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May 10, 2013
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators baseball bounced back from a four-game skid by concluding its non-conference slate with a pair of dominant wins over in-state opponents Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic. Florida ousted the former 22-1 and the latter 7-1 this week and is now set to conclude its five-game homestand with a three-game weekend series against Auburn. The Gators had won three-straight league series before being swept by LSU last weekend and have two more to play before the regular season is in the books. Florida (27-23, 12-12 SEC) has a legitimate chance to head into the postseason with some momentum as neither Auburn (28-19, 9-15 SEC) nor Georgia (17-28, 5-16 SEC) are expected to be major challenges over the next two weekends.
A number of coaching contracts were released by the University Athletic Association on Wednesday with the most notable figures being a $100,000 raise for offensive coordinator Brent Pease (up to $590,000 per season) and a $290,000 contract for new special teams coordinator Jeff Choate ($100,000 more than he would have been paid as UTEP defensive coordinator). Even with his annual $100,000 retention bonus included (bumping his annual salary up to $690,000), Pease is still making significantly less than Charlie Weis would have had he stayed with the program for a second season ($865,000). And while the Gators are paying the 2013 staff $275,000 more than they paid the 2012 staff, Florida is actually spending $625,000 less in 2013 than it did in 2010 during Urban Meyer's last year with the team. Meyer's $4 million salary is obviously more than Will Muschamp's $2.75 million per season, but the Gators have passed on some of the $1.25 million in savings to the assistant coaches as six of 10 (including strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman) are earning at least $290,000 per season.
The six undrafted free agents currently signed to teams are a big reason (and many will likely be cut in the coming weeks), but Florida currently has 41 former players spread across 19 NFL rosters with many teams doubling-, tripling- and quadrupling-up on Gators heading into the 2013 season. There was also plenty of movement via draftees, undrafted free agent signings and trades during and after the 2013 NFL Draft. Miami (drafted three) and Washington (drafted one, signed one) both have four Florida players on their rosters as of press time, while Baltimore (drafted one, signed one), New England, Pittsburgh (signed one) and Tampa Bay (traded for one) have three each. Chicago (drafted one), Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver (signed one), Jacksonville (drafted one), N.Y. Giants and Seattle each have two on their respective rosters with Houston (signed one), Kansas City (signed one), Minnesota (drafted one), Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis each employing one former Gators player.
One former Florida baseball player, aside from catcher Mike Zunino, forcing scouts to take notice while playing in the minors is shortstop Nolan Fontana, who as of Tuesday was leading the California League in batting average (.369), walks (30), runs (29), on-base percentage (.504) and on-base plus slugging (1.071). Fontana, playing for Houston's Class-A affiliate Lancaster, is also proving to be an excellent defensive shortstop (as Gators fans have known for quite some time), forming a great double-play combination with Delino DeShields, Jr. If Fontana can keep his bat hot, he may see a call-up to the majors sooner than he or the organization expected.
Representing one's country is the highest honor for an athlete and current Florida guard Sydney Moss may get that chance if all goes well for her during a tryout with USA Basketball set for May 16-19 in Colorado Springs, CO. Moss has accepted an invitation to compete in practice for a spot on the under-19 team that will be competing in the 2013 FIBA World Championships from July 18-28. Should she win a spot on the team, Moss will join Gators men's basketball coach Billy Donovan as representatives from Florida on Team USA this summer. Donovan will be coaching the men's under-19 team in the same event from June 17-July 7. He will begin his duties on June 14 in Colorado Springs as he attempts to whittle down a 25-player tryout to the 12 men that will earn spots on the final roster. Donovan won a gold medal last year with the under-18 team.
Spring is in full swing in Gainesville, FL and there is plenty going on this weekend in Gators athletics aside from the aforementioned three-game series being hosted by Florida baseball at McKethan Stadium.
Tennis begins its foray into the 2013 NCAA Tournament with first- and second-round games for the men's and women's teams both being hosted in Gainesville. The No. 15 men start things off Friday against Denver at 4 p.m. and have a chance to advance to the second round in a match that would be held Saturday at 4 p.m. The No. 1 women open up against Marist on Saturday at 1 p.m. and could play again on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Track & field started SEC Outdoor Championship competition on Thursday and will continue all the way through Sunday. No. 1/3 UF has already captured an individual title in the event as sophomore Kyle Strawn won the men's hammer throw with a mark of 66.90m/219-6.
Softball took down Alabama 8-4 on Thursday during the second round of the 2013 SEC Tournament, advancing to the semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. against Georgia (ESPNU). Should the No. 2 Gators be victorious, Florida will play for its first SEC Tournament title since 2009 against either Tennessee or Missouri on Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN).
Lacrosse begins its quest for the first national title in program history on Sunday at 1 p.m. against a yet to be determined opponent as a five-seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Gators will benefit from a first-round bye and will face the winner of Denver vs. Jacksonville in second-round action.