September 9, 2011

The Silver Lining: 9/9 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.

Looking back 10 years ago, Sunday will be a decade since the tragic events of September 11th befell the United States. Florida was recovering from its 55-6 victory over Louisiana-Monroe just three days earlier and was set to play Tennessee the next Saturday when the attacks occurred. The NCAA decided not to play any games that week and the contest was postponed back to Dec. 1, two weeks after the Gators' showdown with Florida State. Florida ended up falling to Tennessee 34-32 in a game that decided the SEC East title and a berth in the SEC Championship. UT broke a seven-game losing streak at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium that day, Steve Spurrier coached his last game in orange and blue and one week later Rex Grossman lost the Heisman Trophy to Nebraska's Eric Crouch by a 62-poitn margin.

Interest in recruiting usually focuses on football and basketball, but the Gators acquired a solid baseball commitment this week, earning a pledge from Williston High School outfielder Max White. A dual-threat player (he is also a left-handed pitcher), White is currently recovering from shoulder surgery but has always wanted to play for Florida and picked UF over LSU, Central Florida, N.C. State, Maryland and North Florida.

Now turning heads in recreational leagues since the NBA is in a lockout, former Gators center Marreese Speights has committed to play in the Lockout League being put on this summer by Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, NV. Replacing the NBA's annual summer league, it will feature games from Sept. 19-23 that may be streamed online for viewing. At least 60 NBA players will compete in the event and, though no other former Florida players will participate, some marquee names will including Stephen Curry, Zach Randolph, Chauncey Billups and John Wall.

In a move that surprised many of the team's fans, the New England Patriots released veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren this week. A productive player for the team a year ago, Warren could be re-signed after week one action when veteran contracts are no longer guaranteed. After speaking with two NFL agents this week, I learned the expectation is that a number of prominent veteran free agents may be signed as early as Monday. That means defensive ends Alex Brown and Bobby McCray as well as offensive tackle Max Starks could be receiving calls sooner than later.

Not having coached in college in more than a decade, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is excited to be back in the university ranks and said on Wednesday that he has noticed one major difference about coaching on the collegiate level. "You have to be really creative in your meeting time. It really tests you in your preparation," he said. "That's kind of been one of the things that coming in I knew was going to be a challenge for me - to condense everything - and that's what I've tried to do."

Quinn feels like he has been succeeding at his new role so far and is having a good time doing it. "It is a lot of fun, it really is. When you have the energy of some of these young guys - where they want to stay after, do more, come in, watch tape. There's a lot of questions. All of us as coaches kind of see ourselves as teachers and that's kind of why we got into it," he said. "Not only just for the love of football but for the ability to impact some young guys and help them out. To me it's been a lot of fun going through training camp, helping the young guys develop. It's a cool feeling as a coach to see a guy come through, learn it and now put the skills to work."

Gators lacrosse, in contention for a national title in only the program's second year of existence, was given a No. 2 ranking in a preseason poll released by Lacrosse Magazine this week. Florida - a young team that returns all of its starters from a year ago - won 14-straight games in 2011, captured the ALC regular season title, fell in the ALC Tournament Championship to Northwestern and was eliminated in quarterfinal action of the NCAA Tournament by Duke. The Gators lacrosse team represents one of the school's best opportunities to win a national title in 2012 and could make history by doing so.

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