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Cole Pepper: Gators V. Huskies In Final Four, Maurice Jones-Drew Leaves Jax For Oakland

University of Florida

The Florida Gators are headed to the Final Four. With just two wins separating them from the NCAA Championship, can they go all the way? Cole Pepper gave his take on their chances and more in his weekly sports wrap.

Gators v. UConn in Final Four action

In a tournament that has been as unpredictable as you can imagine, Florida has been the one team that has lived up to their ranking.

The #1 team, the top overall seed and they are the only No. 1 seed to make it all the way to the Final Four.

If they’re going to earn their way to the NCAA Championship game a week from today, they’ll have to beat a team that they are very familiar with: Connecticut.

The Gators have won 30 games in a row. The last team to beat them? You got it, Connecticut.

In that game, Florida point guard Scottie Wilbiken left with an ankle injury late in the game. UConn won on a wild last second shot. Incidentally, if the Gators beat UConn, they could wind up playing the other team that beat them this year. Wisconsin plays Kentucky in the other semi-final game.

That gives Billy Donovan’s team a chance to finish the season by exacting some revenge which would make a championship even sweeter.

Incidentally, the Gators have had a pretty easy time of it so far. If you look at the seeds of the teams that Florida has faced, they’ve only seen one team ranked as high as a six-seed, that was fourth seeded UCLA, who the Gators beat in the Sweet 16. UConn is a seven seed, Wisconsin is a two seed, Kentucky, eight, and  Michigan, two.

I think Florida will beat UConn on Saturday in North Texas, and I think they’ll play Wisconsin for the championship. I’ll reserve a prediction on that game until we see if it’s actually going to happen. We’ll talk about that next week.

Johnny Manziel takes the field for NFL personnel

Johnny Manziel held his pro day at Texas A&M and worked out for NFL coaches and personnel men, including Jaguars brass.

Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and general manager Dave Caldwell were among those in attendance.

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara were there as well, proving how much of a crowd Johnny Football can draw.

Credit Aaron M. Sprecher / NFL
Texas A&M University Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel throws during his Pro Day held at the McFerrin Athletic Center on Thursday March 27, 2014 in College Station, Texas.

That’s enough of a reason for some to draft him. Of course, that’s not enough for most—if not all—football people. Manziel did stand out. Not only did he throw extremely well, he also did something that has never been done before. He worked out in a helmet and shoulder pads. I’m not sure why that doesn’t happen very often, but he might have started a trend.

I’m still skeptical that the Jaguars will take him in the first round at No. 3. I think somebody will take him in the top half of the first round.

Here’s the scenario where I think the Jaguars would take him. If Jacksonville can trade back with somebody and pick up additional picks in this draft, they might. That being said, the teams that are likely to want to trade up would be willing to do that so THEY could pick up a quarterback.

I still think that the Jaguars best bet is to get South Carolina defensive end Jedeveon Clowney. There is also some buzz that the Houston Texans are looking to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft, which could really change the way the top of the draft could play out.

Maurice Jones-Drew headed to Oakland

Credit Tony Gonzales / Facebook
Maurice Jones-Drew signs with the Oakland Raiders.

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew signed a free agent deal with the Oakland Raiders. That’s his hometown team. He grew up as a Raider’s fan in the Bay area. In Oakland, Jones-Drew figures to split time with Darren McFadden. 

There is a lot of talk about MoJo’s place in Jaguars history. I think that he’ll be in the Pride of the Jaguars when he retires, but it always seemed like there was some bone of contention with Jones-Drew. Usually over his contract, sometimes over the number of carries he was getting. He always played hard during the games, but he was always trying to get more. He was more of a “Me” player than he predecessor, Fred Taylor, ever was.

Jacksonville Suns home opener, Armada public progress report this week

The Suns open against Huntsville at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on Thursday. They’ll open the season with five games at home, before going on the road for 10 straight games.

I think the Suns are going to be pretty good, at least to start the year. They have some very good pitching prospects, including 4 of the top five pitching prospects in the Marlin’s system.

Also Thursday, the Jacksonville Armada are holding a town hall at Mellow Mushroom in Avondale to answer questions about the progress of the franchise and give their input. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and, of course, the public is invited to attend and participate.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Cole Pepper @ColePepper

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.