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December 18, 2012
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.
Gator great Ryan Lochte, a five-time Olympic gold medalist who was one of three former Florida swimmers that medaled last week at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, wound up setting two new short-course (25-meter) world records during the event in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Individual Medley. Lochte also won six golds and eight total medals during the week, setting an event record for most medals won. He was partially responsible for eight of the 27 medals captured by the United States. Fellow former Gators swimmers Conor Dwyer (relay gold, individual bronze) and Jemma Lowe of Great Britain (two bronzes) also took home medals during the event.
Abby Wambach and the U.S. Women's National Team concluded the 2012 campaign on Saturday by defeating China 4-1 as part of its Fan Tribute tour across the United States. Wambach scored twice in the friendly and now has 152 international goals in her career, just six shy of tying Mia Hamm who holds the world record with 158 goals. She was joined on the pitch Saturday by defender Heather Mitts, who plans to retire and likely played her last match. Florida head coach Becky Burleigh was in attendance with big heads of Wambach and Mitts as she cheered on two of the best soccer players in Gators program history.
The Sunday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers this week was one for the ages. And wouldn't you know it, former Florida football players on both teams came up with big plays. Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had a huge night with a team-high 10 receptions and team-high 19 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown, his third in the last two weeks. For the 49ers, defensive tackle Ray McDonald pressured Tom Brady all night long, registering four solo tackles and two big-time quarterback sacks including one without the protection of his helmet. McDonald has quietly been having a fantastic career in San Francisco and was just recently re-signed by the team to remain a member of the 49ers long-term.
One week ago, Gators safety Matt Elam added to his collection of awards when he was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press. There continues to be plenty of speculation about the unanimous First Team All-SEC selection and whether or not he will declare early for the NFL Draft or remain with Florida for his senior season. All year long, a source with intimate knowledge of Elam's future plans informed me that a combination of advice from his brother (NFL safety Abram Elam) and his own decision-making would likely result in him remaining with the Gators in 2013. As of press time, I am told that has not changed. Abram has long believed that Matt should stay in school for his senior season unless he was guaranteed to be a first-round pick. Elam and his family have gauged his draft stock by submitting paperwork to the NFL (one of four juniors to do so) and are now in the process of making a decision. All signs currently point to Elam remaining with the team, a source tells me, not only because of his draft status but also because he feels he has unfinished business to take care of with Florida. Elam has long wanted to win a title with the Gators and also has designs on the Jim Thorpe Award. That being said, things can most certainly change up until the minute of the NFL declaration deadline (Jan. 15, midnight), just as they did with Janoris Jenkins two seasons ago.
Role adjustment has been a huge part of Florida basketball's early-season success but for senior Kenny Boynton it may very well be hampering his game. Head coach Billy Donovan said before the season began that Boynton would be handling the ball some this year, but he certainly did not count on junior Scottie Wilbekin getting suspended and Boynton having to start the season at that position. While Boynton must learn to play point in order to catch on with an NBA team, doing so full-time for the Gators has undoubtedly affected him on a game-by-game basis. Donovan forcing so much into Boynton's wheelhouse - handling the ball, playing top-notch defense, creating for himself and others - appears to have drastically affected his shooting. He is now a paltry 2-for-22 from beyond the arc and 8-of-33 from the field over the last three games. In Florida's biggest game of the young season against Arizona, he was visibly gassed at the end of the contest and finished with just five points on 2-of-10 shooting (1-for-7 from downtown). The Gators have a well-rounded team and have been able to make up for Boynton's recent shortcomings, but he is going to need to step up as the season drags on, and simply put, nine percent shooting from three-point range is not going to cut it.
Several New England defenders come from SEC schools, including the team's entire starting linebacking corps. WHDH 7News recently sat down with all three - Brandon Spikes (Florida), Jerod Mayo (Tennessee) and Don't'a Hightower (Alabama) - and discussed their college careers and who came out on top. Spikes was especially boisterous in the interview and screamed "5.1 40" in reference to talent evaluator criticisms about his speed when it was mentioned how many interception return for touchdowns he had during his career. When the reporter read off their statistics, he quipped, "I'm not a stat guy. I'm all about the rings." He also took a shot at Mayo. "I used to critique his game over from the sidelines when they was out there. [I said he was good] but then I looked over at the score and it wasn't close," he said with a huge smile.