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 fans may be seeing some familiar faces around Gainesville, FL this weekend as safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans are back in town to work with head coach Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson. With the 2013 NFL Combine just a week away, the duo is doing board work with Muschamp and Robinson for the weekend. Elam and Evans have been training for the combine in Boca Raton, FL and made great strides in those particular drills, Evans told me earlier this week. Both are excited to show off their athleticism at the event, and Evans hopes his stock can soar when scouts get to see first-hand what he can do on the field.
After announcing Wednesday that Florida junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson would be out for some time with shoulder fatigue, the Gators have yet to officially announce what was reported Thursday, that Whitson had a procedure done on his shoulder by Dr. James Andrews and is now out for the entire 2013 season. According to Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game, who spoke with Whitson's father after the procedure, the procedure was "carried out without needing to cut on him, or full-blown surgery" and Whitson should be able to return to pitching after rehabbing for four months. His father, Kent Whitson, said that he would consider jumping to the professional ranks if there was "a perfect situation for him to do so" but is also "fully prepared to return to Florida as a redshirt junior next season if things don't work out."
The crown jewel of Gators soccer, former striker Abby Wambach, earned her 200th cap for the U.S. Women's National Team on Wednesday. She even scored a goal at 51' to help lead the United States past Scotland 3-1. The eighth American to play in at least 200 international matches as a member of the USWNT, Wambach is now just five goals away from former teammate Mia Hamm's world-record international goals mark of 158. Wambach has scored 153 goals (63 on headers) and is expected to catch Hamm very soon.
On Wednesday I conducted a pair of interviews with ESPN insider Mel Kiper, Jr. and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah to gauge why Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is becoming such a popular and soon-to-be highly-drafted commodity. Kiper called Floyd "the most underrated defensive lineman all the year in the country" and noted that "No. 73 was wreaking havoc all the time." Jeremiah said Floyd is a "no-brainer, slam-dunk top-10 pick" who has the ability to play the five-technique but is the best three-technique tackle in the draft. Unlike others in the loaded defensive tackle class, Floyd has "elite" characteristics, according to Jeremiah, including his quickness, athleticism and natural ability to get around blocks rather than be segmented in his approach. Should Floyd go in the top-10, he would be the highest Gators defensive lineman rafted since Derrick Harvey went No. 8 overall to Jacksonville in 2008. If he goes No. 3 like Jeremiah projects, he would join Gerard Warren (Cleveland - 2001) as the highest-drafted Florida defensive tackle in school history.
Receiving one of the highest honors in high school basketball on Thursday were three Gators commits including two to the men's program and one to the women's team. Florida five-star pledges point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) and Chris Walker were both named as participants for the East team in the 2013 McDonald's All-American Game set for 9:30 p.m. on April 3 in Chicago, IL. Selected to the girls' contest (7 p.m. the same night) was five-star winger Ronni Williams, who becomes the first-ever Gators incoming freshman commit to participate in the event. Williams, ranked No. 13 overall in the 2013 class by HoopGurlz recruiting, is a high-profile pledge for head coach Amanda O'Leary, who also brought in redshirt freshman transfer Cassie Peoples (a 2011 McDonald's All-American) from Texas this past offseason.
Spring sports are now in full spring (pardon the rhyme) with No. 13/17 Florida baseball beginning the 2013 season with a three-game series against Duke this weekend. It all starts with a 7 p.m. showdown on Friday (Sun Sports) and continues with a 4 p.m. game on Saturday and 12:00 p.m. contest on Sunday (neither of which are televised). No. 5 softball (5-0) also plays at home for the first time this season with six games in three days. No. 11 men's tennis gets things started at the ITA National Indoors and women's basketball continues to look for a signature victory with a home game against No. 12 Georgia on Sunday (CSS). Also in action are No. 1 gymnastics, which goes on the road at No. 5 Georgia on Saturday at 4 p.m., and No. 3 lacrosse, which plays a match in North Carolina for the second-straight weekend as it hops on the road to take on High Point.