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April 20, 2012

The Silver Lining: 4/20 Orange & Blue News


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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & BASKETBALL: Muschamp: A couple of transfers could happen | Offensive lineman transferring to Florida? | Florida offers California quarterback | Reviewing the two-deep defensive depth chart | Football Practice Spring Superlatives | Five-star Tunsil down to four

In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week The Silver Lining will take on a "news and notes" format to keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.

Learning on Friday that Brad Beal had declared for the 2012 NBA Draft, I spoke with a trio of former Gators and asked each to lend some advice to the potential top-five pick. In doing so, Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford revealed to me that Beal actually called him after the season to pick his brain. "I had a chance to speak with him right after the season," he said. "He is very, very talented, so my advice to him was just to focus on working on his game and to make sure he got stronger. The most important thing is just to keep working and keep getting better because he has a lot of potential. He showed some positive things throughout the season, but he has a lot more to offer in the long run if he can get there. He was asking me what I thought about his situation as far as him having to make a decision about whether to stay or go. I went through that experience. For me it worked out that I stuck around another year and I was able to get better." Horford also told me that he actually wanted to return to UF for his senior season if all things were equal but that it was definitely time for him to go pro following the 2006-07 season.

Instead of pouting and worrying about his career, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney is taking a decision made by his Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan in stride. Gaffney was told not to report to offseason drills by Shanahan because, since the team acquired so many pass catchers in free agency, he and/or Santana Moss would be traded or cut sooner than later. "I talked to Mike Shanahan myself. He is the one that told me I don't have to come up there until two weeks from now when they start installing the offense. So that is why I'm not at voluntary workouts," he told ESPN's Josina Anderson. "I am working out in Florida now though. Shanahan told me that I can take this time and let my agent see if he can find a better situation for me. So they are pretty much telling me that myself or Santana Moss are going to have to go. I want people to know that I told Shanahan myself that I want to be a Redskin, but if I can't then of course there are options I would like." An explosive tirade was tweeted out via Gaffney's account last week though the player claimed he was "hacked" and that none of the inappropriate postings were his.

Now in a situation where he is looking to keep the pressure off and retain his starting job with one of the biggest stars in the NFL as his backup, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had nothing but positive things to say about Tim Tebow when asked Thursday how the two were getting along during the team's offseason program. "He's been as advertised, as good of a guy, if not better, than anybody said," he told the New York Post. "So, he's been a great addition so far. I'm thrilled to work with him. From a competitor standpoint, he's great. He's what you want in an offseason program - working hard, competing with the guy in the weight room. [...] It's been a good transition and Tim's been great."

In Poland competing in the (English translation) Polish Basketball League, former Gators guard Walter Hodge played well enough this year to be named the 2011-12 regular season MVP receiving votes from 9-of-14 league coaches. Hodge, who plays for Zastalu Zielona Gora, earned the honor while playing for the best league in Poland filled with the country's most talented players.

Now just two or three weeks away, the chase for the commitment of five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) continues. The latest twist came Thursday when Bennett cut Washington out of his final five leaving Florida, Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV contending for his services. According to SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria, Bennett will eliminate another team (likely Oregon or UNLV) next week with the other three schools getting visits from the big man before he makes his decision. Multiple analysts believe (and two sources in the know told me) that Florida remains Bennett's leader heading into the visits and expects to land him when all is said and done. Should the Gators not gain Bennett's commitment, focus will shift to 6'11", 250 lbs. center Bradley Hayes who has recently received a lot of attention from head coach Billy Donovan. Unrated and raw, Hayes's size and potential is intriguing and he already has committable offers from Connecticut, Georgetown and Texas A&M. Florida has told Hayes they are serious about him and will offer him a scholarship should Bennett decline the opportunity to play in Gainesville, FL.

Gators fans have plenty to watch this weekend as a number of sports are in action and competing for championships. Below are some games and matches to keep an eye out for between Friday and Sunday:

Baseball (29-8, 9-6 SEC) reclaimed their No. 1 ranking in one poll after going through a rough patch where the team lost 5-of-7 games. Having won four of their last five, Florida is hoping to extend that streak as they continue a nine-game homestand with a three-game weekend series against Georgia on Friday (7 p.m., CSS), Saturday (7 p.m., CSS) and Sunday (3 p.m., ESPN2). The Gators will honor Brad Wilkerson at Friday's game so be sure to head out to McKethan Stadium and check that out.

Gymnastics (17-1, 5-1 SEC) has won eight SEC Championships (including this season) but has never brought home a NCAA title. Florida hopes for that to change this weekend as the No. 1-ranked team competes on Friday in Session II of the NCAA Championships. The Gators (as a team) are looking to advance to the NCAA Super Six on Saturday while the individual gymnasts also keep their eye on the individual event finals on Sunday.

Tennis is competing in the SEC Tournament this weekend with the women's team and men's team earning the No. 1- and No. 4-seeds in their respective brackets. Each received first-round byes but must win three matches in order to capture their tournament's title. The Florida women's team has already won the SEC regular season title and hopes to make it to Sunday's Championship match for the opportunity at a clean sweep.

Lacrosse (14-2, 4-0 ALC) will conclude the regular season by taking on top-ranked and undefeated Northwestern on the road in Evanston, IL on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Gators and Wildcats split a pair of matches in 2011 with Florida winning in the regular season and Northwestern grabbing victory in the ALC Tournament.

Softball (38-5) will host Florida International in Gainesville over the weekend. UF and FIU will play a double-header on Friday beginning at 4 p.m. with the series finale taking place Saturday at 1 p.m. Florida must get past their in-state opponents before finishing the year with three-straight SEC series before postseason action begins.

Two other Gators teams will also be participating in action over the weekend as track & field will take part in the Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Gainesville on Saturday and both golf teams will compete in the SEC Championships Friday-Sunday.


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