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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Florida Gators' Luke Del Rio has shoulder surgery, will miss spring football

Luke Del Rio opened last season as the Gators' starter before injuring his knee, then his shoulder.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Luke Del Rio opened last season as the Gators' starter before injuring his knee, then his shoulder.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio had successful surgery to repair his non-throwing shoulder Wednesday and will miss spring camp, the Florida Gators announced Thursday.

That means Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask will be battling for the job this spring, after redshirting this past season.

Del Rio opened last season as the Gators' starter before injuring his knee, then his shoulder. The former walk-on transfer from Oregon State (and Alabama) finished his redshirt sophomore season 114-of-201 passing for 1,358 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

UF's other starting quarterback last season, Austin Appleby, is out of eligibility.

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Florida Gators' Joey Ivie impressing scouts at East-West Shrine Game

MONICA HERNDON | Times

ST. PETERSBURG - The East-West Shrine Game is all about uncovering some potential underrated NFL draft prospects.

One who seems to be helping himself this week is Joey Ivie, a defensive lineman from Florida and Pasco High.

Joey Ivie killing it in reps. Gets skinny and can burst out of it. None of the OL stopping the Florida DT. Looks like a 5T

Joey Ivie from #Florida is continuing to set himself apart from the rest of the DLs. #VaTech OL Jonathan McLaughlin looking good too.

Former Pasco High, #Gators standout @JoeyIvie getting in a @Shrine_Game practice rep pic.twitter.com/NWNzCLa88s

According to multiple sources, Florida DT Joey Ivie and DE Bryan Cox Jr have really stood out at the East/West Shrine Bowl practices.

The outsiders' consensus is that Ivie's biggest strength is his motor. The 6-foot-3, 298-pound tackle agrees.

"It's my motor," Ivie told our Joey Knight earlier this week. "But I feel like I can pass rush anywhere from the three (technique) to the shade. I feel like I can play multiple positions. I'm going to bust my butt, give it all I've got, be a team player."

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Jameis Winston lawsuits officially closed

Jameis Winston's legal saga is officially, finally, over. Judge Paul G. Byron closed the case Tuesday, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court's Middle District of Florida.

Times files

Jameis Winston's legal saga is officially, finally, over. Judge Paul G. Byron closed the case Tuesday, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court's Middle District of Florida.

Jameis Winston's legal saga is officially, finally, over.

Judge Paul G. Byron closed the case Tuesday, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court's Middle District of Florida.

In legalese, Byron granted last week's joint motion to dismiss a sexual battery lawsuit filed by Zephyrhills' Erica Kinsman, and Winston's defamation countersuit against Kinsman. The suits have been dismissed with prejudice, so they cannot be refiled. Terms of the settlement (agreed to last month) have not been disclosed.

This is the final step in a case that dates back to a December 2012 off-campus sexual encounter between the Bucs quarterback and Kinsman, who were then both freshmen at FSU.

Kinsman accused Winston of rape, but Winston said the sex was consensual. No charges were filed against Winston after investigations by the Tallahassee Police Department and the State Attorney's Office, which reopened the case during FSU's run to the 2013 national title and Winston's push for the Heisman Trophy.  …

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Florida Gators announce five early enrollees

The Florida Gators have officially announced the signings of five early enrollees:

Defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, a three-star recruit from Wyoming Seminary College Prep

Tight end Kemore Gamble, a four-star recruit from Miami Southridge

Linebacker James Houston, a three-star recruit from Fort Lauderdale's American Heritage

Athlete Kadarius Toney, a three-star recruit from Eight Mile, Ala.

And offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, a four-star recruit from Miami Washington.

The Gators' recruiting class is ranked No. 20 nationally and has 10 oral, non-binding commitments.

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Former Pasco High star Janarion Grant returning for fifth year at Rutgers

Janarion Grant will enter his final college season with a combined eight kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns, tied for most in NCAA history.

John Munson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Janarion Grant will enter his final college season with a combined eight kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns, tied for most in NCAA history.

Former Pasco High star Janarion Grant is returning for a fifth and final season at Rutgers.

"Fifth year, here I come!" Grant wrote on social media. "I'm excited about what I have been able to accomplish so far, but I look forward to getting out there and competing with my teammates again."

Grant was one of the nation's most electric players early last season. He rushed for three touchdowns and scored on a kickoff and punt return before breaking his ankle in the Scarlet Knights' fourth game, against Iowa. Grant could have been a late-round pick in the NFL draft.

Grant left Pasco as one of the most prolific players in North Suncoast history. He'll enter his final college season with a combined eight kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns, tied for most in NCAA history. 

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Could USF football pass the Florida Gators in 2017?

Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain gets Gatorade dumped on him after beating Iowa in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain gets Gatorade dumped on him after beating Iowa in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

After scanning the too-early top 25 rankings for next season, two things popped out.

First, Florida State is going to be really, really good. Again. That's not a surprise, and we'll get to that later in this agonizingly long offseason.

The other one was more interesting: Florida might not be the state's No. 2 team. Or even third.

Miami has a strong case (although I'm less convinced on how the Hurricanes will be without quarterback Brad Kaaya), but let's focus on the Gators and another team - USF.

Here are five sets of rankings from writers/sites I respect:

ESPN: USF is No. 20, one spot ahead of the Gators.

Sports on Earth: USF is No. 18, one spot ahead of the Gators.

CBS: USF is No. 10 (!!!). The Gators are unranked.

Fox: UF is No. 17, four spots ahead of the Bulls.

Sports Illustrated: UF is No. 19, six spots ahead of the Bulls.

Five sets of rankings, with USF ahead in three of them.

We'll pause here for the obvious caveats. The coaching carousel (especially with assistants) isn't done spinning, and recruiting classes haven't yet been signed. A lot can, and will, change between now and August, let alone now and next year's title game in Atlanta. …

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Florida Gators assistant Mike Summers heading to Louisville, ESPN reports

Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers is leaving to take the same position at Louisville, according to a report Saturday from ESPN.

Summers spent the past three seasons on the Gators' staff. Before that, he spent time as an assistant at USC, Kentucky and Arkansas, among others. He previously coached the Cardinals' offensive line from 2003-06.

UF allowed 28 sacks (no. 71 nationally) and 70 tackles for a loss (49th nationally) this season.

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Attorneys ask for joint dismissal of Jameis Winston civil lawsuits

Jameis Winston's legal saga is over.

The Bucs quarterback and former Florida State star and the woman who accused him of sexual assault have formally filed for their lawsuits against each other to be dismissed. 

The joint motion for dismissal with prejudice, filed Friday, comes after both sides reached a compromise with contingencies last month. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, although Friday's filing says that each party will be responsible for its own attorney fees/costs. 

The latest procedural update ends a case that dates back to a December 2012 off-campus sexual encounter between Winston and Zephyrhills' Erica Kinsman, who were then both freshmen at FSU.

Kinsman accused Winston of rape, but Winston said the sex was consensual. No charges were filed against Winston after investigations by the Tallahassee Police Department and the State Attorney's Office, which reopened the case during FSU's run to the 2013 national title.

Winston was also cleared in FSU's code of conduct investigation. A retired state Supreme Court justice who presided over the hearing found Winston not responsible for violating school policies, saying neither side was stronger than the other. …

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St. Pete's Jalynn Williams commits to Florida Gators

The Florida Gators' recruiting push in Tampa Bay has resulted in another commitment.

St. Petersburg High receiver Jalynn Williams has orally committed to UF. He becomes the Gators' first commitment for the class of 2018.

Williams is a three-star recruit and the state's No. 80 prospect in that class. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete also had offers from Miami and Ohio State, among others. He had 53 catches for 399 yards and six touchdowns during his junior season.

Oral commitments are non-binding until recruits sign letters of intent during their senior years.

 

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James Wilder Jr. switching to linebacker to try to stick in NFL

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Talk to high school coaches around Tampa Bay, and they'll tell you that James Wilder Jr. was a fine running back, but he was one of the best defensive players this area has ever seen.\

So maybe it's not a surprise that the former Plant High star has announced that he's officially switching to linebacker to try to stick in the NFL.

Many teams been hitting me up to play LBvso I finally decided to make the change to LB here my 1st day @ LB tell me what ya think #getWILDER pic.twitter.com/LWiU6oQbSe

Wilder - the son of the former Bucs star running back - had a productive career as a running back at Florida State. He rushed for 20 touchdowns (then tied for ninth-most in program history) and was the MVP of the 2012 ACC title game. He was a part of the Seminoles' 2013 national title team and earned honorable mention all-ACC honors in his third and final season there, before leaving early for the NFL.

That hasn't quite worked out yet, at least not in the backfield. He spent the 2014 season on the Bengals' practice squad and the 2015 season on the Bills' practice squad. He was injured and waived from Buffalo in September. …

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New No. 1: Clemson-Bama greatest title game ever

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson celebrates after his game-winning touchdown pass in Monday night's victory against Alabama.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson celebrates after his game-winning touchdown pass in Monday night's victory against Alabama.

In a prior millenium, we'd simply stop the presses. These days, it's hold the hyperlink. Neutralize the URL. Freeze the website.

We must -- absolutely must -- amend a recent online series, the one in which we ranked (worst to first) every college football championship game since the dawn of the BCS era.

We have a new No. 1.

After a proud 12-year reign, Texas-USC has been toppled. Clemson's 35-31 upset of Alabama -- in the literal last second -- in Monday's College Football Playoff title game is the new king.

Can there be any argument? Oh sure, some will accuse us of a knee-jerk reaction, or not allowing a sufficient passage of time to reach a rational conclusion of where Monday's game should rank. To which we say, nonsense.

This one had three lead changes -- in the last 4 1/2 minutes. It featured possibly the greatest two-minute drill in college history (Clemson's game-winning drive was two minutes on the nose.) It featured a transcendent performance (Deshaun Watson's 420 passing yards), and a bushel of big plays (five TDs of 24 or more yards).

And it provided a decisive touchdown with a second to play.

So in the wake of that instant classic, it's time to re-tweak our list.

Clemson-Alabama is the new No. 1, followed by:

2) Texas 41, USC 38

3) Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (OT)

4) Auburn 22, Oregon 19

5) FSU 34, Auburn 31

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Artavis Scott puts glorious finish to bittersweet weekend

Former East Lake High star Artavis Scott (right) celebrates Clemson's national title with former Sickles star Ray Ray McCloud (left) and Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Deon Cain.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Former East Lake High star Artavis Scott (right) celebrates Clemson's national title with former Sickles star Ray Ray McCloud (left) and Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Deon Cain.

Amid the midnight euphoria, Artavis Scott looked upward, through the orange and pink confetti raining onto the Raymond James Stadium field, and acknowledged one of his biggest fans on the greatest night of his athletic life.

Scott's paternal grandfather, John Battle, passed away while the Tigers were in Arizona preparing for the Fiesta Bowl. Scott attended his funeral Saturday, then honored him mightily Monday by helping lift Clemson to its first national title in 35 years.

"It's been crazy...but I know he's watching us through this whole time, and I'm just thankful that it happened at this moment," Scott, a former East Lake High star, said in the triumphant locker room.

"I'm just so happy that we won this championship, man. I talked about it at my grandfather's funeral."

Scott finished with three catches, giving him a Clemson career record 245. He still wouldn't say afterward whether he'll bypass his senior season for the NFL Draft, but his parents said Thursday he will turn pro.

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College Football Playoff: Final thoughts before tonight's national title game

MONICA HERNDON | Times

The wait is finally over.

The College Football Playoff national title game will be kicking off tonight, at long last. I've been preparing for the game since this time last year. Tampa has been working for much longer than that.

So as the battle between Alabama and Clemson nears, here are my final thoughts:

Steve Sarkisian might be the biggest key to the game. Miami coach Mark Richt was admittedly a little rusty spitting out plays during his first few practices because it had been a long time since he had called plays. Sarkisian hasn't done so since the 2014 Holiday Bowl. Sarkisian obviously knows what he's doing, but I don't think the transition will be seamless, either. Keep in mind, too, that true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts will have to be working closely with a new coordinator, and those relationships take time to develop. Maybe it doesn't matter, because Hurts is close to head coach Nick Saban. Or maybe, in the fourth quarter of a close game, it will matter a lot. …

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College Football Playoff: How much will tickets cost you now?

LUIS SANTANA | Times

Want tickets for tonight's College Football Playoff national title game? Be prepared to pay up.

The cheapest second-hand tickets I've found online this morning cost more than $1,500 apiece. Over the weekend, they were going for $2,000. The cheapest on Stubhub: $1,750.

According to another ticket site, Rukkus, an anticipated drop in ticket prices because of fan fatigue (they saw this matchup a year ago) never happened. The average price of $1,255 is up 42 percent from last year's game ($722), according to Rukkus.

For what it's worth, I've seen a lot more orange than crimson in downtown. We'll see what the fan ratio ends up being later today at Raymond James Stadium.

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Florida Gators legend Steve Spurrier entering College Football Hall of Fame (again)

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Former Florida Gators coach Steve Spurrier has been selected to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.

Again.

Spurrier is already in as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback but will enter as a coach, too, the hall announced Monday morning. He'll join Bobby Doddy, Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bowden Wyatt as the only individuals in the hall as a player and as a coach.

Spurrier ended his coaching career last season with a 228-89-2 record after time at Duke, UF and South Carolina. He led the Gators to their first national championship in 1996, and UF named its field in his honor this season.

Spurrier and another new inductee, Tennessee legend Peyton Manning, will participate in the festivities before tonight's College Football Playoff national title game at Raymond James Stadium.

The rest of the class, which will formally join the hall in December:

Notre Dame LB Bob Crable
San Diego State RB Marshall Faulk
Michigan State WR Kirk Gibson
USC QB Matt Leinart
Texas OT Bob McKay
Texas A&M LB Dat Nguyen
Georgia Southern RB Adrian Peterson
Boston College NG Mike Ruth
New Mexico DB Brian Urlacher
Clemson/Arkansas coach Danny Ford
Mount Union (Ohio) coach Larry Kehres

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