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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Report: Florida Gators to host Colorado State in 2018

Florida will host Colorado State on Sept. 15, 2018, according to a report from the Coloradoan newspaper.

A reporter from USA Today dubbed it the Jim McElwain Buyout Game, because it was part of the agreement when McElwain and the Gators bought out his contract as Colorado State's coach.

UF will pay the Rams $2 million for the game. 

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Introducing the new Sunshine State Report blog

You can probably tell from the new name and logo, but we're making a few changes around here. So let me welcome you to the Sunshine State Report, our new college sports blog.

The Sunshine State Report takes the place of our Gators blog. That doesn't mean we're abandoning our coverage of Florida (the university); it means we're revamping our coverage of Florida (the state).

We will still cover UF and the first season of new coach Jim McElwain. But we're going to cast our net wider, with more Florida State information, as well as Miami, UCF and anything else that pops up. The content and colleges will vary, based on the season, the week and the day's big stories, but this will be a landing spot for news, information, analysis and links.

Like anything new, this won't be perfect. We'll tweak the blog and our overall approach as necessary, so your feedback is welcome and encouraged. Hit me up on Twitter (@MBakerTBTimes) or via email (mbaker@tampabay.com). 

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Gators' Keanu Neal remains sidelined, status 'to be determined'

Florida safety Keanu Neal remains sidelined with a leg injury he sustained during Friday's scrimmage.

"To be determined," coach Jim McElwain said Tuesday night.

Neal, who started eight games last year, didn't practice Tuesday. Receivers Raphael Andrades and Valdez Showers were also held out, McElwain said, while offensive linemen Travaris Dorsey returned to practice.

A few other observations from Tuesday's practice:

* Treon Harris and Will Grier continue to split first-team reps at quarterback as they battle for the starting spot. It doesn't sound as if the Gators are any closer to making a decision; McElwain said last week that both could play in the Sept. 5 season opener against New Mexico State.

McElwain said the offensive line is starting to come together as it replaces four starters. Mason Halter will be able to play many spots in the rotation, McElwain said, and true freshman Martez Ivey continues to looks at left tackle. "You don't think of him really as a freshman right now, just with the way he's playing," McElwain said. "That's great to see. We kind of thought that when we recruited him. sure enough, that's kind of how it's been." …

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Tampa native Michael Frazier officially joins Lakers

Former Florida and Plant High guard Michael Frazier officially signed with the Lakers on Tuesday. The sides agreed to terms last week on a two-year deal worth $1.4 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Frazier, a 6-foot-4 guard, left UF after his junior season and went undrafted. He averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 rebounds over this three years with the Gators.

He spent the NBA's summer league with the Warriors, averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in six games.

Here's our profile of Frazier leading up to the NBA draft. 

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Vernon Hargreaves III among five Florida Gators honored by SEC football coaches

Florida defensive back and former Wharton High standout Vernon Hargreaves III was named by the SEC's coaches as a first-team all-conference selection, the Gators announced Tuesday.

Hargreaves, a junior, led the SEC with 13 pass breakups last season and enters the season as one of the country's top defensive players and a potential top-five NFL draft pick.

Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard and senior linebacker Antonio Morrison were both second-team honorees. Morrison continues to recover from a knee injury he sustained in the Birmingham Bowl but recorded a team-high 101 tackles last season. Bullard totaled 52 tackles last fall as a junior.

Receiver Demarcus Robinson and running back Kelvin Taylor were both named to the coaches' third team as juniors. Robinson led the Gators in catches (53), yards (810) and receiving touchdowns (seven), while Taylor is poised for a breakout season after rushing for 565 yards last season.

 

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Florida Gators to host basketball tip-off event on Oct. 2

Florida will host its Gators Madness basketball tip-off event at 9 p.m. on Friday Oct. 2 at the O'Connell Center, the school announced Tuesday afternoon. 

The event is free and will give fans a chance to hear from new men's basketball coach Mike White, in addition to the rest of the men's and women's teams.

The event is also the night before UF hosts Ole Miss in football at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 

 

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Alvin Bailey giddy after former teammate Matt Jones' first NFL touchdown

Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones dives past Detroit Lions defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo (63) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday in Landover, Md.

AP photo

Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones dives past Detroit Lions defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo (63) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday in Landover, Md.

When former Armwood High and Florida running back Matt Jones scored the first touchdown of his NFL career Thursday night for Washington, one of his former teammates was ecstatic.

"I couldn't hold it in," said Alvin Bailey, who played with Jones in high school and with the Gators. "I just jumped up, screaming."

Bailey said he and Jones are practically brothers, ever since they grew up near each other in east Tampa. They both wanted to go to the NFL, and they have tried to keep each other on the path to get there. Bailey, a redshirt sophomore, said his plan is to follow Jones to the league. Seeing Jones, a third-round pick, score Thursday night "made it really real," Bailey said.

"It was just crazy," Bailey said. "Everybody was calling. Then he got out of the game, he called me. It was just crazy." 

 

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Preseason AP Top 25: FSU starts at No. 10, Florida Gators unranked

Florida State is the state's only program ranked in the AP preseason Top 25, which was released Sunday afternoon. The Seminoles come in at No. 10 - two spots lower than their ranking in the coaches' poll.

The Gators are unranked for the second year in a row, although they received four votes. 

This is the second time since 1983 that only one school from Florida appeared in the preseason rankings; the same thing happened last year, when the Seminoles began 2014 No. 1 in the country.

Ohio State is the first team in poll history to begin the season as the unanimous top choice, getting all 61 first-place votes. TCU is second, followed by Alabama, Baylor and Michigan State.

The other SEC programs ranked are: No. 6 Auburn, No. 9 Georgia, No. 14 LSU, No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 18 Arkansas, No. 24 Missouri and No. 25 Tennessee.

Clemson (12th) and Georgia Tech (16) are ranked from the ACC, and partial member Notre Dame is No. 11. 

 

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Six Florida Gators earn scholarships Saturday

Florida coach Jim McElwin announced Saturday that six walk-ons earned scholarships: running back Case Harrison, defensive lineman Dakota Wilson, receiver Roger Dixon, tight end Bair Diamond, linebacker Stephen Stipe and defensive back Garrett Stephens.

Four of the six appeared in at least one game last season. Stipe played in three, and Dixon started the first six games on special teams. Wilson didn't see any game action but was named one of the most valuable players on the scout team.

 

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Florida Gators' QB battle could last into the season, and more scrimmage notes

Florida's quarterback competition might not be settled until the season opener.

Gators coach Jim McElwain said there's still little separation between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier, even after Friday night's scrimmage.

"Those two guys are progression and, you know, no clear separation yet," McElwain said. "And that's OK. That's all right."

McElwain said both Harris and Grier moved the first-team offense well. Harris was a little more effective with the second unit, while Grier was better during situational parts.

"Right now, it's pretty even," said receiver Alvin Bailey (Armwood High). 

McElwain expects to begin settling in on lineups and rotations next week, but that doesn't mean UF will have the quarterback situation finalized.

"Not necessarily," McElwain said. "We'll be OK if we go into it and kind of play and go from there and see who plays under the lights the best..."

If the Gators haven't decided on a starter before the Sept. 5 season opener against New Mexico State, McElwain said they could alternate quarterbacks every series or quarter.

"We'll see when we get there," McElwain said.

Other notes from Friday's scrimmage: …

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Marcus Maye, Alex McCalister and Latroy Pittman to miss Florida Gators' season opener

Defensive back Marcus Maye, defensive lineman Alex McCalister and receiver Latroy Pittman won't play in Florida's season opener for violating department policy, the Gators announced Friday afternoon.

McCalister was second on the team with six sacks during his redshirt sophomore season and added nine tackles for loss. Maye was a key part of the Gators' secondary, starting nine games and spending time at safety and nickelback. He led the secondary with 62 tackles.

Pittman, a senior, started nine times at slot receiver, recording 15 catches for 164 yards.

UF didn't provide any more information about the decision to hold the trio out of the Sept. 5 season opener against New Mexico State. 

 

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Lee Roy Selmon, Deion Sanders, Tim Tebow among FWAA's all-time greats

Lee Roy Selmon starred at Oklahoma to earn a spot on the FWAA's list of the top college football players in that time span. Selmon later became the first draft pick in Bucs history, as well as the franchise's first Hall of Fame player.

The Daily Oklahoman (1974)

Lee Roy Selmon starred at Oklahoma to earn a spot on the FWAA's list of the top college football players in that time span. Selmon later became the first draft pick in Bucs history, as well as the franchise's first Hall of Fame player.

Former Bucs legend Lee Roy Selmon and Florida State great Deion Sanders were among the first-team selections to the Football Writers Association of America's 75th anniversary All-America team.

Selmon starred at Oklahoma to earn a spot on the FWAA's list of the top college football players in that time span. Selmon later became the first draft pick in Bucs history, as well as the franchise's first Hall of Fame player.

Sanders was a first-team pick at defensive back, and Miami defensive end Ted Hendricks was the only other player from a state college chosen as a first-team selection.

Florida's Tim Tebow was the second-team quarterback, behind Roger Staubach (Navy) and ahead of Nebraska's Tommie Frazier (a Bradenton Manatee High alum).

FSU receiver Fred Biletnikoff was a second-team choice, along with Miami defensive back Ed Reed.

Third-team picks included former Gators defensive end Jack Youngblood and FSU punter Rohn Stark.

Check out the full list here. 

 

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SEC sets Florida Gators basketball schedule

The SEC announced the league's men's basketball schedule Wednesday night, with Florida playing Kentucky twice - Feb. 6 at Lexington and in Gainesville on March 1.

The Gators also announced that they will host Palm Beach Atlantic on Nov. 5 in an exhibition game.

Here's UF's full schedule:

Nov. 5: Palm Beach Atlantic, 7 p.m. (exhibition)

Nov. 13: at Navy, 9:30

Nov. 16: North Carolina A&T

Nov. 21: Saint Joseph's (BHOF Tip-Off tournament)

Nov. 22: Purdue/Old Dominion (BHOF Tip-Off tournament)

Nov. 25: Vermont

Nov. 27: Florida Gulf Coast

Dec. 1: Richmond

Dec. 8: at Miami, 7 p.m.

Dec. 12: at Michigan State, 7 p.m.

Dec. 19: Oklahoma State (Orange Bowl Classic)

Dec. 22: Jacksonville

Dec. 29: Florida State, 7 p.m.

Jan. 2: Georgia, 8 p.m.

Jan. 6: at Tennessee, 7 p.m.

Jan. 9: LSU, 1:30/4:30 p.m.

Jan. 12: at Texas A&M, 7 p.m.

Jan. 16: at Ole Miss, 8 p.m.

Jan. 19: Mississippi State, 7 p.m.

Jan. 23: Auburn, 8 p.m.

Jan. 26: at Vanderbilt, 9 p.m.

Jan. 30: West Virginia

Feb. 3: Arkansas, 7 p.m.

Feb. 6: at Kentucky, 4 p.m.

Feb. 9: Ole Miss, 9 p.m.

Feb. 13: Alabama, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 16: at Georgia, 9 p.m.

Feb. 20: at South Carolina, noon

Feb. 23: Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.

Feb. 27: at LSU

March 1: Kentucky, 7 p.m. …

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Vernon Hargreaves III, Roberto Aguayo among CBS Sports' All-Americans

Florida cornerback and Wharton alum Vernon Hargraves III and Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo are the only two state players named on CBS Sports’ preseason All-America first team.

Hargreaves led the SEC with 13 pass breakups last season and is a potential top-10 pick this spring, if he leaves early for the NFL draft. Aguayo, a junior, won the Lou Groza Award in 2013 as the country’s top kicker and was a finalist for the honor last season, when he made 27 of his 30 field goal attempts.

 

Two players with local ties made the second team: Oklahoma linebacker (and Armwood High product) Eric Striker and FSU defensive back Jalen Ramsey.

You can see CBS Sports' full honorees here. 

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How has Jim McElwain boosted passing offenses, at Bama, Fresno State and Colorado State?

New Gators coach Jim McElwain is regarded as a bright offensive mind.

AP photo

New Gators coach Jim McElwain is regarded as a bright offensive mind.

It's no secret that Florida's passing offense has struggled, and it's no secret that new coach Jim McElwain is regarded as a bright offensive mind.

But exactly how much has McElwain improved passing attacks? And what does that mean for the Gators this fall?

Let's look at the numbers.

At McElwain's last three stops (Colorado State, Alabama and Fresno State), here's what the passing offenses averaged before he arrived:

201-348 (57.5 percent)

187.1 yards per game

15 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

119.4 passer rating

Now let's compare those numbers to what those programs averaged with McElwain:

234-373 (62.8 percent)

227.8 yards per game

19 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

136.3 passer rating

Those stats don't tell the whole story, of course. You can't pin an entire offense's success (or failure) on one coach. But if the Gators have a similar spike, they'd jump from 106th nationally in yards per game to 76th and from 95th in quarterback rating to just outside the top 50. Not exactly Fun ‘N' Gun numbers, but it's an improvement for a passing offense that's last in the SEC over the last three seasons.

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