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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Steve Spurrier rejoining Florida Gators as ambassador, consultant

Steve Spurrier will join the University of Florida athletic department as an ambassador and consultant.

Times files (2006)

Steve Spurrier will join the University of Florida athletic department as an ambassador and consultant.

Steve Spurrier is returning to the Florida Gators.

The UF legend will join the athletic department as an ambassador and consultant, athletic director Jeremy Foley announced Friday morning. …

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College Football Playoff moving semifinals away from New Year's Eve

The College Football Playoff is calling an audible.

The sport's four-team playoff will move its semifinal games away from New Year's Eve and to the preceding Saturdays in 2018, 2019, 2024 and 2025. The move won't affect this year's semifinals (Dec. 31 in Atlanta and Arizona) or the Jan. 9 national title game at Raymond James Stadium.

Executive director Bill Hancock said during SEC media days that such a move would be a possibility in light of fan uproar and a significant drop in TV ratings.

"We had healthy discussions with a lot of people who love college football and we concluded that making these changes would be the right thing to do for our fans." Hancock said in the CFP's announcement.

"We tried to do something special with New Year's Eve, even when it fell on a weekday. But after studying this to see if it worked, we think we can do better. These adjustments will allow more people to experience the games they enjoy so much. For these four years, our previous call is reversed."

The 2018 semifinals will be on Dec. 29 at the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl. The next year, the semifinals will be on Dec. 28 at the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl. …

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FSU football puts five on preseason All-ACC team

Florida State placed five players on the preseason All-ACC team, the league announced this morning.

Running back Dalvin Cook, offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, safety Derwin James and receiver Travis Rudolph were all selected. The ACC doesn't do second- or third-team honorees.

Miami's only representative is punter Justin Vogel, a former Gator and Berkeley Prep alum. Clemson receiver Artavis Scott (East Lake High) was one of 10 Tigers chosen.

It's worth noting that Heisman Trophy frontrunner Deshaun Watson wasn't a unanimous selection at quarterback; he received 188 of 191 votes by the media (including mine). Miami's Brad Kaaya, Louisville's Lamar Jackson and North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky all got one vote each.

The full list: …

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Florida Gators assistant Geoff Collins receives $300,000 raise

In non-Treon Harris news, the Florida Gators released updated coaching contracts Monday.

Most notably, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will earn more than $1 million this year. Collins received a $300,000 raise in base pay (to $890,000), in addition to a $150,000 retention bonus due in February. Collins led a Gators defense that was one of the best in the nation last season, and his name was rumored to be in the mix for the head coaching job at UCF.

The updated deal makes Collins one of the most highly paid assistants in college football; only nine assistants made more than $1 million last season, according to USA Today's database.

New defensive backs coach Torrian Gray signed a two-year deal worth $325,000 in base pay.

Offensive line coach Mike Summers' base pay is up to $488,500. He made $190,000 last season from UF but was also on the payroll at his last stop, USC.

Defensive line coach Chris Rumph will earn $490,000, up from the $415,000 he was scheduled to make.

Linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Randy Shannon earned a slight bump, to $399,750 (up from $390,000).

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Florida Gators' former starting QB Treon Harris to transfer

Loren Elliott | Tampa Bay Times

Former starting quarterback Treon Harris intends to transfer after two turbulent seasons with the Florida Gators, the school confirmed Monday.

The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Harris was entering his junior season. He started 15 games in his first two seasons at UF, where he completed 174 of his 346 passes for 2,695 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Harris was indefinitely suspended in the spring for undisclosed reasons but was allowed to return to campus and work out with the team during the summer. He previously served two suspensions -- one for what reportedly failing a drug test and another in 2014 after he was accused of sexual assault by another student. The woman later dropped her complaint, and he was reinstated.

Harris was 4-2 as UF's starter as a true freshman in 2014. He helped the Gators upset No. 9 Georgia in his first career start but completed less than half of his passes that season. …

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ACC football predictions: Clemson, Deshaun Watson over FSU, Dalvin Cook

The ACC's media poll predicts the Clemson Tigers to top the Florida State Seminoles and win the conference title.

Matt Baker | Tampa Bay Times

The ACC's media poll predicts the Clemson Tigers to top the Florida State Seminoles and win the conference title.

Clemson, not Florida State, is the favorite to win the ACC, according to the league's preseason poll by media members at last week's ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte.

The Tigers received 144 of 191 votes; Florida State was second (39), followed by North Carolina (seven) and Louisville (one). As I wrote last week, I gave the Seminoles my vote to win the league and UNC to top the Coastal Division.

The bigger upset is that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was not a unanimous pick for preseason Player of the Year. He received 164 of the votes. FSU running back Dalvin Cook was next (18), followed by UNC running back Elijah Hood (four) and a pair of quarterbacks -- Miami's Brad Kaaya (two) and Louisville's Lamar Jackson (one). Duke returner/cornerback DeVon Edwards had the other vote. (Full disclosure: Watson was my pick).

North Carolina is projected to win the Coastal and received 121 first-place votes; Miami was second and took 50 first-place votes.

The projected order of finish:

Atlantic Division
1. Clemson
2. FSU
3. Louisville
4. North Carolina State
5. Boston College
6. Syracuse
7. Wake Forest …

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Deshaun Watson on Dalvin Cook: 'He's one of the best running backs in the country'

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson praised FSU star Dalvin Cook on Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff.

Matt Baker | Tampa Bay Times

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson praised FSU star Dalvin Cook on Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We haven't yet heard from Florida State at the annual ACC Football Kickoff, but the Seminoles have been a major topic of discussion.

Clemson players were complimentary of their Atlantic Division rival, including FSU's star running back, Dalvin Cook.

"He's one of the best running backs in the country," said Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite. "He does a lot of great things. He pass protects. He runs the ball well. He catches the ball well. He runs routes. He does everything. He's a great athlete and a great guy..."

Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware also said that Cook is "definitely at the top" of the best running backs he has faced.

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Bobby Petrino: Louisville football 'right there' in competing with FSU, Clemson

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson addresses reporters Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff.

Matt Baker | Tampa Bay Times

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson addresses reporters Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Florida State and Clemson have been the class of the ACC, and that will likely continue this season. But don't sleep on Louisville.

The Cardinals have one of the top quarterbacks in the league (Lamar Jackson), and coach Bobby Petrino said he thinks his team is close to challenging the Seminoles and Tigers. Louisville's two losses to Clemson since joining the ACC have been by a combined nine points, and the Cardinals took a 21-0 lead on FSU in 2014 before the Noles rallied to win.

"I feel like we're right there..." Petrino said Friday during the ACC Football Kickoff. "It's been competitive, but like I said, it's our job to get over the hill and find a way to win."

Petrino is entering the third season of his second stint as Louisville's head coach and said he thinks his team finally had the roster and depth it needs to challenge for conference championships.

Petrino also said his Cardinals are tweaking their fall camp to account for a tough early schedule (home against FSU on Sept. 17 and at Clemson on Oct. 1). Those changes include harder conditioning earlier than usual and more practice with handling crowd noise. …

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Why I'm picking FSU to beat UNC for the ACC football championship

I'm predicting FSU to win this trophy, a few blocks away from here, less than five months from now.

Matt Baker | Tampa Bay Times

I'm predicting FSU to win this trophy, a few blocks away from here, less than five months from now.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The ACC will announce its preseason predictions and all-conference teams in the coming days. In the meantime, you'll have to settle for picking apart what I submitted Thursday night during my stay here at the ACC Football Kickoff. But please do remember that I get paid to write, not make predictions; if I were any good at that, I'd be living in Vegas and driving a much nicer car.

Preseason Player of the Year

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. I'm really, really high on Florida State's Dalvin Cook, but Watson proved in the national title game that he's the best quarterback in the country.

Atlantic Division
Might as well flip a coin between FSU and Clemson. The winner will almost certainly take the ACC title, and I think, end up in Tampa for the Jan. 9 national title game. …

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Mark Richt talks Miami Hurricanes' lack of ACC title and more

First-year Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt addresses reporters Thursday during the ACC Kickoff.

Matt Baker | Tampa Bay Times

First-year Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt addresses reporters Thursday during the ACC Kickoff.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A few quick notes from the Miami Hurricanes' appearances today at the ACC Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte:

It's not exactly a surprise, but first-year ‘Canes coach Mark Richt said he intends to finish his coaching career at UM.

"Being back at my alma mater is huge for me," Richt said. "It's a good spot for me to finish my career. I have no intention of doing anything other than finish my coaching career at Miami."

It's one thing to say it, but Richt also appears to be backing it up. His staff has been spending a lot of time in South Florida's youth leagues; he plans to spend an hour or so each Thursday during the season checking out youth parks, seeing (and being seen by) kids who are 8, 9 or 10 years old.

"I want those guys to love Miami," Richt said. "I want them to get excited about Miami. Why would I be seeing 8-year-olds if I didn't plan on sticking around for a while? I'm looking for the future by doing that." …

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ACC Network officially announced, coming in 2019

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The ACC Network is officially on its way.

The league formally announced the creation of a new network with ESPN on Thursday during the ACC Kickoff at the Westin hotel. The ACC's network is scheduled to launch in 2019, and the deal runs through 2035-36. An extra, digital component - ACC Network Extra - will begin this fall.

As part of the announcement, the ACC will expand to 20 conference basketball games.

The main network will broadcast 450 live events a year, including 40 football games and more than 150 men's/women's basketball games, commissioner John Swofford said during his announcement.

Swofford said the new ESPN deals "competitively position the Atlantic Coast Conference for the long term."

The announcement, which leaked earlier this week, has other ramifications, too. The impending launch of a network was one factor that triggered the Big 12's decision to pursue expansion.

Perhaps the biggest note: All 15 teams (including sorta member Notre Dame) signed a grant-of-rights agreement that runs through the duration of ESPN's deal, Swofford said. That almost certainly ensures that the ACC's teams won't be poached by other leagues.

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FSU football to be subject of Showtime all-access documentary series

Florida State will be the subject of an all-access documentary series on Showtime, the network announced Tuesday afternoon. 

A Season with Florida State football will begin airing weekly 30-minute episodes on Tuesday, Sept. 5, the night after the Seminoles' season opener against Ole Miss in Orlando. The episodes will air every Tuesday at 10 p.m.

This is the second year for the series; Notre Dame was the subject last year.

"We are very excited to partner with Showtime this season and eager to give college football fans a unique look into our program," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said in a statement. "At Florida State, we have a tremendous family atmosphere, and we are looking forward to showcasing what makes FSU football special." 

 

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Jim McElwain on Tyrie Cleveland, Rick Wells arrests: 'These guys will be dealt with'

Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain addressed the recent arrests of freshmen receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells as he made the rounds Tuesday on ESPN but didn't reveal what punishments they might face.

"These guys will be dealt with," McElwain said this morning on ESPN's SportsCenter, "and it'll be taken care of."

Cleveland is one of UF's top recruits in this year's class. The 6-foot-2, 189-pound athlete was a four-star prospect and the No. 2 receiver in the country in 247Sports' composite rankings. Wells is a three-star recruit.

Both were arrested on felony charges early Monday morning related to a BB gun incident. Both have been released from jail, according to public records. Their next court dates have not yet been set.

McElwain stressed that the education aspect of incidents is important, too, beyond the punishment. No idea what that means for those two Gators receivers heading into the Sept. 3 season opener against UMass.

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Jalen Tabor only Florida Gator named first-team preseason all-SEC

The Florida Gators landed only one player on the preseason all-SEC first team: cornerback Jalen Tabor. The honorees - as voted on by the media (including me) - were released Friday morning.

Seven other Gators were also honored:
Second team: OL Martez Ivey, OL David Sharpe, DL Bryan Cox, LB Jarrad Davis, P Johnny Townsend
Third team: DL CeCe Jefferson, DB Marcus Maye

Here are the full teams, with total points from the 331 voters in parenthesis: …

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SEC predictions: Florida Gators second in SEC East, Bama is league favorite

HOOVER, Ala. - The Florida Gators are projected to finish second in the SEC East, according to the media's predictions.

Tennessee is the favorite to win the division, earning 225 first-place votes; UF got 57 first-place votes. Five media members projected UF to win the league.

Alabama is projected to win the West and the conference as a whole. LSU was second in both. I posted my predictions earlier today.

Overall predictions:
SEC East
1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Kentucky
5. Vanderbilt
6. Missouri
7. South Carolina

SEC West
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Ole Miss
4. Texas A&M
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Mississippi State

SEC champion
1. Alabama (223 votes)
2. LSU (59)
3. Tennessee (29)
4. Georgia (7)
5. Florida (5)
6. Ole Miss (4)
T-7. Texas A&M (1)
T-7. South Carolina (1)
T-7. Vanderbilt (1)
T-7. Arkansas (1)

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