The State of the Swamp – 5/28/13

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

I embark on a new mission. One which consists of scheduled articles that actually post when promised. As discussed many times in the past, these types of posts don’t make it very far here at The Bull Gator. Life has a way of wanting your attention just when you sit down to let you mind focus on the task at hand. Over the past 10 and a half months, life has been a blessing for me. I have spent that time with the most amazing son a man could ask for. Lil’ TBG is doing well and making me smile every day.

They say you make sacrifices when you enter the world of parenthood. For me, that sacrifice has been this website. That’s not a complaint; it’s actually a sacrifice I would make over and over and over again. I’m fine with that, even if that does mean less time with my outlet for all things Florida Gators. But time and time again, I come crawling back to the comfort of this now five-year-old blog. This is one of those times.

I hope to turn The State of the Swamp into a weekly column in which I take a look at recent orange and blue news and offer my opinion. I wouldn’t put money on it popping up every Monday if I were you, but I’m taking my shot. At the least, I can offer this one piece. At the best…well, we have yet to see what the best might be. With that, here’s the first of The State of the Swamp.

Dominique Easley - Florida Gators

Happy Memorial Day. I’m a day behind, hence the reason for this piece posting on a Tuesday and not a Monday. I hope you all had a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. For those that made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country, our hats are off and are hearts are with you.

David Lee, All-NBA. I’ll move outside of The Swamp for the first bit of Gator news. (That’s something that’s not new here, but will continue. Men’s basketball right alongside football.) The Golden State Warriors forward made the All-NBA team for the first time in his career. Lee was named to the third team after averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds. He also led the NBA with 56 double-doubles over the course of the regular season. Lee was the first Warrior named to the All-NBA team since the 1993-94 season and the first to lead the league in double-doubles since 1963-64. With Lee and others like Bradley Beal, Al Horford and Joakim Noah performing night in and night out in the NBA, the Gainesville to the pros pipeline looks alive and well. Kudos to Lee on a great season. One that saw the Warriors in the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.

Two decommitments in five days. Christian Miller and Ryeshene Bronson are no longer members of the Gators’ 2014 football recruiting class. In a span of five days, both decommitted from Florida. Miller’s decommitment stings the most because it could be considered a true decommitment. However, don’t count out Miller just yet. Florida is still in the picture along with Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. Miller believes he reacted a little too soon and would like to take some more time to think about his final decision. Bronson, on the other hand, may have been a forced decommitment. There were concerns over the academic side of things with the wide receiver and many believe when new WR coach Joker Phillips recently visited Bronson it was to tell the recruit that he should look elsewhere. Expect the Gators to fight long and hard for Miller, but we’ve probably heard the last of Bronson being associated with the class.

Take two away, bring one in. While the Gators lost Miller and Bronson, they were hard at work adding a tight end to the class. C’Yontai Lewis–a TE from Tuscaloosa, AL–committed to Florida ($), becoming the eighth member of the 2014 class. 247Sports gives Lewis three stars while Rivals gives the TE two. While Lewis’s rankings may not impress, his 6’5″, 212-pound frame has Florida interested. He could be a climber and won’t be the only TE the Gators look to add to the class. It doesn’t hurt that Lewis’s cousin is Bo Scarbrough, one of the nation’s top athlete prospects. Scarbrough is committed to Alabama, but will visit Florida this summer. I’m not extremely confident we can pull him from the Crimson Tide, but Lewis’s commitment at least cracks open the door.

Jarran Reed isn’t coming to Gainesville. Yet. The junior college defensive tackle won’t be joining his classmates in Gainesville for the Summer B semester, but Reed plans on making his way to Florida eventually. Reed is 25 credit hours short from earning his AA. Those required hours will keep him at East Mississippi Community College through December, but he’s confident he will one day be a Gator. We should see the DT in orange and blue one day, but not as soon as we may have once thought.

It’s going to be a hot one. Those of you planning to make the trip to Miami to watch the Gators take on the Hurricanes on September 7 better be prepared for the heat. Due to a NASCAR event and another choice for the night game, ESPN has put Florida and Miami in the noon slot. It’s going to be a little toasty, so keep the water coming for this one. Although those of you attending the season opener in Gainesville against Toledo won’t have any sympathy for those making the drive south. Kickoff time hasn’t been announced for the opener, but there’s a good chance it will be an early game as well.

Urban Meyer doesn’t regret leaving Florida, but regrets the way he did so. Meyer’s departure will continue to come up as long as he’s still involved with college football. The Ohio State head coach recently said that the way it all happened wasn’t ideal, but it was time to move on. We just can’t quit you Urban Meyer. Or, actually, we can. And most of us have. I won’t bring up the Meyer debate yet again, but as we enter year three with Will Muschamp at the helm, we have other things to think about.

Preview: #12 Florida Gators vs. #15/#16 Kentucky Wildcats, 3/13, 1:00

In the last 10 years or so this has seemed to become the dream matchup in the SEC.  As Billy Donovan has brought #12 Florida (26-6, 15-3 SEC) to prominence, #15/#16 Kentucky (24-8, 12-6 SEC) has welcomed a new rival.

Exactly six years ago to the date of this game, the Gators and Wildcats last met for the SEC Championship.  On March 13, 2005, #24 Florida upset #5 Kentucky 70-53.  Those Gators were led by Matt Walsh who had a game-high 26 points and David Lee who pulled down 17 rebounds.  Two true freshmen – Corey Brewer and Al Horford – started and were significant contributors.  Another – Joakim Noah would log one minute of time on the court.  Another true freshman and future NFL Draft pick – Cornelius Ingram – would also get into the game.
Those Gators would see their season end one week later in the second round to Villanova.  Despite losing that game, the Wildcats would go farther than the Gators in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight before losing to Michigan State in double overtime.  The SEC Championship game that season was a rematch of the year before in which Kentucky would get the best of Florida.  The Gators would go on to win three conference titles in a row and two National Championships to go along with them.  You know, in case you happened to forget those years of glory.
It’s been too long since these two have faced off for the conference crown.  They are the class of the SEC this season and are 1-1 against each other.  The Wildcats are riding high and although they haven’t been as dynamic and powerful as they were last season, John Calipari has Kentucky playing well again.  The Gators, on the other hand, are still a little bit of a surprise.  It’s not that much of a shock that Florida is playing for the SEC Championship, but the current run may not have been expected.
The Gators have only lost once since January 29.  That one loss?  To the Wildcats of course.  But during that same time period, Florida also beat Kentucky.  It’s another matchup against the team Donovan always seemed destined to coach.  Through it all, he has stayed at Florida and tomorrow he looks for his fourth SEC Tournament title.

Morning Reading: Maurkice Pouncey Denies Allegations

Former Florida All-American offensive lineman and current Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Maurkice Pouncey has denied allegations that he took money from an agent while still a member of the Gators’ football team.
Allegations came to light recently accusing Pouncey of taking $100,000 from an agent before Florida’s Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati.  Obviously, if this were true, it would be a violation since Pouncey was still a college athlete at the time.  However, on Wednesday, Pouncey issued a statement that any claim to that effect is ridiculous and he never accepted anything from an agent.
Both Florida and the NCAA are investigating the allegations and Pouncey has cooperated with them.  He has even turned over numerous statements to prove there was never a large amount of money accepted.  Pouncey did purchase a Cadillac Escalade after the NFL draft and was able to do so with a deferred loan.
We’re in the middle of several sticky situations involving agents.  USC has already been sanctioned.  Florida is investigating the Pouncey situation.  Players from UNC and South Carolina are being interviewed.  And now the NCAA has an inquiry in at Georgia.
As several college head coaches has said recently, it’s time for the NFL to step up and help police the agents.  If an agent partakes in any activity with a client before he is allowed to, that agent should not be allowed to represent that client.  Or any client for that matter.  While these kids need to take some responsibility and work harder to do the right thing, the agents are presenting them with offers they never imagined.  Temptations push the athletes over the edge at times.  That’s no excuse, but the agents are the ones that end up with no punishment when all is said and done.  The NFL needs to change that.
From the time they left Florida for the NBA, we knew good things were ahead for Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Joakim Noah.  Horford and Noah haven’t disappointed and despite being stuck in Minnesota, Brewer is an improving young player.  Before those three came along, there was another former Gator who we weren’t so sure about.  David Lee.
Lee has a solid career at Florida and seemed like he could become a decent role player in the NBA.  Five years later, Lee is coming off a season in which he averaged 20.2 points per game (the fifth straight season he has increased his scoring average).  He also finished with an average of over 11 rebounds a game for the second straight season.
Lee turned his rising success into a six-year, $80 million contract with the Golden State Warriors where he will be counted on to be one of the team’s stars.  He was also invited to participate in team USA workouts for the world championships and had a good chance at making the final roster.
That chance is over now as Lee injured his finger during the first day of practice and will be shelved for six weeks.  No world championships for Lee, but he should be 100% by the time the new NBA season rolls around.
Missed among the Ilya Kovalchuk news of the last few days was a big trade between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The Lightning improved their offensive production by adding Flyers left wing Simon Gagne.
Gagne – who has scored more than 40 goals twice in his career and more than 20 seven times – should add immediate punch to the Lightning offense.  The two-time NHL all-star will provide another scoring option for Tampa Bay and brings plenty of experience to the ice.
To obtain Gagne, the Lightning gave up defenseman Matt Walker and a 2011 fourth-round draft pick.  Sounds like a great deal for Tampa Bay and one that could produce immediate dividends.

Portland Trail Blazers May Make a Run at David Lee

With Hedo Turkoglu heading north of the border, the Portland Trail Blazers have refocused their efforts and it appears they have a former Florida star in their sites. Although David Lee is a restricted free agent, meaning the New York Knicks could match any offer made to him, the Blazers are seriously considering going after him.

Lee had a career year in 2008-09, averaging 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. At only 26 years old, Lee is expected to receive interest from a number of teams. Lee’s agent has said several franchises have already expressed their desire to work out a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for the forward.

Wherever Lee ends up, he’s in store for quite the raise. He made $1.788 million last season and numbers like $50 million over five years have been thrown out there. And rightfully so. Lee has been steadily improving as he’s seen more time on the court.