August 5, 2011

The Silver Lining: 8/5 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.

Leading off this Friday is the absurd amount of coverage the Denver Broncos quarterback competition is receiving. The expected starter in 2011, former Gators QB Tim Tebow, appears to have been relegated to back up duty now that the team failed to trade Kyle Orton and has reportedly decided to go into the season with him as the starter. Orton, who went 3-10 in that role last season, is set to earn $9 million in the final year of his contract; Tebow will earn close to $8 million as soon as he hits a major bonus 29 days into the league year. Things got ignited when ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge opened up on Tebow on Twitter, calling his play "embarrassing" and his throwing motion "awful" (among other things).

Though some have co-signed Hoge's comments, Tebow has also received support from some members of the media as well as a handful of professional athletes (most prominently Miami Heat forward LeBron James). He also spoke with the Denver Post on Wednesday about the situation and expressed that he has been on somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. "I'm trying to insulate myself from what people in the media are saying, but I've seen some of it, and it hurts because it's coming from people who haven't seen me practice, haven't seen me play, haven't seen what I can do," he said. "I did an interview the other day with someone on the NFL Network who said last year I'd never play a down in the NFL. He was wrong. Others who say I won't make it are wrong. They don't know what I'm capable of and what's inside me."

In what is officially the team's fifth misdemeanor possession of marijuana violation since January, freshman cornerback De'Ante Saunders was caught with the substance back in May. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Saunders has already agreed to deferred prosecution and likely received a small fine and community service for his actions. Six Gators have been cited/arrested since January, but two (cornerback Janoris Jenkins, linebacker Chris Martin) are no longer with the team. Jenkins was arrested for pot possession twice (January, April) and was dismissed by head coach Will Muschamp. Martin transferred months after he was cited for marijuana. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was arrested for underage drinking, and redshirt sophomore defensive end Kendric Johnson remains on the team after also being found with pot.

Not that many feel they deserve it following a rough 2010 season, but Florida was ranked at No. 23 on the USA Today coaches preseason poll released Thursday. The Gators will face six opponents ranked ahead of them on the poll (Alabama, LSU, Florida State, South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia), the most since they took on five ranked opponents in 2003. It is also the lowest Florida has been ranked going into the season since Ron Zook was head coach; seven Southeastern Conference teams are ahead of them including Alabama (2), LSU (4), South Carolina (12), Arkansas (14), Auburn (19), Mississippi State (20) and Georgia (22).

In his first NFL training camp, former Gators center Mike Pouncey is already impressing his coaches and teammates with the Miami Dolphins. Going head-to-head against massive defensive tackle Paul Soliai during the first few days of practice, Pouncey has held his own and pushed right back. "He was aggressive," Soliai told the Sun-Sentinel. "He's pretty tough. He wasn't scared; he wasn't afraid." Head coach Tony Sparano, a former offensive line coach, also heaped praise on Pouncey's performance. "There are so many natural things that he did … that made him stand out," Sparano said. "Some things that he did in the run game. Some things that he did in the protection drills, one-on-one, those types of things. This guy - there was some awareness out there."

Never one to crumble under pressure, former Florida safety Major Wright, entering his second NFL season, expects to breakout as he will be moved into a starting role with the Chicago Bears. "A lot of picks this year for me, you know," Wright told ESPNChicago.com. "By staying healthy and coachable, I can do that." His 2010 season started late due to injury, but Wright was effective when he actually made it on the field. "Last year with me getting injured, I really studied," he said. "I couldn't do much, so I studied, studied and studied." He also worked hard after the season "going over plays, working on my breaks, working on [tracking] the ball."

Gators S Ahmad Black was not drafted nearly as high as most of his college fans expected. Underrated due to his size and speed, Black slipped all the way down to the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, an occurrence that put a big smile on the face of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris. "I was the happiest guy in the world when he ran a bad time [at the combine] because I knew we had a chance to get him a little bit later," Morris told the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday. "He comes in here, he's got that Cody Grimm type of attitude where he's just a playmaker.'' Black has already been turning heads in camp and should easily earn a spot on the team as a major special teams contributor. He hopes to eventually work his way into the starting lineup by concentrating on working hard each day and doing things the way Morris wants.

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