August 1, 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 to sign was the first to be selected, but as of Saturday night all four Gators selected in the 2011 NFL Draft are officially under contract with their respective clubs. Center Mike Pouncey, the No. 15 overall pick, signed a four-year, $9.3 million deal with the Miami Dolphins on Saturday, rounding out the foursome. Previously, second-round pick tackle Marcus Gilbert agreed to a four-year, $3.227 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers and both fifth-round pick safety Ahmad Black and seventh-round pick guard Maurice Hurt agreed to four-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins, respectively.

In an effort to welcome his new teammate to the squad while simultaneously retaining the number he previously wore at Florida, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez gave his No. 85 jersey to veteran wide receiver Chad Ochocinco over the weekend. Hernandez has already begun wearing No. 81 and chose to give the other jersey away for free rather than accept the jokingly offered package of the use of a Toyota Prius on weekends and some McDonald's coupons that Ochocinco would have provided. "We're playing at a high level, so all of us have a decent amount of money. I definitely should have [asked for some], but I didn't," Hernandez said according to ESPNBoston. "It was just a welcome to the team. [...] I thought he may look better and play better in 85, because that's his last name. So why not give it to him?"

Not able to speak with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels or any members of the St. Louis Cardinals coaching staff over the summer due to the NFL lockout, former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford found himself in Gainesville, FL on the campus of the team that beat him for the 2009 BCS National Championship. Why was he in town? Not just to hang out and practice with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper but more importantly to meet with new Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. The veteran play caller, unable to meet with his own team and in town during a lull in recruiting, spoke with Bradford about McDaniels's offense and helped explain the philosophy he would be learning this season. "I have the playbook. I can look at the paper all I want," Bradford told Sports Illustrated. "But it's a lot different when you actually have someone who can kind of talk you through it - someone who has experienced it, knows what the reads are and can kind of tell you what to expect."

In a pair of moves that will significantly affect the team going forward, the Dolphins chose to cut former Florida linebacker Channing Crowder over the weekend and are also poised to meet with veteran center Shaun O'Hara on Monday. Crowder, who played his entire six-year NFL career in Miami, is expected to land with another team soon and was dismissed mostly for productivity reasons. O'Hara, a three-time Pro Bowler who missed most of the 2010 season, is being brought in as the team's potential starting center, a decision that would move Pouncey over to guard for his rookie season. The adjustment would speak more to the team's desperate need for a powerful starting guard rather than Pouncey's ability to play center, which the coaching staff obviously believes he can do or else he would not have been selected as high as he was in April.

Never one to complain, Black already knows it is going to be an uphill climb to become a starter in the NFL. That is why he is perfectly fine with working his butt off on special teams - just like he did at Florida - in order to prove to his coaching staff that he deserves even more time on the field. In an interview with the New York Times, Black conveys that exact thought and once again states that he knows what it takes to be successful at any level. "Coming from Florida with coach (Urban) Meyer, he always stressed special teams so it's nothing new to me," he said. "A lot of guys think since they started in college, they will start here. That's definitely not the case. I'm going to earn my role on special teams to work my way on the defense."

Gators closed out the World Swimming Championships in style on Sunday with Ryan Lochte and Elizabeth Beisel each taking home gold in the 400-meter individual medley event for their respective gender. The victory was Lochte's fifth gold medal during the event in Shanghai, China; he also set a world record and beat Michael Phelps twice head-to-head. Beisel's gold was her first and only of the event but third overall in international competition after she won two at last year's Pan Pacific Championships. Though Lochte has been out of school for years, Beisel remains a member of Florida's women's swimming & diving team. She will be a sophomore next season who excels in freestyle and backstroke.

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