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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. How will ex-Bucs coach Lovie Smith fare at Illinois?

    Blog

    CBS' college football announcers seem to think Lovie Smith will do better as the head coach at Illinois than he did with the Bucs.

    "I think the Illini can take a step forward," CBS Sports analyst Rick Neuheisel said Thursday in a teleconference with reporters.

    Neuheisel said Smith's defensive prowess will help, because there's a lot of carryover between the NFL and college games on that side of the ball. ...

    CBS' college football announcers seem to think Lovie Smith will do better as the head coach at Illinois than he did with the Bucs.
  2. Florida's Davis, Tabor among all-SEC picks

    Sports

    Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Jalen Tabor were named to the coaches' preseason all-SEC teams Thursday.

    Davis, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior, was second on the team with 98 tackles last season. Tabor, a 6-foot, 199-pound junior, ranked in the top 15 nationally with 18 passes defended as a sophomore.

    UF offensive lineman Martez Ivey, defensive lineman Bryan Cox and punter Johnny Townsend were second-team selections....

  3. Gators wait on decision about receivers' availability

    College

    As No. 25 Florida gears up for its first game week of the season, the Gators still don't know which receivers will be available.

    Coach Jim McElwain told reporters Thursday that UF is still processing the situations of standout sophomore Antonio Callaway and true freshmen Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells. It remains unclear whether any will participate in the Sept. 3 season opener against UMass....

  4. Florida Gators' Jim McElwain updates status of Antonio Callaway, Jalen Tabor

    Blog

    Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain addressed reporters Thursday as the first game week of the season approaches. A few quick notes:

    * There is still no update on standout receiver Antonio Callaway's status for the season opener. Callaway missed spring practice as UF conducted a code of conduct investigation, but he was cleared of the sexual assault complaint earlier this month. He admitted to being high on marijuana at the time of the incident. "We're working through some things," McElwain told reporters....

    There is still no update on whether standout receiver Antonio Callaway's status for the season opener.
  5. SEC football coaches name Florida Gators' Jarrad Davis, Jalen Tabor to first team

    Blog

    Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Jalen Tabor have both been named to the coaches' preseason all-SEC teams.

    Davis, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior, was second on the team with 98 tackles last season. Tabor, a 6-foot, 199-pound junior, ranked in the top 15 nationally with 18 passes defended as a sophomore....

  6. Auden Tate's tall task: Breaking out among FSU's receivers

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State receiver Auden Tate began making the unfair comparison himself when he signed with the Seminoles out of Wharton High in 2015.

    He wants to be FSU's next Kelvin Benjamin.

    The 6-foot-4 Tate has a similar frame as the hero from the Seminoles' 2013 title-game victory. The talent, receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey said, is comparable.

    "He's got the potential," said Dawsey, co-offensive coordinator and a former standout receiver for FSU (1987-90) . "The potential is there." ...

    During his high school days at Wharton, Auden Tate catches a touchdown pass against Plant. Now at FSU, he is coming off an impressive spring game.
  7. Does George O'Leary deserve a statue at UCF?

    Blog

    UCF will soon be adding a statue of former coach George O'Leary, according to this report from the Orlando Sentinel.

    Here's my question: Does he deserve it?

    Another Sentinel writer, David Whitley, argues yes, thanks in part to the miraculous Fiesta Bowl season: ...

    UCF will soon be adding a statue of former coach George O'Leary, according to this report from the Orlando Sentinel.
  8. Discipline an ongoing theme of Jim McElwain's UF regime

    College

    GAINESVILLE — When coach Jim McElwain took over at Florida, he mentioned the importance of discipline in his first address to his new team.

    A year and a half later, McElwain has had reasons to keep bringing it up, with negative headlines involving his best player, his top offensive player and one of his top recruits all emerging in the past six weeks:

    • Although standout receiver Antonio Callaway was cleared in the university's sexual assault investigation this month, he admitted to being high on marijuana at the time of the December encounter. ...

    In this Sept. 5, 2015, file photo, Florida defensive back Jalen Tabor raises his arms to fans as they cheer during the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico State in Gainesville, Fla. Florida coach Jim McElwain has suspended Tabor and tight end C'yontai Lewis on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, saying neither will play in the team's season opener against UMass. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) NY170
  9. Jesuit alum Vincent Testaverde in backup quarterback mix for Miami Hurricanes

    Blog

    Miami seems to have the best quarterback situation in the state (with starter Brad Kaaya), but the battle for the backup job remains open.

    Jesuit High alum Vincent Testaverde is in the mix to fill it.

    Testaverde, the son of the Hurricanes' Heisman Trophy winner and Bucs quarterback, is battling with Malik Rosier for the No. 2 job.

    "It's not 100-percent solid that one of those two will be the No. 2, but they're in the driver's seat right now," UM coach Mark Richt told reporters over the weekend. "They'll get all the reps with the number twos."...

    Vincent Testaverde (shown here at Jesuit High in 2013) is in the battle to become the Miami Hurricanes' backup quarterback.
  10. AP Top 25: FSU football No. 4, Florida Gators at 25

    Blog

    Florida State opens the season as the No. 4 team in the country, according to the AP's Top 25 preseason poll, which was released Sunday. The Florida Gators are No. 25.

    Defending champion Alabama is No. 1, followed by Clemson and Oklahoma. LSU is fifth. 

    The Seminoles return 17 starters, including all 11 on offense, from last year's 10-3 team. FSU also boasts one of the country's most explosive players (running back Dalvin Cook), top defensive talents (safety Derwin James) and offensive linemen (tackle Roderick Johnson). FSU earned five first-place votes; only Bama and Clemson received more....

    Florida State and star running back Dalvin Cook are No. 4 in the preseason AP poll.
  11. FSU suspends freshman QB Malik Henry

    College

    Florida State has suspended true freshman quarterback Malik Henry for violating team rules, coach Jimbo Fisher said Saturday.

    Fisher did not say how long Henry will be out, and he did not specify which rule Henry violated.

    Henry was one of the top players in a 2016 recruiting class that some analysts considered the best in the country.

    The four-star prospect was the nation's No. 4 pro-style quarterback and No. 47 player overall, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The California native enrolled at FSU in January....

  12. FSU quarterback Malik Henry suspended for violating team rules

    Blog

    Florida State has suspended true freshman quarterback Malik Henry for violating team rules, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters Saturday.

    Fisher did not say how long Henry will be out.

    Henry was one of the top players in a 2016 recruiting class that some analysts considered the best in the country.

    The four-star prospect was the nation's No. 4 pro-style quarterback and No. 47 player overall, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The California native enrolled at FSU in January.

    Henry was expected to redshirt this season, but his absence saps depth from the quarterback position. The most experienced quarterback, senior Sean Maguire, will be out until the second or third game of the season because of a foot injury. That leaves only redshirt sophomore J.J. Cosentino and freshman walk-on Jake Rizzo as the two backups for Deondre Francois....

    Malik Henry was one of the top players in a 2016 recruiting class that some analysts considered the best in the country.
  13. How Luke Del Rio earned Florida Gators starting QB job

    College

    GAINESVILLE — The last time Luke Del Rio ran onto the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a real game, he looked a lot like he did Friday afternoon — casually dressed in a Gators collared shirt and shorts.

    "I looked like the equipment staff did," he said.

    Despite the casual wardrobe, that extra time on Florida's sidelines is the biggest reason why Del Rio will run out of the tunnel two weeks from Saturday as the Gators' starting quarterback....

    Luke Del Rio, who has had stops at Alabama and Oregon State in his college career, was named to start UF’s opener.
  14. Jalen Tabor, C'yontai Lewis to return to Florida Gators on Thursday

    Blog

    GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators star cornerback Jalen Tabor and tight end C'yontai Lewis are expected to return to practice Thursday from their suspension.

    Both have been suspended since they fought during practice on Tuesday. They will also miss the Sept. 3 season opener against UMass.

    "I want everyone to understand first and foremost these are two really good guys and good teammates," coach Jim McElwain said Friday. "They're valuable members of this football team and this family. And you know what, they're good people. And yet as we go on, there's certain things and levels of expectations that we have in everything that we do......

  15. Derrick Brooks' son Decalon commits to play football at FSU

    College

    Decalon Brooks will be following in his father's footsteps to Tallahassee.

    The Gaither High senior linebacker announced Thursday night that he has orally committed to Florida State. His father, Bucs legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, was a part of the Seminoles' 1993 national title team and has his No. 10 jersey retired there.

    Brooks is one of Tampa Bay's top recruits for the class of 2017. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound athlete was No. 33 on the HomeTeam 100 after averaging 11.4 tackles per game during his junior season. The three-star recruit is regarded as one of the top 200 players in the state....