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.
Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley reported Monday that four juniors - defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, safety Matt Elam, tight end Jordan Reed and linebacker Jelani Jenkins - had submitted NFL Draft paperwork in order to determine where they might be slotted should they come out and forego their senior seasons at Florida. As I have mentioned on the message boards quite often, none of the four have made their decisions yet though Floyd does most certainly look like the one leaning towards playing professionally next season. While Elam is anxious to play in the NFL, his brother (Kansas City Chiefs S Abram Elam) wants to ensure that Matt is a sure-fire first-round draft pick before allowing him to leave college. Otherwise, he will likely return for his senior season, two sources close to the family have confirmed to me multiple times. Reed has indicated to those around him that he is ready to go, but his draft grade is unlikely to be too high and a conversation with head coach Will Muschamp might be able to sway his thinking. Jenkins is truly a mystery. His athleticism and ability warrant high-round consideration, but his injuries have limited what he has been able to show on film. Another year of college could potentially get him into the first round - he's that talented.
After struggling to return from a high-ankle sprain and seeing limited success over the last few weeks, New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez broke out in a big way on Monday, registering a team-high eight receptions on a team-high 11 targets for 58 yards and two touchdowns. It is the first time since Dec. 2010 that Hernandez caught two scores in a single game and is just the third time in his career that he's accomplished that feat. Also impressive in NFL action this week was Cincinnati Bengals S Reggie Nelson, who leveled wide receivers and nabbed an important interception for a second-straight week. Nelson has really turned his career around in Cincinnati and is slowly proving that he is a big-time impact player in the league.
The Gators were involved in three of the top-15 most-watched regular season college football games in 2012, according to a recent report from Sports Media Watch. Florida at Florida State drew the highest rating of the three games, pulling in a 5.1, which equates to 8.5 million viewers. UF-LSU registered a 4.6 and Florida-Georgia checked in just behind that with a 4.2. In a replica of the BCS standings, the Gators were third to Alabama and Notre Dame, each of which participated in four of the top-15 most-watched games. As popular as Florida were LSU and Michigan, which also made three appearances each.
On stage at the Grand Ballroom in the Reitz Union on Saturday was former Gators defensive end Kevin Carter, who was the keynote speaker at Florida football's annual awards banquet. At the event, Gators coaches and players passed out numerous awards, most of which were split by players this season. Senior running back Mike Gillislee was named team MVP and offensive MVP; Elam brought home the defensive award, and redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy were honored with the special teams award. Floyd, senior LB Jon Bostic, redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond and senior S Josh Evans received the team leadership award with Bostic, Gillislee, Elam, redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt senior DT Omar Hunter being named the official team captains for the year. Among other honors, which ranged from community service and academic awards to spirit and tenacity awards, Elam and Bostic were also honored for having the best mental and physical toughness on the team.
Rebounding at a clip of 6.0 per game and scoring an average of 16.5 points per contest last week, Florida forward Sydney Moss was named SEC Women's Basketball Freshman of the Week. The Gators' women's basketball program, which is slowly trending upward thanks to the coaching and recruiting of Amanda Butler, is at 7-3 on the season with Moss standing out as a bright spot. She scored a career-high 18 points against Troy early last week and currently leads the team in assists (4.1 apg).
Sporting a unanimous No. 5 ranking in the latest top 25 polls from ESPN/USA Today and the Associated Press, men's' basketball officially has its highest unanimous rankings since the conclusion of the 2006-07 season. Florida, which will be meeting another undefeated top-10 team in No. 8 Arizona on Saturday, is ranked behind Indiana and Duke (the two most impressive teams in the country so far) along with Michigan and Syracuse. A victory over Arizona could catapult Florida up a spot or two, but a loss would most certainly not be devastating, especially this early in the campaign. The Gators, which were expected to be a three- or four-seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, are already garnering steam as a potential one-seed to keep an eye on. More on this Wednesday.