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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Report: Byron Cowart, Ryan Davis arrested at Auburn


    A pair of former local high school stars have been arrested at Auburn, according to the Opelika-Auburn News.

    Former Armwood High defensive end Byron Cowart and Lakewood High receiver Ryan Davis were arrested late Saturday on misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession, according to the paper....

  2. 2017 NFL draft: Brad Kaaya, Dalvin Cook among top prospects


    The 2016 NFL draft has been over for more than one full day...which means it's time to look ahead to the 2017 draft, right? 

    Yes, this is ridiculous. No, you cannot project which team will be picking where, let alone what that team's needs will be a year from now.

    But, for fun, I peeked at a few for an insanely early Mock Draft Monday.

    Clemson QB Deshaun Watson was the unanimous top pick (according to The Big Lead, SBNation and

    Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is expected to go somewhere between 10th and 17th in next year's draft.
  3. State products selected in 2016 NFL draft


    State products selected

    First round

    No. 5, Jaguars: FSU DB Jalen Ramsey

    No. 11, Bucs: Florida/Wharton High CB Vernon Hargreaves

    No. 17, Falcons: Florida S Keanu Neal

    No. 25, Steelers: Miami CB Artie Burns

    Second round

    No. 59, Bucs: FSU K Roberto Aguayo

    Third round

    No. 72, Bears: Florida DL Jonathan Bullard...

    Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey waves to the crowd in Chicago after being selected fifth overall by the Jaguars in Thursday’s first round.
  4. Offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch finds right sport, and Bucs


    TAMPA — Caleb Benenoch's path to the NFL draft started with a miscommunication.

    Benenoch was born in Nigeria but living in Katy, Texas, when he asked his mother to sign him up for football. She was excited; why not let him play soccer?

    "We got out here, and it was a completely different game than what we thought it was," Benenoch said. "I fell in love with it really fast, and I've been playing ever since."...

    Caleb Benenoch, right, played three seasons on the offensive line at UCLA.
  5. NFL draft: Bucs take Northwestern fullback Dan Vitale


    The Bucs entered the NFL draft without a fullback but found one with their final pick in the sixth round. Tampa Bay drafted Northwestern's Dan Vitale with the No. 197 pick - its final one of hte draft.

    Vitale started 49 games for the Wildcats at superback - Northwestern's fullback/tight end hybrid. He scored 11 touchdowns in his college career.

    "I think I'll be able to do al ot for the team, which I'm excited about..." Vitale said. "I think an H-back is kind of what I'm looknig at. I'm excited to contribute."...

    Dan Vitale scored 11 touchdowns in his college career.
  6. NFL Draft: Bucs take UCLA lineman Caleb Benenoch in fifth round


    After starting their draft on defense and special teams, the Bucs opted to pick offense in the fifth round. They drafted UCLA offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch with the No. 148 overall pick.

    Benenoch was projected as a third-round pick. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound athlete began his college career at right tackle but started four times at guard as a junior....

    Caleb Benenoch was projected as a third-round pick.
  7. 'The Bucs just made Roberto Aguayo a 15-year vet'


    While some fans (and pundits) were scratching their heads Friday night when the Bucs traded into the second round to draft Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo, former Bucs special-teams assistant Billy Miller was beaming.

    "I had a smile from ear to ear," said Miller, who trained Aguayo at Brandenton's IMG Academy. "I couldn't be happier for the kid. He put the work in......

    The Bucs traded into the second round to draft Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo.
  8. NFL Draft: Locals Chris Moore, Tyler Higbee picked in fourth round


    Two local players were among the first 12 picks Saturday in the final day of the NFL draft.

    Former Jefferson High star receiver Chris Moore was the No. 107 overall pick to the Ravens. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Moore totaled 870 yards and seven touchdowns at Cincinnati last season; he ranked fourth nationally in yards per catch (21.8)....

    Tyler Higbee sustained a knee injury last fall but still racked up 38 catches for 563 yards and eight touchdowns.
  9. Bears grab Gator


    Gators DT Jonathan Bullard, projected by some as a potential late first-round pick, went in the third round to the Bears at No. 72 overall. He was the seventh defensive tackle taken Friday, after five in the second round.

    High on kickers

    It's not often you see an NFL kicker drafted in the first 60 picks, as the Bucs did Friday in trading up to take Florida State's Roberto Aguayo at No. 59 in the second round.
    Recent history bodes well for kickers taken so high - the past three were Mike Nugent (47th in 2005), Sebastien Janikowski (17th in 2000) and Jason Hanson (56th in 1992). The career averages for those three are 16 years in the NFL and 364 made field goals. Those are still active counts for Nugent and Janikowski; Hanson lasted 21 years, all with the Lions.
    Compare that to the Bucs, who in their 40-year history have never had a kicker last longer than six years - the career record for made field goals is 137, set by Martin Gramatica from 1999-2004....

    Florida’s Jonathan Bullard lasts until the third round as the Bears select the defensive tackle 72nd overall.
  10. Bucs trade up to take FSU kicker Robert Aguayo


    TAMPA — After being praised for landing their top target while adding a fourth-round pick Thursday, the Bucs are prepared for the jokes that will follow Friday's questionable trade.

    Tampa Bay used that extra pick to move up 15 spots and select Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round (No. 59 overall).

    "We know it's going to be criticized," coach Dirk Koetter said....

    Roberto Aguayo, who won the Lou Groza Award as a freshman, never missed a kick inside 40 yards with the Seminoles.
  11. Bucs trade up to draft FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo at No. 59


    The Bucs have drafted former Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo. Tampa Bay traded with the Chiefs to pick Aguayo - the most accurate kicker in college football history - at No. 59.

    Aguayo became the first kicker to declare early for the draft since another Seminole, Sebastian Janikowski.

    The 2013 Lou Groza Award winner never missed a kick inside 40 yards in his FSU career. He hit each of his 198 extra points, and the Seminoles credit him and Deion Sanders as the only two three-time first-team All-Americans in program history. ...

    Roberto Aguayo never missed a kick inside 40 yards in his FSU career.
  12. Vernon Hargreaves' mom: 'No better feeling than to have your son come home'


    Vernon Hargreaves' homecoming became official today when the Bucs introduced the former Florida/Wharton High star cornerback as their newest draft pick.

    Among the happiest in the crowd: Hargreaves' mother, Jackie.

    "There's no better joy, no better feeling than to have your son come home," Jackie said.

    At UF's pro day, Jackie said she was trying to make sure Hargreaves was staying out of trouble and eating right. Jackie and her husband, also named Vernon, talked about how it couldn't get any better than Hargreaves playing for his hometown Bucs....

    Vernon Hargreaves III leaves a news conference Friday at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, His father, Vernon Hargreaves Jr., can be seen behind him.
  13. NFL draft: Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Bullard, Chris Moore are Day 2 options


    As expected, Thursday was a busy day for NFL draft prospects with state ties. Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey went fifth to the Jaguars. Two Florida defensive backs, Vernon Hargreaves and Keanu Neal, went in the top 17. Miami had a first rounder, too; the Steelers picked CB Artie Burns at No. 25....

  14. Day 1 of NFL draft: The highs and lows


    As expected, the top two picks in the draft were both quarterbacks. The Los Angeles Rams stayed in the state to select Cal's Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall selection, and the Eagles chose North Dakota State's Carson Wentz second.

    The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Goff is the second Cal player chosen with the first pick; Steve Bartkowski was the top pick in 1975 to the Falcons. Wentz comes from a small-school powerhouse, and he's the first quarterback from a Division I-AA program to go in the first round since Delaware's Joe Flacco went to Baltimore in 2008....

    Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, left, poses for photos upon arriving for the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ILKS105
  15. Jaguars draft FSU's Jalen Ramsey (w/video)


    With quarterbacks expected to go with the top two picks, the Jaguars zeroed in on three other players to target with their No. 5 overall pick.

    They didn't expect Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey to be there.

    But when four picks ticked away on Thursday and Ramsey remained, Jacksonville quickly snatched the former Seminoles star to join a roster teeming with state ties.

    "Man, I am so happy, I am so happy, I am so blessed," Ramsey said. "All the 'Nole Nation, you all just come to Jacksonville now."...

    Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey runs back the ball for a touchdown during a game against Boston College last season in Boston. [AP photo]