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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

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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FSU football adds Carlos Becker; is Shavar Manuel next?

CB Carlos Becker (in white) orally committed to FSU on Wednesday.

Loren Elliott | Times

CB Carlos Becker (in white) orally committed to FSU on Wednesday.

Florida State’s big signing day continued Wednesday morning when Kissimmee Osceola DB Carlos Becker slipped on a Seminoles cap and announced his commitment to FSU.

Becker, a four-star recruit, is 247Sports’ No. 113 player in the country. He chose FSU over Ohio State, among others.

The Noles have announced a few other signees: four-star DB Kyle Meyers, four-star WR Keith Gavin (Crawfordville Wakulla) and five-star DE Brian Burns (Plantation American Heritage).

FSU could add another big target, DL Shavar Manuel. The four-star recruit who started his high school career at Blake High announced that he has decommitted from Florida; he visited FSU last weekend.

The Noles lost four-star ATH Jamel Cook (Miami Central); he flipped to USC. 

 

As of 10 a.m., FSU has the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class according to 247Sports and was No. 3 in ESPN's team rankings.

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Florida Gators flip four-star WR Tyrie Cleveland

Florida's offense got a huge jolt Wednesday morning when WR Tyrie Cleveland flipped his commitment to the Gators.

Cleveland from Houston's Westfield High had been orally committed to Houston. But the four-star recruit and 247Sports' No. 2 receiver in the country entered the stage wearing a Gators sweatshirt and ripped jeans. He signed his letter of intent to UF moments later.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound Cleveland also considered TCU, among others. Cleveland is one of UF's most highly touted receiving prospects since Percy Harvin.

The Gators have announced a few other signings: Three-star DE Jachai Polite (Daytona Beach Mainland), three-star RB Lamical Perine and three-star OL Jawaan Taylor (Cocoa).

UF has received some bad news, however. DL Shavar Manuel (formerly of Blake High) announced that he was decommitting from the Gators. Florida State becomes the most likely landing spot for Manuel, a four-star recruit who finished his high school career at Brandenton's IMG Academy.

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Five-star DE Brian Burns commits to FSU football

American Heritage football player Brian Burns gestures as he commits to Florida State, as teammate Jarius Stuart, right, applauds during a national signing day event at American Heritage High School, Wednesday, in Plantation. [Charles Trainor Jr./The Miami Herald via AP]

American Heritage football player Brian Burns gestures as he commits to Florida State, as teammate Jarius Stuart, right, applauds during a national signing day event at American Heritage High School, Wednesday, in Plantation. [Charles Trainor Jr./The Miami Herald via AP]

Florida State has already pulled off a big victory in what could be an eventful and dramatic signing day.

Plantation American Heritage DE Brian Burns announced Wednesday morning that he will sign with the Seminoles. He picked FSU over Georgia and Florida, among others.

The 6-foot-5, 217-pound Burns is one of the country's top 100 prospects and is ranked as high as No. 22 nationally, according to 247Sports, which considers him a five-star recruit. Burns will join CB Levonta Taylor as five-star recruits in FSU's recruiting class.

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Five-star CB Levonta Taylor joins Noles; Gators get first signee

Miami secured one of the top recruits in its class, WR Sam Bruce.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Miami secured one of the top recruits in its class, WR Sam Bruce.

One of the biggest days of the college football offseason is upon us.

Before you could even finish your second cup of coffee, national signing day is already in full swing.

UPDATE, 7:45 a.m.: Miami has added the top recruit in its class, four-star WR Sam Bruce from St. Thomas Aquinas. Bruce is Rivals' No. 47 overall recruit in the class of 2016. 

Three more recruits have signed with FSU: four-star LB Keion Joyner, OT Mike Arnold and OL Bavean Johnson, Rivals' No. 1 center in the country.

7:24 a.m.: Three recruits have signed with Florida State. The headliner is five-star CB Levonta Taylor, the country's top player at his position. He was joined by TE Naseir Upshur and ATH Gabe Nabers as the earliest new Noles.

Florida's earliest signee is OL Brett Heggie. The Under Armour All-American is a three-star center from Mount Dora.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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ESPN's Tom Luginbill talks Nate Craig-Myers, Florida Gators, FSU recruiting

With signing day coming up Wednesday, ESPN national director of recruiting Tom Luginbill hit on a number of recruiting issues on a teleconference with reporters. Three interesting local nuggets:

* Florida's bounce-back recruiting season isn't a surprise. The Gators had to scramble last year to salvage a respectable class. This year, UF enters the final week with a class ranked sixth by ESPN and 247Sports.

"This is what you expect to see," Luginbill said. "You expect to see this in the first full calendar year of a new staff that's no longer having to scratch and scrape..."

The Gators' key, Lunginbill said, will be whether coach Jim McElwain can develop either of its incoming quarterbacks - Crawfordville Wakulla's Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask of Manvel, Texas.

"He knows as well as anybody the quarterback position has to be fixed," Luginbill said. "It's that simple...They know that if the quarterback position gets fixed at Florida, Florida is a different program to every opponent they play as a result of that one fix."  …

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