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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Three Seminoles, two locals on Sporting News' All-America teams

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Sporting News released its preseason All-America teams on Wednesday, and five players with local/state ties made the list.

Florida State safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden were both first-team selections. Neither is a surprise. McFadden was tied for the national lead with eight interceptions last year, and James is the most versatile player in the country (now that he’s healthy from a knee injury).

Their teammate, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, was a second-team pick.

The two others on the list weren’t quite so obvious.

Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole was a second-team pick. Cole starred at East Lake High before joining the Wolverines. Kansas State’s Byron Pringle (Robinson High) was also a second-team selection, at returner.

Check out the full list here.

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College World Series puts Florida Gators in elite company

Florida celebrates after defeating LSU in Game 2 of the College World Series finals, Tuesday, in Omaha, Neb.

Brendan Sullivan/Omaha World-Herald via AP

Florida celebrates after defeating LSU in Game 2 of the College World Series finals, Tuesday, in Omaha, Neb.

With Tuesday night's College World Series win, the Florida Gators put themselves in rare company.

UF is the sixth program to win a national title in the three biggest men's sports - football, basketball and baseball. The others: Cal, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford and UCLA. Not a bad list.

Another noteworthy stat (from UF): The Gators are the only program to win a title in all three in the last 50 years.

Having success in one sport doesn't necessarily translate to the others, but...

"I don't think it hurts," basketball coach Mike White said on this week's SEC teleconference, before UF's win. "I think that there is a culture that's been created here by Jeremy Foley and his staff for a long time. Now it's obviously been taken over by Scott Stricklin and his current administrative staff...They do a tremendous job. The resources, the facilities, the culture, the standard of excellence here is something we talk about."

UF isn't just talking about it. It's living it, with another championship to add to the collection.

The Gators are inviting fans to celebrate the title from 6-8 tonight at McKethan Stadium. Admission and parking are free.

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FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.

The Seminoles' men's team will play Tulane at Amalie Arena on Dec. 10, the school confirmed Tuesday evening. CBS' Jon Rothstein first reported the scheduling agreement. The ‘Noles will play Tulane in New Orleans the next year and in Tallahassee the year after that.

The game comes a year after Amalie Arena hosted the Gators for a non-conference game against Belmont.

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How the Bucs' indoor practice facility compares to Gators, FSU

Jameis Winston held his pro day at Florida State's indoor practice facility. His pro team will be getting one soon.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Jameis Winston held his pro day at Florida State's indoor practice facility. His pro team will be getting one soon.

The Bucs are finally getting their indoor practice facility.

Which means Tampa Bay's NFL team is catching up to the state's major college programs.

Florida State built its indoor practice facility in 2013. The Gators opened theirs two years later. Miami broke ground on its facility in May.

Let's compare some of the specifics:

Cost
Bucs: $20 million
UF: $17 million
FSU: Almost $15 million
Miami: $34 million

Size
Bucs: 100,000 square feet
UF: 87,000 square feet; 120-yard field
FSU: 92,000 square feet; 120-yard field
Miami: 100,000 square feet; one 80-yard field, one 40-yard field

Bells and whistles
Bucs: Remote cameras mounted throughout, 4K video monitors, outdoor plaza, bleachers for 3,500 fans
UF: Three camera platforms, video work room, roll-up doors for ventilation and access
FSU: 2,000-square foot training room, rehab area, details resemble Bobby Bowden Field
Miami: 13,000 square feet for coaches' office space, team meeting rooms, recruiting suite, will connect to the strength and conditioning center, and "feature interconnectivity" to the athletic center …

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James Wilder Jr. back at running back...in Canada

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

That was short-lived, apparently.

Wilder is back at running back (mostly) for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. He had three carries for nine yards in Sunday's season opener.

I added the mostly part, because he's also spending time on special teams (where he had a tackle Sunday). The Toronto Sun wrote about that earlier this summer.

"A lot of teams reached out to me to see if I was up for a position change," Wilder told the Sun of switching to linebacker.

"It seemed like there was more teams asking about that than teams showing interest in me at running back, so I went ahead and made the change, mostly to show I could do it, that I could do both positions. Toronto was interested the whole time, I was kind of looking at my options though."

The option for one of the best players in Tampa Bay history, for now, seems to be offense and special teams in the CFL.

Wilder has spent time as an NFL running back with the Bengals and Bills. 

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Ranking Malik Zaire among 2017's top transfer quarterbacks

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Florida Gators' Malik Zaire is among many transfers who could become starters at their new school. Here's how he stacks up in our rankings of top transfer quarterbacks:

1. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn). He put up great numbers (12 touchdowns, two interceptions) in 10 games at Baylor before leaving less than two months after coach Art Briles' dismissal. He only started three games for the Bears, but he showed enough talent (and has a good enough coach in Gus Malzahn) to be No. 1, barely ahead of...

2. Will Grier (West Virginia). Sorry, UF fans. Grier could still be with the Gators, if he hadn't failed an NCAA drug test or decided to transfer after the 2015 season. Regardless, his time in Gainesville included 10 touchdowns, three interceptions, a last-minute win over Tennessee and a four-touchdown beat-down of No. 3 Ole Miss. Don't be surprised if he lights up the scoreboard for coach Dana Holgorsen.

3. Kyle Allen (Houston). Part of the Texas A&M quarterback exodus that also sent Kyler Murray to Oklahoma, Allen rushed for three touchdowns and passed for 33. He could thrive under new coach Major Applewhite. …

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Officially official: Malik Zaire, Jake Fruhmorgen join Florida Gators

AP

It's finally, officially official: Malik Zaire has joined the Florida Gators.

UF formally announced the addition of the graduate transfer quarterback from Notre Dame on Monday, the first day of classes in the school's Summer B session.

The move has been in the works for weeks and became possible after the SEC changed its graduate transfer policies at this month's spring meetings in Destin.

Zaire showed flashes of success during his time with the Fighting Irish. His 96 rushing yards and two total touchdowns helped Notre Dame beat LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl. He also lit up Texas for 313 passing yards and three touchdowns in the 2015 season opener.

But the 6-foot, 225-pound lefty didn't do much beyond that. He injured his ankle in Week 2 of 2015 and lost a battle for the starting job to DeShone Kizer last fall.

His career numbers at Notre Dame: 816 passing yards, six touchdowns and a 59.2 completion percentage, plus 72 rushes for 324 yards. …

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Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie

Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.

Sean Rayford | Associated Press

Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.

Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and fan favorite, who helped the Gators to football national championships in 2006 and 2008 and is now trying his hand at minor-league baseball, has been promoted the Florida State League.

Tebow, 29, will play next for the St. Lucie Mets, which means he'll spend a full week in the Tampa Bay area in August, with games at the Tampa Yankees on Aug. 10-13 and at the Clearwater Threshers on Aug. 14-17.

Tebow's second chapter in sports was an attendance phenomenon for the Columbia Fireflies, boosting their home crowds and drawing sellouts all over the South Atlantic League. He batted just .222 in 63 games with three home runs and 23 RBIs. His first home game with St. Lucie could be Tuesday night.

If nothing else, the Tampa area can help wish Tebow a happy 30th birthday -- he's due to play in Clearwater on that day, Aug. 14.

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Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?

Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

That's ten years old. As in, he has been on this earth for a decade. He is the same age as Ryder, the boy in the TV show Paw Patrol, which the young man might very well watch when he isn't earning scholarship offers from a Big Ten program. Because he's 10 (ten) years old.

We can talk about how ridiculous it is to offer a college scholarship to a kid in elementary school - and it is very, very ridiculous - but let's look at another part of this.

Smith's program is offering a recruit who might not be old enough to sign with a college until 2025. Given Smith's resume and the nature of college football coaching, what are the odds the former Bucs head coach is still with the Illini in eight years?

So, our poll question: Where will Lovie Smith be in 2025?

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Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

Florida Gators defensive back Duke Dawson came in at No. 72 - ahead of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (among others). Dawson should be UF's top player in the secondary, with Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye all in the NFL.

Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is No. 69. He was an all-ACC pick last year on a strong defense thanks to 49 tackles (10 ½ for a loss) and six sacks.

Clemson receiver and Tampa Bay Tech product Deon Cain is No. 67. He averaged 19 yards per catch and had nine touchdown receptions last year to help the Tigers win the national title in his hometown. With Mike Williams gone to the NFL, Cain should be Clemson's top receiving target this fall.

SI's ongoing countdown is here.

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NBA draft: Jonathan Isaac could make FSU history tonight

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac will probably hear his name called early in tonight's NBA draft.

Maybe historically early, at least by Seminoles standards.

SI projects him to go third overall to the Celtics. ESPN calls him the draft's No. 5 prospect and headed to Orlando with the No. 6 pick. CBS suggests No. 7 to Minnesota.

Regardless, he'll be among the highest players ever drafted out of FSU. No ‘Nole has been picked higher than fourth (Dave Cowens to Boston in 1970). The only other top-10 pick, according to Basketball Reference's nifty draft finder tool, was George McCloud, who went seventh to the Pacers in 1989.

Isaac averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for FSU as a freshman.

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Should tackle football be banned until high school?

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Warren Sapp announced Tuesday that he will donate his brain to concussion researchers after his death.

Beyond the headline, Sapp said something else interesting: He wants to eliminate tackle football until high school.

That idea is one that came up in conversations during our recent reporting for this story on the flag/tackle debate in youth football. The group Practice like Pros proposes keeping tackle football in high school but not until then. Middle schoolers would begin learning how to play tackle through weight training, neck strengthening and limited contact so they're prepared once they reach ninth grade.

"You don't need contact football at that level to play at the highest level..." said Terry O'Neil, Practice Like Pros' founder and a former New Orleans Saints executive. "You don't want to start the head trauma at the age of 5, as often happens in this country. You want to delay it as long as you can."

I floated the idea to some people during my reporting. Their thoughts: …

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Who should join Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer as college football ambassadors?

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

First Steve Spurrier became an ambassador for the Florida Gators.

Then on Tuesday, Phillip Fulmer became an ambassador for Tennessee.

Seems like a pretty cushy job. UF still hasn't released Spurrier's contract, but Fulmer will make $100,000 a year for doing...whatever it is that a college football ambassador does.

So who else should leave retirement to begin ambassadoring? Some humble suggestions:

Auburn: Pat Dye. The former Tigers coach can still lobby for the program. His comments about Auburn joining the SEC East led to an actual discussion about the topic during the conference's spring meetings in Destin. Granted, that discussion took place with the AD and media, but hey, even the most complex political negotiations have to start somewhere.

Florida State: Derrick Brooks. Bobby Bowden would be the easy answer, but he's been known to make some comments that are, uh, not popular. That's why I'm going with Brooks. He's retired. He's classy. He loves the university, and he brings credibility to any room he enters. …

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Malik Zaire officially announces he's joining Florida Gators

Getty Images

It's still not officially official, but it's slightly officialer than it was yesterday.

Malik Zaire is joining the Florida Gators, as he announced Tuesday afternoon.

Malik Zaire says he's playing for the #Gators. Again. Now with 50 percent more officialness!! pic.twitter.com/akGq2rNEy2


Zaire, a 6-foot, 225-pound lefty, will bring experience and depth to the position as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. I wrote all about that earlier this month, after he told reporters he planned to come to UF, and after the SEC changed its grad transfer rules to allow the move to happen. 

The Gators haven't yet confirmed the move, but I expect an announcement next week. I'll have more to say on the subject then. In the meantime, here are five things you should know about Zaire.

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With Will Grier eligible at West Virginia, what might have been at Florida?

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Former Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier will be eligible to start the season for West Virginia, the Mountaineers announced today.

pic.twitter.com/WLlUHwDPPn

Grier transferred to West Virginia after earning a one-year suspension for failing an NCAA drug test at UF. He missed the final six regular-season games at UF in 2015, and the NCAA allows him to serve the rest of his suspension while sitting out, anyway, because of its transfer rules.

Grier is expected to start for West Virginia, and he has drawn plenty of buzz in Morgantown as a potential star.

But enough about the ‘Eers. What about the Gators?

Grier was the best quarterback UF has had since the Tim Tebow era. He helped UF start 6-0 with 10 touchdowns, three interceptions, 1,204 passing yards and a 65.8 completion percentage.
If Grier hadn't transferred, he would have been eligible at UF last year starting with the Georgia game. The Gators finished 4-3 in games where Grier might have been able to play. Would he have made a difference? Maybe, but I doubt it. …

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