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June 17, 2011

The Silver Lining: Orange & Blue News

MORE FLORIDA COVERAGE: Florida needs Young to break through | Gators hosting several top prospects this weekend | Four-star linebacker excited to be a Gator | Rivals100 cornerback commits | Massive offensive tackle talks Florida camp experience | Peach State receiver picks up UF offer

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 to earn the school's first national championship in the sport, the No. 2 baseball team got some good news on Thursday when they learned that sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson has been cleared by the medical staff to participate in the 2011 College World Series. A part of Florida's starting rotation who also bats in the middle of the order, Johnson is 8-3 with a 3.66 ERA on the mound while simultaneously hitting .312 with five homers and 27 RBI this season. He has been sidelined since May 28 when he suffered a concussion after being beaned in the back of the head by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino, who was trying to throw out a runner stealing second. Gators sophomore first baseman/closer Austin Maddox, who hurt his foot while catching a pop out in fly territory on June 3, remains day-to-day and is not expected to play in Saturday's opener against No. 7 Texas.

In and out of the doctor this week with what appears to be a stomach ailment, Florida senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder got a piece of news on Tuesday that should at least make her feel a little bit better. Bruder was named the 2011 Honda Sports Award winner for softball this week, an honor which recognizes her as the nation's top collegiate athlete in the sport. Also the 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Bruder is now in contention for two national awards which could name her the overall female athlete of the year.

Not to be left out of the fun, Zunino was awarded some praise this week as well and garnered a trio of All-American nominations by Baseball America (first team), Louisville Slugger (second team) and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (third team).

Incidentally, perhaps the biggest honor handed out this week to a Gators student-athlete was to junior jumper Will Claye, who was named the National Men's Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Claye won the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship for the triple jump, placed second in the event in the Outdoor Championships and won SEC outdoor titles in both the triple jump and long jump this year.

Naturally, Florida forward Chandler Parsons is tired. Traveling back-and-forth across the country while putting in intensive workouts for four-to-five teams a week, Parsons is nearing the home stretch as he does whatever he can to raise his stock for the 2011 NBA Draft set for June 23. He worked out for the New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks over the last week and will conclude this week with a West Coast road trip that features meetings with the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors. Parsons has likely one more stop out west before concluding his journey with the Boston Celtics on June 20, leaving three days for unplanned meetings (or relaxation) before the draft gets underway. "The best part about this whole thing is the unlimited room service," Parsons told me on Wednesday. "I've been eating filet mignon, French onion soup and ahi tuna like it's my job."

Gators four-star 2012 commit Colin Thompson (Warminster, Penn.) recently sat down with ESPN's Jamie Newberg for a feature story about his work off of the field within the community. Thompson, who befriended a boy with Down syndrome when they were in eighth grade, continues to be close with him to this day and has even helped integrate him into his high school football team. In the piece, Thompson also sings the praises of Florida head coach Will Muschamp ("There is just something about him. He's so positive.") and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis ("How can you say no to Charlie Weis? He has intangibles.") and is sure that Gainesville, FL is the place for him. "Florida has great football, it's a great school and Gainesville is a great town," he said. "Florida is the complete package with great people.


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