got the best Miami's legendary coach by making all the right calls this weekend. That was the subject of my story in today's paper. Here's the game story of yesterday's game by our Miami Hurricanes beat writer, Susan Miller-Degnan.

Not to add insult to injury or anything like that, but I managed to record part of Sunday's game -- the part when Morris got tossed by the home plate umpire. Enjoy.




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