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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

NFL draft prospect Caleb Brantley charged with battery

Caleb Brantley greets fans in 2016.

[ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

Caleb Brantley greets fans in 2016.

Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley has been charged with a battery after fighting with a woman earlier this month, according to Alachua County court records.

Brantley was initially listed as the victim in a Gainesville Police Department report after an early-morning altercation on April 13. But he was charged Friday with misdemeanor battery.

According to court documents, the incident began when Brantley made crude comments about the woman. She pushed Brantley, who then punched her and knocked her unconscious. The blow -- from a closed fist, according to one witness in the report -- displaced a tooth and will require a root canal.

Brantley starred at UF and is a potential first-round pick in this week's NFL draft. 

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Where locals, state schools land on ESPN's first 2018 recruiting rankings

Armwood running back Brian Snead is one of ESPN's top 200 players for the class of 2018.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

Armwood running back Brian Snead is one of ESPN's top 200 players for the class of 2018.

ESPN unveiled its first recruiting rankings for the class of 2018 this morning. Some highlights:

Miami has the country's No. 1 class, which isn't a surprise. Eleven of its 16 oral commitments are top-300 recruits. That's pretty good.

Florida State has the nation's No. 6 class, and the Gators are 17th.

The top local is Berkeley Prep offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere. He's a four-star prospect and ESPN's No. 22 overall recruit. Others on the list are:

No. 40 Calvary Christian athlete Amari Burney

No. 121 Cambridge Christian offensive tackle Richard Gouraige

No. 130 Hillsborough cornerback Ken Montgomery

No. 156 Armwood defensive tackle Malcolm Lamar

No. 169 Armwood running back Brian Snead (Ohio State commit)

No. 186 Wesley Chapel cornerback Isaiah Bolden (FSU)

No. 196 Armwood receiver Warren Thompson

Check out ESPN's full rankings here.

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March Madness returning to Tampa in 2020

Kentucky's Brandon Knight (12) and Terrence Jones (3) battle Princeton's Brendan Connolly (44) during the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Tampa.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Kentucky's Brandon Knight (12) and Terrence Jones (3) battle Princeton's Brendan Connolly (44) during the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Tampa.

March Madness is coming back to Tampa.

Amalie Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on March 19 and 21, 2020, the NCAA announced Tuesday afternoon.

"We're thrilled," said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We've had such a great history of hosting. Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn't be more excited for March of 2020." 

USF will serve as the host school. Tampa last hosted the event in 2011. 

Higgins said getting March Madness back was a high priority. Tampa submitted its bid in the fall.

Higgins said the area's showing in January at the College Football Playoff national title game certainly didn't hurt its case. 

"I think really you're only as good as your last event," Higgins said. "Naturally the feedback we got from the College Football Playoff national championship and how we as a community perfomed on that stage hopefully sets the table for us for future opportunities and future announcements like the one today." 

That announcement also included six Division II events:  …

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Florida boasts highest percentage of D-I football recruits - by far

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Florida is the top producer of Division I football recruits, even when factoring in the number of players in the state.

That's the takeaway from this map produced from NCAA research:

States w/ highest % of HS football players recruited by a DI school:
1. Florida
2. Georgia
3. Louisiana
4-8. (DC), MD, TN, SC, NC pic.twitter.com/N6wNkEQT57

Almost 10 percent of the state's high school players were D-I recruits. That's the most in the country, ahead of Georgia (8.6) and Louisiana (8.1).

While that figure is higher than I thought, it makes sense. Florida is a giant state (third in population, behind California and Texas). It has a reputation for producing great talent, so recruiters keep coming down here.

A lot of the top players are concentrated in major metro areas (south Florida, Tampa Bay, Orlando, Jacksonville), which makes it easy to recruit; fly in, rent a car and see dozens of prospects. That's different from, say, Texas (2.7), which has large population pockets but also miles and miles of...not a whole lot.

 

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Ex-Gator Will Grier 'as good as advertised' for WVU

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

As the Florida Gators continue to search internally (and perhaps externally) for their next quarterback, let's check in on Will Grier.

Grier looked like UF's long-term answer in 2015, when he completed almost 66 percent of his passes and threw 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in six games - including wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Then he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and earned a one-year NCAA suspension.

He's at West Virginia now, and he just finished 12-of-18 for 202 yards in the Mountaineers' spring game over the weekend.

"He's as good as advertised," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "I like the kid's demeanor. He has complete control of the huddle...He has a really good idea of what we want to do offensively. His accuracy is outstanding."

Assuming the NCAA grants his eligibility for the Sept. 3 opener against Virginia Tech, Grier certainly looks like West Virginia's starting quarterback for Week 1.

As for who will be starting at Grier's old school? We still don't know for sure. The Gators are right where Grier left them.

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The not-so-obvious Tampa tie to Miami Hurricanes' QB battle

Former Hillsborough High quarterback Dwayne Lawson never played at Miami, but he's still (kinda sorta) having an impact with the Hurricanes.

SAM OWENS | Times

Former Hillsborough High quarterback Dwayne Lawson never played at Miami, but he's still (kinda sorta) having an impact with the Hurricanes.

The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter updated us on the Miami Hurricanes' quarterback battle as Mark Richt tries to replace NFL-bound Brad Kaaya.

It's worth a read, and it includes the headline that redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs "appears to be the leader." The reason why has some Tampa Bay ties.

It has nothing to do with former Jefferson High quarterback Cade Weldon, who enrolled early at UM. Or former Jesuit High quarterback Vincent Testaverde. Or Jack Allison, who went to Palmetto High not far from here.

Former four-star quarterback Dwayne Lawson was a Miami commit at Hillsborough High in the class of 2015. He decommitted fairly late and eventually signed with Virginia Tech. That left UM in need of a quarterback in that class. And that late in the process, most of the big names had already made up their minds.

The Hurricanes' James Coley, Porter writes, called to offer Shirreffs a scholarship the day after signing day. Two years and two months later, he's the apparent frontrunner for the ‘Canes, while Lawson is trying to join Illinois (and former Bucs coach Lovie Smith) after a stop in junior college.

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How serious are the Malik Zaire-Florida Gators rumors?

Getty Images

There's a lot of chatter regarding former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire and the Florida Gators. Some of it is legitimate. Some of it borders on ludicrous. Let's break it down:

Who is Zaire? The Ohio native was a four-star dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2013. The 6-foot, 225-pound lefty redshirted that fall, then started in the 2014 Music City Bowl (and won MVP honors) in a win over LSU. He started the first two games in 2015 before breaking his ankle, and he backed up potential first-round pick DeShone Kizer last season. His career numbers at Notre Dame: 816 passing yards and six touchdowns, 324 rushing yards and two scores. Zaire has already graduated, which means he can be eligible immediately without sitting out a year. …

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CCC alum Justus Reed transferring from Florida Gators

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Former Clearwater Central Catholic standout Justus Reed announced Thursday that he's transferring from the Florida Gators.

The 6-foot-3, 242-pound Reed appeared in only two games last season during his injury-plagued redshirt sophomore season. In 2015, he had nine tackles over nine games. Reed was an all-state player at CCC in 2013.

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FSU 2018 football schedule updates, including Labor Day against Hokies

FSU celebrates a 2005 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. The Seminoles and Hokies will meet on Labor Day in 2018 in Tallahassee.

Willie J. Allen Jr. | Tampa Bay Times

FSU celebrates a 2005 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. The Seminoles and Hokies will meet on Labor Day in 2018 in Tallahassee.

Florida State released some 2018 scheduling info Thursday, including its season opener - a primetime Labor Day showdown at home against Virginia Tech.

The Seminoles have played on Labor Day night before, including this past season (a win over Ole Miss in Orlando) and in 2013 (at Pitt in Jameis Winston's debut).

FSU also announced its non-conference schedule for 2018. The Seminoles host Samford on Sept. 8 and Northern Illinois on Sept. 22. They travel to Notre Dame on Nov. 10 for the 25th anniversary of the Game of the Century (one of them, at least). FSU hosts the rival Gators on Nov. 24.

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USF, Miami among biggest risers in home football attendance

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF, Miami and UCF were all among the top 10 college football programs in increased home attendance last year.

That's according to this data the NCAA released Monday.

The Hurricanes' home attendance grew by more than 11,000, from 47,561 to 58,572. That's an increase of 23 percent. The only school with a higher jump (in people, not percentage) was Eastern Michigan.

USF had an even higher percentage of growth (41 percent). Only three schools had a bigger jump (by percentage, not people): Eastern Michigan, North Texas and Georgia State. The Bulls' home attendance grew to 37,539 (up from 26,578). The overall increase was third nationally, and it comes as some Bulls have been asking for more support. 

Attendance jumped 19 percent at UCF, too. There aren't more detailed statistics available, but I think that boost came despite a dramatic decline in fans wearing bags over their heads.

FSU's attendance rose 4.9 percent and ranked No. 18 overall, averaging 76,800. That's up two spots from last year. It's not a surprise, given a home schedule that included Clemson and Florida. …

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SPC alum Ryan Green embracing new role at FSU football

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

TALLAHASSEE - When Ryan Green signed with Florida State as a blue-chip recruit at St. Petersburg Catholic, this probably wasn't the career he envisioned.

Through four seasons (including a redshirt year in 2015), he has rushed the ball only 50 times. When I asked him about his role in a crowded backfield with Cameron Akers and Jacques Patrick, Green's response was telling. It wasn't about how he adds speed and shiftiness to the mix. It was about his leadership.

"I'm more of a lead-by-example type of guy," Green said. "I'm not really vocal."

Green could still have a role on the field, especially given the pounding running backs take. Green had six carries for 36 yards in Saturday's spring game, and coach Jimbo Fisher made a point to note that Green "had some really nice runs."

Green seems to be fine with the role he'll likely assume this fall - as a leader more than a runner. Here's what he said when I asked him how big this spring was for him personally: "Every game, every play is big for me because I feel like I've always got to prove myself. It was pretty big because you've got young guys coming in. You've got to teach them the ropes."

Even if it's at the expense of your playing time.

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Breaking down Florida Gators' quarterbacks from the spring game

MONICA HERNDON | Times

GAINESVILLE - As the ball lofted through the air, the estimated 48,000 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium held onto hope. Was this what they'd been waiting for?

When it landed 46-yards later in the waiting arms of wideout Josh Hammond, a hum filled the field. Yes, this was what they'd come to see.

The pass came from redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks, who worked exclusively with the first-team offense in Friday's Orange and Blue Debut. It happened on the first drive and set the Gators up for a touchdown five plays later against the second-team defense. It was also Franks' longest toss of the night.

After the game, coach Jim McElwain said Franks has separated himself in the team's quarterbacks race thanks to consistency and mobility, though the competition isn't over.

"I think he's ahead," McElwain said. "There's no doubt about it... We'll find out over the summer."

Aside from his throw to Hammond, Franks never exceeded 21 yards while working against Florida's second-team defense. He finished 8-of-14 for 119 yards and a touchdown and said that moving forward, he'll need to work on going through his progressions and footwork, among other things. …

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VIDEO: Florida Gators' Feleipe Franks' reaction that he's QB to beat

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Here's Feleipe Franks' reaction to news that coach Jim McElwain said he's ahead of Kyle Trask in the Florida Gators' quarterback battle. 

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Ex-Gator Daniel McMillian arrested on suspicion of attempted sexual battery

Gainesville Police Department

Former Florida Gators linebacker Daniel McMillian has been arrested on suspicion of attempted sexual battery and false imprisonment after allegedly exposing himself and refusing to let a woman leave his room.

The incident began when the woman entered McMillian's apartment Thursday afternoon for professional reasons, according to a Gainesville Police Department report. After the complainant walked into McMillian's room, he locked the door and blocked the exit.

McMillian then lowered his black Puma shorts and exposed himself, according to the report. When the woman objected and asked to leave the room, he responded, "It's OK, baby. It's OK, baby."

After McMillian grabbed the woman's buttocks and skirt, she kicked him in the genitals, unlocked the door and fled, according to the report. She later identified McMillian by photograph; he was arrested at 7:16 Thursday night.
McMillian amassed 65 tackles and an interception in 39 games for the Gators.

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Three things to watch in tonight's Florida Gators spring football game

Jabari Zuniga will be one of the players to watch in tonight's Florida Gators spring game.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Jabari Zuniga will be one of the players to watch in tonight's Florida Gators spring game.

The Florida Gators have their annual spring game tonight. Here are three things I'll be paying extra attention to:

1. Quarterbacks. People forget this, but the Gators haven't done particularly well at the position since Tim Tebow left for the NFL. With Luke Del Rio (shoulder) out, redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask are battling for the starting job this spring. Franks did not fare well in this game last year; he threw three interceptions in his first three drives. He'll try to rebound from that and establish himself as the leading option heading into the summer.

2. Defensive linemen. UF must replace three key, NFL-bound contributors - Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr. CeCe Jefferson returns as a proven commodity, but he needs help. Three players to keep an eye on are Jabari Zuniga, Taven Bryan and Antonneous Clayton as the Gators try to reload one of the nation's top defenses.  …

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