MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators fans will have eight players to track at the 2014 NFL Combine, which started on Wednesday and concludes next Tuesday in Indianapolis, IN. (Be sure to check out the push-pinned thread in Alligator Alley for daily updates.) But two Florida favorites - defensive tackle Dominique Easley and safety Jaylen Watkins - are unlikely to be full participants in the event. Easley told ITG on Tuesday that he will participate in every part of the combine except the workout, which makes sense as he is still rehabilitating from a torn ACL he suffered in October (five months ago). Easley has been running on the leg and is considered ahead of schedule by doctors but does not have the explosion necessary to do the workout. Watkins, who sprained his Achilles during practice ahead of the 2014 Senior Bowl, told ITG he feels 90 percent and will absolutely run the 40-yard dash and participate in the bench press at the combine. However, he does not know whether he will compete in the rest of the events, allowing how he feels the day of the workout to dictate what he does.
Away in Canada playing against Toronto, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah did not do much scoring or rebounding (eight points and four rebounds in 37 minutes), but he did set a career-high (and lead the team) with 13 assists. In doing so, he became the first center with three games of 10+ assists in a season since Brad Miller (2005-06) and the first to pick up 13 in a single game since Vlade Divac (1996). He is also just the third center in nearly 30 years to record that many assists in one contest. Noah has proven to be an all-around player worthy of his second-straight NBA All-Star nod this past season. At just 28 years old, he still has plenty career ahead of him, too.
The Washington Times this week reported that former Gators tight end Jordan Reed has been completely cleared of the concussion problems that forced him to miss the latter half of the 2013 season and has resumed competing in full workouts with his teammates. Reed, who took over as the Washington Redskins' starter at tight end in the middle of the season, quickly became quarterback Robert Griffin III's most reliable pass-catcher and a big-time target for the young signal caller. With TE Fred Davis both suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy and getting arrested for driving under the influence - all within one week's time - Reed's importance to the Redskins' success will grow even more next season.
Only seeing about four minutes of action per contest over his first five games, five-star forward Chris Walker has averaged 1.6 points and not scored since Feb. 8. Some may be worried about Walker, who looks lost at times on the court and is still in the process of learning Florida's systems, but head coach Billy Donovan is not one of those people, according to a source close to the team. Donovan is pleased with Walker's level of effort in practice and was well-aware it would take him time to get acclimated, which is exactly what he said before the player made his debut. UF also happens to be in the middle of its most difficult stretch of SEC games, which is not the best time to put someone on the court who - as of press time - can be attacked on defense and somewhat of a liability on the court. The Gators have also been playing a number of extremely close games, meaning second-half minutes have been non-existent or Walker as of late. The better Florida plays, the more time Walker will get. He knows this and continues to wait patiently.
Ronald Powell, who has been praised time and time again by his Gators coaches and teammates for the positive mindset and hard-working attitude he's displayed in the face of adversity over the last few seasons, was tabbed as one of the "most controversial prospects" in the 2014 NFL Draft by new NFL Media draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki. The same analyst who notoriously noted a few years ago that Cam Newton put on a "fake smile" and could not be trusted believes Powell "had his tires pumped since high school - entitlement was an issue as a young player and his personality could rub some people the wrong way." Powell, like most players ranked No. 1 in the country, has admitted that he did have a big head early in his career; but there is no question that he became much more even-keeled over the last few seasons and was seen as a locker room leader at Florida. Adds Nawrocki: "[He] must dedicate himself to his craft and realize he's no longer the big man on campus."