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 are now invading Tampa Bay as safety Major Wright this past weekend agreed to a one-year deal with the Buccaneers. He is the second former Florida football player to ink a deal with Tampa Bay this offseason, joining wide receiver Louis Murphy, and the third former Gators player on the team (running back Jeff Demps). By signing with the Bucs, Wright is reuniting with Lovie Smith, his former head coach with the Chicago Bears who was a major proponent of his on-field ability. At just 25 years old, a one-year contract is not exactly what Wright was hoping for as the first deal he signed following the expiration of his rookie contract, but it allows him to prove his worth and potentially earn a bigger payday next season.
A full month remains in the 2014 regular season, but No. 6 Florida softball (34-8, 8-7 SEC) appears to have gotten back in a groove after suffering all seven league losses in its last 11 games. The Gators swept No. 19 Auburn at home over the weekend, earning an exciting victory on Sunday when junior designated player Lauren Haeger bombed the final pitch of the game for a walk-off homer that earned her team a series sweep for the first time this season.
There are a number of questions that remain unanswered following the end of No. 1 Florida basketball's 2013-14 season, but one that has already been decided is when the Gators will get their first chance for revenge against the team that bookended their school-record 30-game winning streak with a pair of losses. Florida and UConn will square off in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center next January and a yet-to-be-announced date and time. UF is now 1-2 all-time against its newest rival.
Only a few made their way onto the televisions Saturday during the Gators' Final Four game, but a number of former Florida coaches and student-athletes were in attendance at the contest. Former Gators head coach Lon Kruger, assistants Anthony Grant and Donnie Jones, Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (with center Dwight Howard in tow), Memphis Grizzlies point guard Nick Calathes, Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem, San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner, Jason Williams and Chris Richard were all at AT&T Stadium to support Florida. It was quite a showing for UF, especially considering four of those former Gators are in the middle of an NBA season and Bonner specifically had not attended a Florida game since the last time he donned the uniform.
Right before the Final Four started came the news that forward Erik Murphy, who was waived by the team that drafted him, the Chicago Bulls, earlier in the week, had been claimed by the Utah Jazz and would remain on an NBA roster through the remainder of the season. Interestingly enough, it does not seem like Chicago really wanted to waive Murphy, who has barely played for the Bulls this season, but rather had to in order to get far enough below the luxury-tax threshold that bonuses paid to two players - including Joakim Noah - would not throw the team into the luxury-tax category. Noah specifically is likely to earn $500,000 as he is expected to be named to the All-NBA first team.
Sophomore punter Johnny Townsend was listed out for 8-10 weeks by head coach Will Muschamp on Friday after Florida decided to have him undergo wrist surgery rather than continue to be bothered by it in practice. A source close to the team confirmed Sunday that Townsend had been dealing with the issue for quite a while but noted that he did not initially expect it to both him during spring practice. The good news for the Gators, which will have Townsend back before summer workouts anyway, is that many believe Kyle Christy has already done enough to win back his starting job at least to begin the 2014 season. Whether he holds on to it is another story, but if he can, Christy's resurgence will allow Florida to put the additional year of distance it wanted between its punters by potentially placing a non-medical redshirt on Townsend…unless the rehabilitation does not go well.