June 24, 2011

The Silver Lining: Orange & Blue News

In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week The Silver Lining will take on a "news and notes" format to keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.

Last night, a pair of Gators was selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. The story may be similar a year from now as both freshman guard Brad Beal and sophomore center Patric Young are projected to be lottery talents when 2012 rolls around. Whether or not either player decides to stay in school for another year at the end of next season remains to be seen (Young has said on multiple occasions that he hopes to graduate from Florida and plans to stay for three or four years), but the Gators could have a pair of first rounders for the first time since 2007 if they do indeed declare. Speaking of Young, he made the final cut of USA Basketball's U19 Men's National Team and will begin competing in Latvia later this month.

It was leaked late Thursday by USA Today, but ESPN is set to announce on Friday the official role that former Florida head coach Urban Meyer will hold with the network for the 2011 college football season. According to reports, Meyer will be doing color commentary for the primary network's noontime games alongside play-by-play man Dave Pash and analyst Chris Spielman. He will also tape features and interviews for College GameDay (which airs directly before ESPN's noon game) and may also be featured on the show live via satellite on occasion. ESPN's earliest game is usually a Big Ten match-up, and the first game to be played in that slot in 2011 is expected to be Ohio State vs. Akron.

North Alabama is the new home for former Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the team by head coach Will Muschamp following multiple arrests for marijuana usage. Interestingly enough Jenkins's new head coach, Terry Bowden, told ESPN.com that Meyer, Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley endorsed Jenkins as a good guy who has been making dumb mistakes. "I talked to everybody that I could possibly talk to at Florida who had a relationship with him," Bowden said. "They all thought he deserved a second chance." With three arrests under his belt already, the North Alabama Lions are Jenkins's fourth chance.

In the post-commitment discussion regarding the Gators offering a scholarship to two-star kicker Austin Hardin (Atlanta, Ga.), I spoke with our own southeast recruiting analyst Keith Niehbur, who shared my sentiment that doing so was a good move for the team. "I think it's a smart move. For starters, this guy can really kick," Niehbur told me. "If he is ready to handle kickoffs in 2012 - and the coaches think he will be - it will take some pressure off Caleb Sturgis, who was injured last season. That would allow Sturgis to focus on field goals, while also limiting the chances of him getting hurt." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also notes that Hardin connected on 13 of 20 field goal attempts in 2010, missing seven that "were either attempts of 50 yards or longer" or were blocked by the opponent. Hardin was perfect on PATs and has a propensity for kicking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs.

Not just sitting around while the NFL is in lockout mode, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Max Starks is trying to make a difference. Starks announced last Friday that he will be building the Max Starks Education and Sports Center in Orlando, FL with an aim of teaching children to read, providing a safe place for them to play sports and also helping with their overall education. "Our children are tomorrow's leaders," Starks told the Orlando Sentinel. "Having all of these skills and having a multitude of talents will only make them that greater of a citizen in the future."

Gators tennis player Ryan Sweeting, who played for the team in 2006 and is up to No. 69 in the ATP World Rankings, fought back to win his opening round match at Wimbledon, defeating No. 50 Pablo Andujar 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(7-1), 6-1. He was rewarded, of course, by a second-round match-up with the top-ranked player in the world, Rafael Nadal. Squaring off late Wednesday morning, Nadal ran through Sweeting 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 as attempts to make it to the finals once again.

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