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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

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. The Gators plan to use cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (Wharton High) at least some on offense this year, UF coach Jim McElwain told SI.com.
  2. Baker's Dozen: Matt Baker looks ahead to college football openers

    College

    The first weekend of college football is upon us, at long last. Remember that thought when you're watching Florida's major programs beat down four-touchdown underdogs Saturday. Although none of the state's big games should be close, there's still plenty to check out on the first Saturday of the season. Here are the 13 facts, stats and breakdowns you need to prepare for the start of the season:

    The Gators are 37-point favorites against New Mexico State, so it probably won't matter that sophomore Treon Harris will start over redshirt freshman Will Grier. Both will play, and their performances will help determine who starts next week against East Carolina and beyond. Although Harris' athleticism might be necessary as UF breaks in an offensive line with four new starters, Grier seems like the better long-term fit for coach Jim McElwain. None of McElwain's previous Division I-A quarterbacks rushed as often as Harris did last season (75 times in only nine games)....

    Although the athleticism of Treon Harris, pictured, might be necessary as UF breaks in an offensive line with four new starters,Will  Grier seems like the better long-term fit for coach Jim McElwain. [Getty Images]
  3. Video: Previewing college football's opening weekend

    Blog

    Because the college football season is finally, mercifully upon us, Joey Knight and I sat down to preview the opening slate of games: USF-FAMU, Florida State-Texas State and Florida-New Mexico State, plus UCF-FIU and Bethune-Cookman at Miami. Here's our video.

    The Times' Matt Baker, left, and Joey Knight preview the opening slate of college football games involving state teams in this video report.
  4. Locals dot college football rosters around nation

    College

    Former bay area high school standouts don't just dot Division I-A rosters around the state. There are a lot of local players expected to see significant time around the nation.

    RB Matt Breida, Jr., Georgia Southern

    This Nature Coast alum was one of the top backs in the nation a year ago, racking up 1,485 yards. His 8.68 yards per carry led the nation. And he just might be in the picture for college player of the year, cracking the Maxwell Award watch list. ...

  5. Florida Gators name Treon Harris starter for opener

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Sophomore Treon Harris will be Florida's starting quarterback in Saturday's season opener.

    Whether he keeps that job beyond the New Mexico State game remains unclear.

    Although coach Jim McElwain announced Harris as the starter after Wednesday's practice, McElwain said redshirt freshman Will Grier will play, too. Saturday's performances will be key evaluating tools as the Gators determine who will start the next 11 games....

    Treon Harris beats out Will Grier for Saturday’s start due in part to his speed and how other players have reacted to him.
  6. Florida Gators name Treon Harris starting quarterback for season opener

    Blog

    GAINESVILLE - Sophomore Treon Harris will start at quarterback for Florida in Saturday's season opener against New Mexico State, Gators coach Jim McElwain announced after Wednesday's practice.

    Harris, a 5-foot-11 Miami native, was 4-2 as a starter last season.

    "It was really close," McElwain said.

    And it's still not over.

    Redshirt freshman Will Grier will also play Saturday. McElwain said both quarterbacks will play a few series at a time to get into a rhythm and help him decide who the starter will be going forward....

    Treon Harris, a 5-foot-11 Miami native, was 4-2 as a starter last season.
  7. ACC basketball schedules released for Miami, Florida State

    Blog

    The ACC released the complete men's basketball schedules today. Here are the schedules for Florida State and Miami:

    FSU

    Nov. 2 vs. Lynn (exhibition)

    Nov. 9 vs. Southeastern (exhibition)

    Nov. 15 vs. Nicholls State

    Nov. 17 vs. Jacksonville

    Nov. 20 vs. Hofstra (at U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam), 3:30...

  8. Florida Gators updates, on switching quarterbacks and Jeremi Powell

    Blog

    Two quick Gators notes from Wednesday's early availability:

    Coach Jim McElwain shared a little bit more information about how he'll use both quarterbacks Saturday. On the coaches' teleconference, McElwain said he will likely leave each player - sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier - in for a few series before switching. It's still unclear which one will start the season opener against New Mexico State....

  9. Which direction? College football programs across Florida face a crossroads

    College

    TALLAHASSEE

    The morning after winning his first national title as a head coach, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher still wasn't satisfied. • With championship trophies nearby, Fisher said he didn't want to build a great team. He wanted to build a great program. • As the college football season kicks off today, Fisher's Seminoles enter the year at a fork in the road between the two. The 'Noles will either veer toward the path of a great team defined by now-departed Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston or toward becoming a great program that can sustain national success. • While the expectations are highest at FSU, the rest of the state's major programs find themselves facing their own crossroads. • At Miami, coach Al Golden enters his fifth year with no guarantee of a sixth, if the Hurricanes' production doesn't begin to near its potential. The same holds true with USF's Willie Taggart, whose much-hyped bus has stalled through the first two years and is in danger of needing to find an exit ramp. • In Gainesville, first-year coach Jim McElwain takes over a Florida program that has alternated between home-run hires (Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer) and flameouts (Ron Zook, Will Muschamp). If McElwain ever needs a reminder of the path fans expect him to follow, he can stop to gaze at the three statues of Heisman winners he drives by every day. • "I just think it is an honor to be able to pursue that," McElwain said. "That's the expectation you get in this business. … You have to constantly go, because someone is getting better. You have to go, man."...

    Getty Images
  10. 2015 Miami Hurricanes football preview

    College

    Coach Al Golden could be on his way out of Coral Gables if Miami doesn't find itself at least contending for the Coastal Division crown. Here's what needs to happen for the 'Canes to have a shot at playing for the ACC title:

    1. Brad Kaaya must thrive

    Quarterbacks aren't immune to the sophomore slump; Penn State's Christian Hackenberg had Kaaya-like buzz after his true freshman season but had more interceptions than touchdowns last fall. For UM to have a shot at success, Kaaya must star. He was the ACC's top rookie last year after passing for 26 touchdowns and almost 3,200 yards and will be expected to exceed those numbers in his second year....

    Brad Kaaya was the ACC's top rookie last year after passing for 26 touchdowns and almost 3,200 yards and will be expected to exceed those numbers in his second year. [Getty Images]
  11. Everett Golson settles in nicely with Florida State Seminoles

    College

    What had seemed preordained since May became official Monday: Everett Golson is Florida State's starting quarterback.

    So why did it take 105 days to make a seemingly obvious decision, that the Seminoles would try to replace Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston with the graduate transfer from Notre Dame?

    The choice ultimately comes down to layers of comfort — starting with Golson and ending with coach Jimbo Fisher....

    Everett Golson accounted for 37 touchdowns last year; only seven players in the country were responsible for more points. [AP photo]
  12. 2015 Florida State Seminoles football position by position

    College

    Quarterback

    Everett Golson (above) beat redshirt junior Sean Maguire to become the starter. Golson is tremendously talented — he took Notre Dame to a national title game — but also prone to turnovers. If he gets hurt, Maguire showed he's a capable backup when he led FSU to a win over Clemson last year.

    Running back

    Even with Karlos Williams in the NFL, the Seminoles have plenty of depth here. Dalvin Cook (above) is back from his indefinite suspension, and coach Jimbo Fisher said Cook has shown the same burst he did last year when he broke out with a 1,000-yard freshman season. Mario Pender has shown flashes (when healthy), and Fisher has said sophomore Johnathan Vickers has NFL potential....

    Terrance Smith might be the ACC's best linebacker this year. [Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS]
  13. Can Florida State Seminoles be a contender again?

    College

    Although Florida State enters the season outside the Top 5, the Seminoles can end up as legitimate contenders to make it back to the national semifinal. Here's what must happen for FSU to return to the final four:

    1. Reduce turnovers

    The Seminoles were second-to-last in the country last season, losing 32 turnovers. Only one quarterback threw more interceptions than Jameis Winston's 18. Even with Winston gone, turnovers remain a concern. The recently named starter, Everett Golson, was turnover-prone at Notre Dame. He threw 14 interceptions in 13 games last year and lost eight fumbles — second-most in the country. Golson insists that he has figured out his turnover issue, but any recurring problems could doom the 'Noles. ...

    The Seminoles'  top returning offensive player is running back Dalvin Cook, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year as a true freshman. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
  14. Report: UCF's George O'Leary could stay AD, leave coaching

    Blog

    UPDATE, 3:09: O'Leary told the Orlando Sentinel that he plans to keep doing both jobs well and that his new contract expires in 2020. Here's the Sentinel's story. 

     

    UCF football coach George O'Leary would like to become the school's full-time athletic director and end his coaching career after the season, according to a report from USA Today....

    George O'Leary was named the school's interim AD over the summer and is in his 12th season as the Knights' coach.