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Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Laura Keeley, Matt Baker, John C. Cotey, Joey Knight

What others are writing about O.J. Murdock's apparent suicide

You can read our coverage of ex-Middleton star and NFL receiver O.J. Murdock’s suicide here.

Two quick links from other publications:

* Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg writes a fantastic column about two former South Carolina receivers, Murdock and Kenny McKinley, who shot themselves two years apart.

* And TE Jared Cook – Murdock’s former roommate at South Carolina - told the Tennessean that he was shocked by Murdock’s suicide.

“It is a horrible thing,” Cook said. “You just don’t see things like this coming. He was an awesome dude, he really was.”

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Defending the Donnie Abraham hire

Last week, some scoffed at the hiring of Donnie Abraham as the coach-in-waiting at Clearwater. Critics pointed out that he stayed at Gibbs for just two seasons before bolting. When Abraham left, his record was only 10-11, hardly stellar for a coach at such a plush job.

But Abraham could be just what the Tornadoes need.

For starters, Clearwater's problem last season was defense. The Tornadoes gave up more than 30 points per game, including more than 50 twice. In the spring, it only got worse against Largo. Defense is Abaraham's specialty. After starting 0-3 in 2009 at Gibbs, Abraham helped turn the defense around, allowing just 76 points in the last seven games as the Gladiators went on a roll to win the school's first district title. True, Gibbs did stumble to 3-7 in 2010 but the Gladiators were in a rebuilding year after losing several key starters, including Division I recruits Jarvis West (Iowa State) and Tim Jackson (North Carolina).

As far as Abaraham's commitment, he left because he took a job with the Tampa Bay Storm but it also was quite a haul from the Tarpon Springs area to Gibbs each day. At Clearwater, he will have a much shorter drive. …

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O.J. Murdock: Stories from the archives

We're continuing to cover the death of NFL receiver and ex-Middleton standout O.J. Murdock in an apparent suicide. Here are a few stories on Murdock from our archives:

* As a sophomore in 2003, he was already wowing reporters with his speed at his first big high school track meet: "Hoots and hollers are already thundering through the bleachers when O.J. Murdock runs, because man oh man, can this kid ever run."

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Florida Gators are Tampa Bay's most efficient recruiters

Although we didn’t analyze offers’ effectiveness in Sunday’s breakdown of all 787 college offers in Tampa Bay, it’s hard to imagine a school as efficient with its offers as Florida.

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When it comes to offers, Class 5A, District 8 is king

I think Class 5A, District 8 is the best district in Tampa Bay -- and I don't think it's even close, quite frankly -- I'd also argue that it's the best in the state.

And judging by the numbers of college scholarship offers from interested suitors, so do the folks at the next level.

We published a report on the growing number of college offers in Tampa Bay in Sunday's paper. You can read it here.

Of the nine schools competing in 5A-8, six have players with offers, and three of those schools have multiple players with offers. In all, 20 players in the district have a combined 194 offers.

While Gibbs (linebacker Maurice Hall has an Oklahoma offer), Dunedin (running back Tramaine Batten has five offers) and Spoto (running back Eric Moate has five offers) all sport one player, Robinson has two (USF offensive line commitments Bruce Hector and Conner Rafferty) and Jesuit (7) and Lakewood (8) lead the way.

The Tigers, the defending district champions, has 120 total offers, thanks to the hefty totals of Miami tight end commitment Travis Johnson (43) and 2014 linebacker/tight end Vincent Jackson, who has 28. …

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Concussions, a 14-year-old commit, scary photos & other links

Some high school stories and photos that caught my attention this week:

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Why doesn't Florida produce better high school quarterbacks?

Rivals analyst Chris Nee raised an interesting point on Twitter last week, noting Winter Park QB (and USF commit) Asiantii Woulard was the only Florida passer at the Elite 11 finals. “Kind of indicative of Fla. QB talent,” he wrote.

 

Agreed.

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Holy Cap! Spoto coach drops 90 pounds

If the Spoto Spartans can pursue winning as intensely as their coach has pursued losing this offseason, they could run the table in Class 5A, District 8.

Veteran coach Dale Caparaso enters preseason drills 90 pounds lighter -- down to around caparaso.jpg190 -- than he was at the outset of 2012. Pictured is the "after" Caparaso, who helped arrange our photo shoot Wednesday with Spartans standouts (left to right) Traverrian Williams, Marc McCoy and Eric Moate.

The way he described it, Caparaso's weight-loss program demanded commitment with little complexity. He and wife Anne, also employed by the Hillsborough County school district, have subsisted primarily on vegetables and chicken in recent months (though they did splurge a bit on a recent cruise). They complement their diet with daily workouts on their elliptical machine, stationary bike and treadmill.

 

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Point-counterpoint: Are the UCF Knights invading the USF Bulls' recruiting turf?

My esteemed colleague, John C. Cotey, disagreed with some of the assertions I made in this story in today's paper about whether UCF recruiting is gaining on USF in Tampa Bay. So we hashed it out below. What do you think? Is UCF invading this area? Or is it much ado about not much? And where does the recruiting battle go from here?

COTEY: Well, Matt, the good news: no hate mail yet. I know USF fans tend to be a little sensitive on the subject of this “war” with UCF, but I wouldn’t be too worried if I were the Bulls. Not yet, anyway. I’m with them on this: I think the UCF thing is a little overhyped at this point.

BAKER: So if you’re a Bulls fan/coach, you’re not worried? Even though UCF has gained its first two USF targets from Tampa Bay in a decade? And that the Knights are a finalist for one of the area’s top players? And that they have a new assistant - a well-regarded recruiter - who happens to have ties here? And that if the current rankings hold true, UCF’s class will be ranked higher than USF’s for the third time in the last four seasons? …

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Plant-Jesuit pegged for Saturday?

Contrary to the source-less proclamations dispersed throughout Twitter-verse earlier today, a kickoff time for Plant's highly anticipated season opener at Jesuit has not been set, administrators and coaches at Plant say.

But a Friday night kickoff apparently is off the table.

The convergence of the Republican National Convention and the opening week of the prep regular season has forced the game to be switched from its original date of Friday, Aug. 31.

"I have just been told that it will not be Friday night," Panthers coach Robert Weiner told the Times in a text message on Tuesday. "No word yet on when it will be."

Plant principal Robert Nelson added a date has not been set and both schools are trying to work things out. Jesuit athletic director Terry Rupp wasn't immediately available Tuesday, but school spokesman Michael Hogan said  he had no confirmation of a game date yet. Rupp recently told the Times the date of the game would hinge on when the school could secure an adequate police presence.

With the RNC set to end Thursday, Aug. 30, moving the game back a day appears out, which would leave Saturday. …

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Is it just me, or is it time to bring the Blog Bowl back?

Now that the blog is back, it's time for the Blog Bowl to be back.

The Blog Bowl, you say? Oh, you newbies.

Back in 2007, before staff writer Matt Baker was even born, the first Blog Bowl featured Indian Rocks Christian against Northside Christian. The Golden Eagles won that one, and we awarded Jonny Sitton MVP honors and the Blog Bowl trophy -- a broken laptop decorated by artiste Joey Knight.

In 2008, Jimbo Chmelik and Dorrance Roberts led Countryside over Dunedin. They got limited edition Friday Night Rewind tee-shirts. You can watch that here:

Back then, the blog was generating some serious heat over these games. So we took that and ran with it, creating games around the interest. Since it was the most talked about game, we ran a boatload of blog items during the week, special interviews, video previews, guest posts and appearances and game breakdowns.

To cap it off, the game led off the award-winning Friday Night Rewind, and featured a MVP presentation afterwards.

Was it overkill? Yes. Yes it was. But the teams loved it, and it made for more great debate.

Unfortunately, the old blog was run aground by anonymous commentors, so we've regrouped. This is our new, shiny, cooler blog.  …

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Carrollwood Day or Admiral Farragut?

We started our series of district previews today, and we start with Class 2A-5 right HERE.

While Bob Putnam and Joey Knight, the authors of the preview, are picking Admiral Farragut first and CDS second, I mentioned on Twitter (where I can be found at @JohnnyHomeTeam) that CDS coach Lane McLaughlin has almost convinced me that the Patriots, and not the Blue Jackets, will be winning that district.

They looked good this weekend in 7-on-7, with new QB Vidal Woodruff hooking up with RB Robert Davis and WR Andy Embody, but McLaughlin said he has some hogs to play on the offensive line this year for a change. He's pumped up.

Cortavious Givens, AFA's top player if his knee gets back to 100 percent, and former CDS QB Billy Embody (his brother Andy is on this year's squad) engaged in a little back-and-forth on Twitter on the correct order for 2A-5.

Givens best point was this: I didn't play in last year's game. …

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John Kaleo event wil be loaded with local standouts. Loaded.

John Kaleo is capping months of camps, combines and 7-on-7s with a summer showcase, bringing together most of the area's top football players for a NFL-style combine and skills challenge.

The Kaleo QB Academy will hold its second annual invite only event July 27th at Skyway Park. Former Bucs Todd Yoder (tight end), Reidel Anthony (wide receiver), Yo Murphy (wide receiver) and Casey Weldon (quarterback) will serve as guest coaches, along with Kaleo and local quarterback guru Chip Bennett.

 

Who's going to be competing?

 

Who's not competing?

 

Here's the expected roster.

 

QUARTERBACKS

Pete DiNovo, East Lake

Tracy Johnson, Lakewood

Brandon Hawkins, Alonso

Nate Mills, Sickles

Juwan Brown, Largo

Christian Strong, Countryside

Chase Litton, Wharton

Alex McGough, Gaither

Taylor King, Freedom

Curtis Fitch, Steinbrenner

Brad Mayes, Berkeley Prep

 

TIGHT ENDS

Jeremy Kerr, St. Petersburg

Marcus Mosley, Alonso

A.J. Sattinger, Countryside

Allen Wilson, Tarpon Springs

Vincent Jackson, Jesuit

Marcus Brown, Gaither

Caanan Brown, CCC

Andrew Beck, Plant

 

WIDE RECEIVERS/ATHLETES

Zach Benjamin, Tampa Catholic

Richard Benjamin, Tampa Bay Tech

Travis Johnson, Jesuit

Marquez Valdez, Lakewood

Jacquez Ellison, Lakewood …

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East Lake duo among top performers at Florida State camp

Two Tampa Bay players cracked 247Sports.com’s list of the top performers so far at this week’s recruiting camp at Florida State.

East Lake WR Artavis Scott was No. 5 on the recruiting site’s list. The 2014 prospect “is quick off the line of scrimmage, easily able to beat press coverage and gets into routes with quickness,” 247 writes.

Teammate Mason Cole, a 275-pound offensive tackle, was No. 9 on the list because if his quick feet and good technique.

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What should Clearwater do with the football program?

 Just for fun, what do you think Clearwater should do as it seeks out a "coach-in-waiting" to take over for Tom Bostic after the 2012 season?

I'm writing a column on this today, but the coach-in-waiting idea seems a little short-sighted. This is a good job, right? A big job, right? This could be, in time with some serious elbow grease and dedication to restoration, a really reeeeally good job.

So why give youself a few weeks to hire someone for what is, truly, the biggest athletic hire at the school in some time...maybe ever.

Times have changed. Football programs can change the whole culture of an athletic program, if you do it right.

So what should Clearwater do?

a. Hire from within. Appoint one of the current assistant coaches as  the coach-in-waiting, for familiarity's sake.

b. Grab the best candidate available, lure him away from whereever he's coaching, and get him in there to monitor and assist during the 2012 season.

c. Get rid of Bostic today, and turn the job over to one of the assistants, and see what they can do. That way, at the end of the year, you're not locked into him. Or, you could be. …

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