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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Ex-FSU WR Greg Dent hoping for NFL shot at combine

In the summer of 2013, Greg Dent was preparing for his senior year at Florida State, competing for a starting role as a receiver on what would be a national championship team for the Seminoles.

He was charged with felony sexual assault, suspended from school and the football team, though a jury trial in March 2014 found him only guilty of misdemeanor battery and not the more serious charge. A missed court date before that trial resulted in him being in jail for two months, but he was sentenced to only time served and six months of probation.

After two years away from football, Dent resurfaced last fall at Division II Valdosta State, and this weekend, he'll be participating at the first NFL regional combine of the season in Houston, hoping to get himself on the NFL radar for a shot at a training camp this summer.

"I had a lot of time to sit and think about what could have happened in my life. I had to change my life around," Dent said by phone Friday. "Once the charges were over with, I wanted to make myself a better person. I've learned from that situation and I'm ready to move on." …

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FSU football announces kickoff for spring game

Kickoff for Florida State's spring game will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, the Seminoles announced Friday.

The game will be played at Orlando's Citrus Bowl because of renovations to Doak Campbell Stadium. The Noles will open spring practice on March 16. 

Admission will be $5. More information on the game and related festivities is available here.

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LSU Tigers becoming political football

One of Florida's SEC rivals is becoming a political football in its home state.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned his state that if it doesn't accept some tax hikes to balance the budget, the state's universities could be in trouble. Yes, that includes the LSU Tigers.

"If you are a student attending one of these universities, it means that you will receive a grade of incomplete, many students will not be able to graduate and student athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester," Edwards said. "That means you can say farewell to college football next fall."

Gulp.

I won't wade into the politics - you can read all about that here in The Times-Picayune.

LSU landed one of the country's top recruiting classes last week and are legitimate contenders to come to Tampa for next year's national title game. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Tigers will indeed make their scheduled trip to Gainesville on Oct. 8. If Les Miles can survive last year's debacle, I think the Mad Hatter and his team (and the legislators' constituencies) can get them past a budget crisis.

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Miami running back Walter Tucker leaving Hurricanes football team

Miami RB Walter Tucker is leaving the program to "pursue other collegiate opportunities," the Hurricanes announced Thursday.

Tucker, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior, was a contributor on special teams and appeared in 10 games last season. He totaled four carries for five yards over the past two seasons.

"Walter and I spoke yesterday and he felt like he would have a better opportunity to finish his college football career and education at another university," coach Mark Richt in UM's statement. "I wish him the very best."

 

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Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Ramsey, Eric Striker among NFL combine participants

The NFL released its list of participants for this month's scouting combine. The locals are....

Florida: CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Wharton High), DT Jonathan Bullard, DE Alex McCalister, TE Jake McGee, LB Antonio Morrison, S Keanu Neal, WR Demarcus Robinson, RB Kelvin Taylor

Florida State: K Roberto Aguayo, SS Lamarcus Brutus, DT Nile Lawrence-Stample, DE Giorgio Newberry, CB Jalen Ramsey, ILB Terrance Smith

Miami: CB Artie Burns, S Deon Bush, DE Ufomba Kamalu, ILB Raphael Kirby, WR Rashawn Scott

Other notables: OLB Eric Striker (Oklahoma, Armwood High), WR Chris Moore (Cincinnati, Jefferson High), TE Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky/East Lake High), QB Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech, Florida), QB Jacoby Brissett (N.C. State/Florida), WR Geronimo Allison (Illinois/Spoto High)

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UCF football schedule announced

The American Athletic Conference unveiled its 2016 football schedule Tuesday morning. Here's the full slate for UCF. All games are on Saturday unless otherwise noted, and kickoff times will be announced later.

Sept. 3: vs. South Carolina State
Sept. 10: at Michigan
Sept. 17: vs. Maryland
Sept. 24: at Florida International
Oct. 1: at East Carolina
Oct. 7 (Friday): vs. Tulane
Oct. 15: vs. Temple
Oct. 22: at UConn
Oct. 29: at Houston
Nov. 5: OFF
Nov. 12: vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 19: vs. Tulsa
Nov. 26: at USF

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Mock Draft Monday: Vernon Hargreaves headed back to Tampa?

With the NFL draft order set, it's time to bring back last year's thrilling recurring feature...Mock Draft Monday! There's no Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota debate, but this year's field includes a few key players from state colleges and, of course, the Bucs' No. 9 overall pick.

As a reminder, I'll search the web for the most notable mock drafts and share some of the themes. It might not be a weekly feature at first -- the draft is still more than two months away -- but it will be as the draft approaches.

If there's a mock draft I'm missing, let me know: mbaker@tampabay.com, or hit me up on Twitter @MBakerTBTimes.

Bucs, No. 9 overall

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: Florida/Wharton High CB Vernon Hargreaves III. "The Bucs do have a need at cornerback, but there isn't a team in the NFL that wouldn't want this kind of talent on the roster." …

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Miami Hurricanes announce spring football schedule

Miami will begin its first spring football practice under new coach Mark Richt on March 15 and end it with a spring game on April 16 at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

The schedule includes a public scrimmage on April 9 at West Palm Beach's Oxbridge Academy.

The free spring game will be at 2 p.m. one week later and will be aired live on ESPN3.

 

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Recruiting analyst talks Florida Gators, FSU football classes

Before we all move on from national signing day, my colleague, Joey Knight, caught up with Scout national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn to get a little more insight on how the Gators and Seminoles fared.

Dohn called Florida losing four-star DL Shavar Manuel (formerly of Blake High) to Florida State one of the biggest surprises of a day that wasn't great for UF.

"In recruiting you have ups and downs, and today was not a great day for them," Dohn said. "I think you miss out on (DE Brian) Burns, you miss out on (OL John) Simpson...but the bigger issue is, you lose Shavar Manuel and you lose Aaron Robinson... You just wanted to see a little bit more out of the Gators." …

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Torrian Gray announced as Florida Gators' new defensive backs coach

Florida officially named Lakeland native Torrian Gray the team's new defensive back coach Thursday night.

"We're excited to have Torrian join the Gator family," coach Jim McElwain said in a statement.

Gray spent a decade in the same role at Virginia Tech, where he coached five All-America players. The Hokies' pass defense allowed only 185 yards per game and held opponents to a 106.5 passer rating during his tenure; both figures were second in the nation in that span, according to UF.

The graduate of Lakeland's Kathleen High inherits a UF secondary that has been one of the best in the nation and returns star Jalen Tabor. He takes over for Kirk Callahan, who was dismissed last month.

 

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Virginia Tech confirms Torrian Gray is leaving...to Florida?

Florida still hasn't announced the news, but it certainly looks like the Gators will be hiring Torrian Gray as their new defensive backs coach.

Gray's former school, Virginia Tech, confirmed Thursday that Gray resigned "to pursue another opportunity in his home state of Florida."

The Twitter bio of the Lakeland native now includes this: "University of Florida Defensive Back Coach. #DBU."

UF has been looking for a defensive backs coach since Kirk Callahan (an Armwood High alum) was not retained last month. SI.com reported Wednesday night that Gray is expected to take that position at UF.

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How FSU recruits other schools' oral commitments

Former Blake High defensive lineman Shavar Manuel flipped from Florida to Florida State.

Times files (2014)

Former Blake High defensive lineman Shavar Manuel flipped from Florida to Florida State.

One of Wednesday's biggest national signing day stories came from former Blake High DL Shavar Manuel, who flipped from Florida to Florida State.

Maybe flipped isn't quite the right word, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Here's what FSU defensive end coach Brad Lawing said during the Seminoles' signing day party Wednesday night, according to the Sentinel:

Shavar had told me the night before, ‘I'm a Seminole' and then he committed to Florida. I called him up, asked what's going on and he said ‘I'm just getting some pressure from people.'

So he didn't just flip tonight. We've known about this for about two weeks.

Regardless of how the four-star Manuel landed with the Noles, it brings up an interesting question. How do colleges recruit players who have already committed elsewhere? Every school has its own strategies, but FSU coach Jimbo Fisher gave an interesting peek at how the Noles work during Wednesday's news conference in Tallahassee.

"We don't recruit guys unless they say we're totally open," Fisher said.

Let's say a player orally commits to State U. FSU coaches would then ask the player or his family if that commitment is final. …

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National signing day: What recruiting classes tell us about college football's next national champion

Jimbo Fisher and Florida State has reeled in four top-four classes in the last five seasons.

AP photo

Jimbo Fisher and Florida State has reeled in four top-four classes in the last five seasons.

Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State and LSU had many reasons to celebrate the strong recruiting classes they landed Wednesday on national signing day. If history is any indication, there's a decent chance they'll be playing in Raymond James Stadium for next season's national title game.

I analyzed college football's last 10 national champions to see which 2016 teams have the recruiting makeup to challenge for a trip to Tampa. We'll start with the obvious. Teams that win titles land highly decorated classes. Here are the average recruiting rankings (from 247Sports' composite data) of the five classes that comprised those championship rosters:

2015 Alabama: 1
2014 Ohio State: 6.4
2013 FSU: 7.2
2012 Alabama: 2.4
2011 Alabama: 4.8
2010 Auburn: 14.8
2009 Alabama: 11
2008 Florida: 5.2
2007 LSU: 6.6
2006 Florida: 6

Two notable trends emerged: …

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Tampa native Shavar Manuel flips from Florida Gators to FSU football

Shavar Manuel became a national name at Blake High, when he was the class of 2016's No. 2 overall recruit as a sophomore.

Times files (2014)

Shavar Manuel became a national name at Blake High, when he was the class of 2016's No. 2 overall recruit as a sophomore.

Four-star DL Shavar Manuel has orally committed to Florida State, he announced Wednesday in a video on Bleacher Report.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Manuel became a national name at Blake High, when he was the class of 2016's No. 2 overall recruit as a sophomore. The Under Armour All-American totaled 49 sacks in three seasons at Blake before transferring to Bradenton's IMG Academy for his senior year.

In January, Manuel orally committed to the Gators over FSU, LSU and USF. He visited Tallahassee over the weekend, and said it felt like home, which prompted his flip to the Seminoles.

"Since my sophomore year, it's been a wild, crazy ride..." Manuel told Bleacher Report. "Florida State was the best fit for me all around."

Manuel becomes the fifth recruit with four- or five-star status to announce his commitment to FSU on signing day.

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FSU football adds two more four-star recruits

Florida State continues to have a dramatic signing day.

The Seminoles have landed two more of the country's top 200 prospects - LB Dontavious Jackson and OT Jauan Williams. The four-star prospects join two other signing day commits, five-star DE Brian Burns and four-star DB Carlos Becker.

"It's a constant up and down," coach Jimbo Fisher said in an interview on ESPNU. "You never know the whole thing."

Williams is 247Sports' No. 15 offensive tackle, and Jackson is 247Sports' No. 90 overall recruit. He chose FSU over Alabama and Texas, among others.

"The coaching staff made me feel really comfortable," Jackson said during his signing ceremony on ESPNU. "I feel like I have a great opportunity to come in and make my impact, make my name for myself and build my brand. I feel like this class that we're building is going to be great. Big things are coming for Florida State."

FSU is still in the mix for former Blake High standout DL Shavar Manuel. He has not yet announced his college intentions but is expected to sign with a school this afternoon from his home in Tampa.

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