The Super Bowl Giveth, The Super Bowl Taketh Away

Tomorrow, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will compete in the Super Bowl. Once the game is over, so will be football.

Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

For some of us, that may be a good thing. The Florida Gators posted a record of 4-8 during the 2013 regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won as many games despite having four more chance to add to their victory total. That’s eight combined wins for the teams I consider myself a fan of. Eight total wins and 20 losses. The end of the current football season can’t come soon enough for me.

I will miss it of course. I’m not completely dead inside. I will miss the victories, though few and far between recently. I will miss the anticipation and hope. I will miss those that stuck together in all kinds of weather. But there is plenty I won’t miss.

I won’t miss poor offensive play, and poor is a nice way to put it. I won’t miss injuries. I won’t miss coaching hot seats. I won’t miss the fan 20 years my senior that hates Jeff Driskel with a passion reserved for, well, I can’t really imagine where you find that kind of hate within you. I won’t miss losing two or three times as many games as you win.

Luckily, football never really comes to an end. Mere days after the Super Bowl is National Signing Day–a recruiting fan’s dream date. Following NSD, we gear up for the NFL Draft. During the summer, we talk recruiting and anticipation and hope begins to build again. All along, if you’re so inclined, you can bet on the upcoming season (find the latest odds online with Betfair). The games may end, but football doesn’t.

Tomorrow, the final game of the 2013 season is played. For us Gators, we have Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell and Jeremy Mincey to cheer for. One team will be wearing orange and blue, even if their quarterback could never beat Florida. We have 60 minutes of game time left. 60 minutes before the offseason truly begins and hope returns.

The State of the Swamp – 6/3/13

A look at the past week in the land of the Florida Gators.

The coverage of the Florida Gators’ baseball team has been nothing better than nonexistent this season. Not from the many other sites out there that update you with a frequency that rivals the releases of new The Fast and the Furious movies, but from the staff here at The Bull Gator. We went hard one season ago when it came to baseball coverage, but couldn’t find our footing just one year later. The season wasn’t missed, it just wasn’t covered. So it’s sad to take a dive into orange and blue baseball at a time when the season is over.

Florida Gators Baseball Season Ends

On Saturday, the Gators were eliminated from the NCAA Regionals after a 5-4 loss to Valparaiso. Florida gave up a 4-1 lead and with it their season. With such roster turnover from last season to this (and a number of injuries), it was hard to imagine the Gators truly being in the hunt for the championship, but we like to dream. This isn’t how we wanted the dream to end, but one we must accept. Go Gators. Until next season.

Leron Black is one of the most sought after recruits in the 2014 basketball class, and the Gators want him. Black still has a number of teams on his list of possibilities, but Florida is among those pushing the hardest for him at the moment. Some think the recent commitment of point guard Chris Chiozza has given the Gators the edge, but that may not be the case. Black and Chiozza play together on the same AAU squad and Black only has good things to say about Chiozza, but his decision won’t be swayed. Black wants to take visits to his top choices and go wherever his heart and his faith lead him. If it is Gainesville, Black would fit into Billy Donovan’s system as a combo forward that likes to run.

I didn’t know you could be named a “Great Floridian,” but count Steve Spurrier among them. The former Gator great–as both a player and coach–was presented with the honor last week in The Swamp. To put myself even further out of touch, Tim Tebow, Derrick Brooks and Tony Dungy have all been named Great Floridians as well. In fact, Spurrier was the 71st individual to receive the designation. I suppose this is to be expected when I spend more time reading about Serie A than I do about my own area. Anyway, Spurrier is well deserving of the honor for all he accomplished during his various football-related times in the state.

Hey look, it’s Bam Hardmon. On Thursday, Hardmon joined the Idaho coaching staff, being named the Vandals’ defensive line coach. The former Gators’ linebacker is trying to make a name for himself among the coaching ranks. After spending three seasons under Ron Zook at Illinois, Hardmon moved on to Charleston Southern to coordinate special team and coach the outside linebackers. Hardmon and Idaho head coach Paul Petrino spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Illinois together. Best of luck to Hardmon as he continues to further his career in football.

I smiled when Jeff Demps was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even if it meant the former Gators’ star would never suit up for my NFL team of choice. Demps continues to pursue his track career first and foremost, even with the Bucs hoping he’ll one day join the team. Tampa Bay is supportive of what Demps does on the track though and seems fine with the speedster pursuing that dream. We don’t know if we’ll ever see Demps in a Bucs’ uniform–or any other NFL uniform for that matter–but we should be seeing him in some of the world’s largest track events in the coming years. One way or another, news about Demps succeeding in one of the sports he excels at will keep coming.

And finally, the story I couldn’t leave off the list. The Tim Tebow train was kickstarted once again when this piece came out last week. There are those that believe Tebow’s NFL career has come to an end, those that won’t ever go as far as to speak such blasphemy, and those that honestly don’t care at this point. Take any side and you’re sure to find yourself in a debate with those that have taken the others. Regardless, one fact remains: Tebow is currently a free agent and there is more than one reason why. Among them is the belief among those inside the NFL coaching and scouting ranks that he can’t succeed as a quarterback at the professional level. Then there’s also the media storm that comes with Tebow wherever he goes. Tebow–through no fault of his own–was considered a distraction during the 2012 as a member of the New York Jets. Although I would argue the Jets as a whole were the distraction. There’s still a chance Tebow ends up somewhere. A team out there may invite him to camp and it’s hard to imagine he’s given up the dream just yet, but we are unlikely to see Tebow as a 16-game starter in the league. With each passing day, we may not even see him on a roster. Wherever Tebow ends up–in the NFL or not–we’ll always have the orange and blue days and moments like this to remember.

Jeff Demps Signs With New England Patriots

The trend of Bill Belichick picking up Florida Gators is continuing Friday. Jeff Demps – the Gators’ former speedster – decided to sign with the Patriots after much interest in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Demps will join his former teammates Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes in New England. The Patriots look to be Super Bowl contenders again after losing to the New York Giants last year. Demps should be used in many ways by the offensive mastermind that is Belichick and his speed will fit well on an already quick roster.

It’s unlikely that Demps has been chosen to replace Wes Welker at the slot position obviously because of the wide skill gap, but Demps should play some roles in the receiving game.

Bill Belichick should find some ways to use Demps that we never had imagined, and it will be interesting to watch Demps in his transition back from track to football.

Jeff Demps Likely To Sign With NFL Team Today

Former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps is about to resume his playing career, according to the agency that represents Demps.

The former speedster Demps had quite an off-season this year, as he won a Silver medal in the London Olympics for the Stars and Stripes as a reserve. After the Gators’ football season last year, reports were that Demps was going to pursue a track career. Now, that objective seems to have shifted back to football.

It isn’t yet clear as to which team Demps is going to sign with. Some say the in-state Tampa Bay Bucs are interested. Others say a possible reunion with his Gators teammate Tim Tebow may be in order with the New York Jets.

Demps played his entire Gators career as a running back, but that’s not necessarily his NFL position. His speed could translate into being a slot receiver, especially because he may be too injury prone to handle the wear and tear of the NFL running back.

Demps’ decision should come out soon, and his decision should first be announced on this Twitter account.

Dan Quinn Turns Down Offer From Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Florida Gators’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has turned down an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be their defensive coordinator. From 2001 to 2010, Quinn was an assistant in the NFL, so it should come as no surprise that teams may come sniffing around from time to time. For the time being though, he seems perfectly happy in Gainesville.

When Greg Schiano was named the new head coach of the Bucs, he immediately had a staff to fill. He didn’t look far for a defensive coordinator, reportedly settling in on Quinn only 100 miles to the north. Quinn, though, had different ideas.

Quinn will stay and, hopefully, build something at Florida. With a number of players returning and an influx of new talent coming in as part of the 2012 recruiting class, Quinn had something to work with as he looks for improvement over the 2011 season.

Schiano now goes back to the drawing board while the Gators keep their defensive coordinator for at least one more season.

Two Former Gators Stand Out At Bucs’ Camp

While attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice on Monday, my focus was on two players – former Florida stars Earnest Graham and Ahmad Black. With so much going on and certain fields more visible than others, it wasn’t always easy to pull the two out of the crowds, but I was able to observe them both briefly and Gators’ and Bucs’ fans should be pleased.

While Graham has seen his carries diminish in recent years, he continues to be a valuable part of the Bucs’ offense and a fan favorite. Lining up at fullback for a while now, fans seemed to flock to him as if he were Josh Freeman.
I was lucky enough to be sitting in the right place during one of the more eventful drills. Focusing on the running backs for much of the practice, I observed as the unit went through a drill where the goal of the back was to stop a blitzing linebacker from getting to the quarterback. The drill was simple: one-on-one, linebacker coming right at you, don’t let him get to the assistant coach acting as the QB. This is where Graham showed his worth. Most run-throughs had the starting running backs going up against the starting linebackers, so you typically saw Graham matched up with Quincy Black or Geno Hayes. Graham performed admirably, keeping the LBs away from the QB on several occasions and using near perfect technique in doing so. I almost felt bad for the group of rookie running backs as they were abused by the linebackers time after time after time. Clearly, Graham and LeGarrette Blount don’t have to worry about losing too many snaps early in the season.
The first thing anyone would have to notice about Black is his overall eagerness. While I’m sure the first NFL training camp for a rookie is not easy by any means, I’d imagine it’s also a little bit like being a kid in a candy store. This is it. This is your dream. You may not have made it yet, but here’s your chance. Black seems to love every minute of the opportunity. He wants to be out there on every play and can’t wait to contribute. Black may not start right away and could come off the bench for a few seasons, but when he does, he’ll be ready to go each and every time.
Both former Gators appear to be doing great in camp so far. Graham keeps hammering away at his NFL career, while Black is just getting his started. It’s very easy to continue to cheer for both and wish them both to succeed.
And Florida fans, you’ll surely like this: As the practice came to an end, the players came over to the fans for autographs. Veterans like Graham were mobbed immediately (although he did smile when he saw Mrs. TBG pull out a Gators helmet), while rookies like Black were easy to approach. While chatting with Black, former USC running back Allen Bradford saw the Gators helmet and the trash talk began. He told me and Black the Trojans would have beaten the Gators if they had played. Florida stood “no chance” in a matchup with USC. Black just smiled and offered “national champions” as his response over and over again. There must be no better reply than that.

Ahmad Black Signs 4-Year Deal With Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Florida safety and Lakeland product Ahmad Black has signed a four-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs selected Black in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft with the no. 151 pick overall. I am still trying to gather more information on Black’s deal with Tampa Bay, but a four-year contract should mean he is a lock to make the game day roster.
Black was the star of the Gators defense in 2010 and maybe the most valuable player of the entire team. Although we have discussed it numerous times, it is worth mentioning again: all of this from a “recruiting mistake.” Black possessed more heart than players twice his size during his time at Florida and turned his determination into a number of exceptional performances on the field.
It is more than fitting that Black – who is from just outside of Tampa – played his final game in a Gators uniform in Raymond James Stadium where he will start his professional career.
(Photo: University of Florida)

Ahmad Black Goes #151 Overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Now that’s what I like to see!  Ahmad Black was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by…drum roll…the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  If there was a Florida player every Gator fan was pulling for in this draft, it was Black.  If there was a team I would want him to go to, it was the Bucs.  As a longtime Tampa Bay fan, there’s nothing quite like watching them draft a Gator.  For Black, who is from Lakeland, it’s probably a dream come true.  Not only does he get to start his career, he gets to do so only a few miles from home.

Black is a prime example of why the NFL Draft is far from an exact science.  Players get picked on measurables – Darrius Heyward-Bey – and proceed to do practically nothing during their time in the league, while top collegiate performers wait until day two or day three to hear their name called.  Black may not turn into the next great professional defensive back, but what he did while at Florida can’t be denied.
From “recruiting mistake” to one of the nation’s best safeties, Black always seemed to put forth more effort than anyone on the field.  There were games during the 2010 season that he was the entire Gators’ defense.  Black is one of those players everyone cheers for and I’ll be happy to continue to as he starts his career in Tampa.

(Photo: University of Florida

The Long Snapper (5/5/10)

Jim Leavitt will always be tied to the USF program, but unfortunately it might be for all the wrong reasons.  We’re getting to a point where enough is enough.  USF has issued a response to Leavitt’s lawsuit against the school basically saying much of what he brings up is irrelevant.  Apparently, Leavitt (read: Leavitt’s lawyers) believe he’s entitled to at least one-twelfth of his remaining contract.  USF believes his contract very clearly states he is only entitled to one-twelfth of one season’s pay.  The difference is over $300,000 so let’s assume Leavitt fights this until the very end.  Regardless of which side you choose to be on in this matter, the black eye seems to be on Leavitt’s face, not USF’s.  The school fired a man who they believe had crossed the line (they may have been looking to head in a different direction sometime in the near future anyway).  By continuing to fight it, Leavitt seems desperate while his attention should be focused on finding another job.  I understand Leavitt possibly wanting to stand up for what he believes in, but in the end, he’s coming out as the bad guy.  He should consider himself lucky he is even getting one month’s pay.  Most of us are in positions where we could be let go at any moment without a dime.  But a coach gets fired and it’s “you didn’t work out and we’re heading in a new direction, but here’s a check to ease your fall.”
Matt Grothe may be heading north to play after all.  After working out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their rookie minicamp, Grothe was not offered a free-agent contract.  Other former Bulls Ben Busbee and Aaron Harris weren’t either.  Although Grothe has the heart to play the game, he lacks the size and unfortunately the decision making to be a successful NFL quarterback.  While there have been smaller quarterbacks in the league over the years, not playing most of his senior year hurt Grothe.  He was always labeled as a great athlete who was erratic at times.  Unfortunately, he didn’t get a final season to improve upon bad throws and bad decisions.  He was a great player and left USF as probably the most popular in the school’s short history, but decision making was something that was always brought up when discussing his future in the sport.  Hopefully Grothe can catch on in the Canadian Football League and if he can, you never know what could happen.  For now, he’ll get shots playing somewhere.
After FSU head man Jimbo Fisher stated it might be a good idea to move the Seminoles annual matchup with Florida to the beginning of the season, the Gators issued a response.  Through spokesman Steve McClain, Florida feels a move is not a good idea.  Fisher states with conference championship games, you don’t want to be playing your biggest rival the week before another solid matchup.  The Gators have been doing exactly that for years and seem perfectly fine with continuing to do so.  Although the rivalry would be big any time of year, there’s something special about closing out the regular season by taking on the Seminoles.  Yes, the Gators may have a matchup with Alabama or LSU right around the corner, but in college football every week is important regardless of who your opponent is.  Count my vote for keeping the game right where it is.
We now know what former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger did to get himself kicked off the team.  He partook in a game a grab-ass.  Mettenberger plead guilty to two counts of sexual battery after getting too hands-on with a woman at a bar back in March.  Part of his punishment includes being banned from the city of Valdosta.  You know you’ve taken trouble to a new level when you are banished from an entire city.  Congratulations Zach!  If the SBE of the Week still existed (and I’m thinking because of you, it might be making a comeback), you would be taking home the honor.
The List: Questions I pondered while watching the Montreal Canadiens drop game three to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night:
1. How come I never noticed Sidney Crosby was that much of a whiner?
2. Is Marc-Andre Fleury really that good?
3. Has P.K. Subban officially become my favorite hockey player?
4. When does football start?
5. No seriously, when does football start?
The Sixth Man: There’s still a chance star guard Dominique Jones could return to USF.  Jones has a workout with a NBA team on Friday, but that’s the first he’s had so far.  His father has stated that while most of the reviews his son has received have been positive, there have been mixed feelings.  Jones could go somewhere late in the first round of the upcoming draft, but could also fall into the second.  Going in the second round doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily end up on a roster.  Due to that, Jones is considering returning.  At the moment, he could go either way, but the door for him in a Bulls’ uniform next season is open.  Jones’ return would be a huge boost for a team on the rise.  You always welcome your star player back.  Keep your fingers crossed USF fans.