MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
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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 baseball came through in the clutch over the weekend, coming from behind on Saturday and Sunday to steal a series victory from the No. 4 Gamecocks on the road in Columbia, SC. No. 25 Florida overcame a three-run deficit in the eighth to force extra innings on Saturday and pull away with a victory in the 13th. Freshman first baseman/left-hander A.J. Puk hit an RBI and played in both the field and on the mound, coming away with the victory with three strikeouts in 3.1 innings. On Sunday, the Gators fought back from a two-run hole to score four in the eighth and eventually hold on for a 6-5 win. Since its disappointing round robin weekend in early march, Florida baseball is 17-7 and in lead in the SEC East with a tiebreaker over USC.
Although the SEC Network has added some top-tier talent and will likely wind up picking up distribution on every major cable/satellite company, the channel currently only has two distributors with only four months to go until launch. AT&T U-verse and Dish Network are both on board, but you can be sure that Comcast/Xfinity, DirecTV, Cox and others will sign up sooner than later. It should be no surprise that the biggest providers are holding out for better deals than their lesser competitors. With 45 football games, 100 men's basketball games, 75 basketball games and hundreds of other contests set to air on the channel, it will be an absolute must for SEC fans next season.
The Masters came and went over the weekend without the former Gators golfers making much noise in their first appearance in the event. Billy Horschel made the cut but tied for 37th at +7 after four rounds, and Matt Every tied for the sixth-worst score after the first two days with a combined 155. Unfortunately for Horschel, he finished 17 places out of the money, which got paid out at $1.6 million for winner (and former Georgia golfer) Bubba Watson) down to $117,000 for 20th place.
On top of all its other public relations and marketing efforts this year - which ranged from successfully opening practices to unsuccessfully holding a pre-determined selection show for the spring game - Florida on Monday announced the implementation of a "Fan Advisory Council" consisting of Gators season ticket holders that "will meet quarterly with administrators and staff in an effort to express suggestions concerning the overall game-day experience in The Swamp." In doing so, Florida is taking a move right out of the professional ranks as a number of major privately-run franchises employ such efforts in order to help fans feel like they have a voice in the process. UF would find the best use out of this council as a panel to bounce potential ideas off of rather than trying to source a group of 12 people for innovative ways to do things on game day.
Receiver Deonte Thompson saw marijuana possession charges against him dropped by Alachua County, but his future with the Baltimore Ravens remains murky at best. Not only has Thompson's decision-making been brought into question - both due to his arrest and the caliber of person he was surrounding himself with that evening - he has also barely been effective as a professional wideout. Baltimore will bring four quality receivers to camp in Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones, and with Jones also serving as a returner, Thompson may find it difficult to hold down a role coming out of training camp (if he makes it that far). He missed the final six games of the 2013 campaign and concluded the year with 10 receptions for 96 yards, hardly a home-run threat.