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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Kickoff times announced for Florida-Michigan, FSU-Alabama

College football's blockbuster Sept. 2 season openers finally have kickoff times.

The Florida Gators will play Michigan at 3:30 on ABC, ESPN announced Thursday afternoon. That game will be in Arlington, Texas.

That same day, Florida State will play Alabama at 8 p.m. on ABC in Atlanta.

Two weeks later, the Seminoles have another 8 p.m. ABC telecast when they host Miami.

Other kickoff times will be announced as the games get closer.

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Florida Gators to host South Alabama in 2020


The Florida Gators will host South Alabama in 2020, UF announced Thursday morning.

The Jaguars play in the Sun Belt and finished 6-7 last year (with a 21-20 win at Mississippi State).

The game is scheduled for Sept. 19. UF also has non-conference games that year against Eastern Washington - coach Jim McElwain's alma mater - and rival Florida State.

In other scheduling news, the UF will host Baylor in basketball for this season's Big 12/SEC Challenge. The game is scheduled for Jan. 27.

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FSU, Gators, USF and Miami all in Athlon preseason top 25


The college football preseason magazines are trickling in, as our Joey Knight wrote earlier.

Athlon formally unveiled its top 25 Monday.

Florida State is No. 3, behind Week 1 opponent Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State. The site writes: Florida State will be tested right away with a matchup against Alabama in Atlanta to open the season. The Seminoles host Miami, NC State and Louisville in key conference games, but a matchup at Clemson and a road date at Florida will determine whether or not Fisher's team can finish in the top four.

The Florida Gators are No. 16, and Athlon states the obvious: "In order to edge Georgia for the division crown, improvement on offense is a must." It does call UF's receiving corps the best in the SEC.

Miami is No. 23 and the top team in the impossible-to-predict ACC Coastal Division. That'd mean Miami and FSU would finally meet in the ACC title game. The magazine likes a Hurricanes defense with a line that "has a chance to be among the best in the nation."

USF is No. 24, the AAC favorite and the top Group of Five team, headed to a New Year's Six bowl near you.

Check out the full top 25 here.

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Jim McElwain 'disappointed' in Antonio Callaway news, won't address status for Michigan opener

CLEARWATER - Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain said he was disappointed in Thursday's news that receiver Antonio Callaway was cited on a complaint of marijuana possession, but McElwain would not specifically address Callaway's status for the Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan.

"We'll get everything handled," McElwain said Thursday evening before an alumni gathering at the Kapok Center. "I'm just really disappointed."

Callaway has previously had an issue with marijuana; he admitted to being "stoned" during a code of conduct hearing into a sexual assault allegation (for which he was found not responsible). 

UF's policy calls for educaation and counseling for the first positive marijuana test and a suspension for the second. But those only apply to failed drug tests, not citations or admissions.

McElwain has previously suspended running backs Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson for similar citations. 

"Just really disappointed," McElwain said. "And yet, at the same time, there's another opportunity to learn. There's another opportunity to educate. We'll get it handled." 

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Florida Gators star Antonio Callaway cited for marijuana possession


Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway has been cited on a complaint of marijuana possession, according to Alachua County court records.

The Gainesville Police Department stopped a Merecedes SUV at 12:50 a.m. Saturday for a seatbelt violation. Police smelled marijuana and found about 7 grams in Callaway's pocket. Another 5.4 grams of marijuana were found in the car. Both Callaway and 40-year-old Kendrick Williams claimed ownership of the drugs, according to the court documents. Williams has a long criminal history with more than a dozen arrests in the state for complaints ranging from drugs and guns to battery and vehicle theft. 

UF tight end C'yontai Lewis and two women were at the scene, too, but not accused of any wrongdoing, according to Gainesville police. 

UPDATE: What happened to the teen who burglarized Gerald McCoy's home

A court date is scheduled for June 6.

"Coach (Jim) McElwain is aware of it, and it is being dealt with," a UF spokesman said Thursday.  …

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Jim McElwain on Florida Gators' offensive line, leadership and more


A few quick nuggets from Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain's appearance on Monday's post-spring SEC teleconference:

• McElwain is excited about the offensive line - a position of weakness when he arrived in Gainesville. UF loses left tackle David Sharpe to the NFL and center Cam Dillard to North Carolina as a grad transfer, but the other parts return. "This is the best we've been since I've been here at that position..." McElwain said. "It's a group that's going to now be a true strength for the Gators."

• Most of UF's starting defense has gone to the NFL, including linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone. Their departures might leave a bigger hole in leadership than performance, given how David Reese and others played last year. McElwain said he expects the defense's leadership to shift from linebackers to the secondary, specifically safeties.

• McElwain said other schools called UF to inquire about five of his assistants as potential head coaches. Temple hired one of them, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. …

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Jim McElwain: On red turf, cheap hotels and more

Courtesy: Eastern Washington University

Even with 2,000 words, I didn't have enough space to share everything I wanted on Jim McElwain's time in the Big Sky Conference. The story posted online this morning and will be in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times. A few things that didn't make the final cut:

· I mentioned that McElwain donated some money to 2010 fundraiser for new red turf at Eastern Washington. Here's what I didn't include: "Don't sit here and say that I'm excited about the red turf," McElwain said. He hates the red. He's a football purist. But... "If they took a step to do that, it would be really hard for them to drop football." So that's why he gave money for The Inferno.

· Recruiting trips were much different back then, in the pre-Hudl world. McElwain and four other Eastern Washington coaches would pile in a van and drive the four hours west to Seattle. They'd stop in suburban Kirkland, where a friend of the program would loan them four cars off his lot for the week.

McElwain spent the day crisscrossing the area, collecting film from high school coaches. He and his colleagues would meet up at their hotel (often a La Quinta Inn, assuming it was cheap enough), evaluate recruits' film and drop them off the next day. …

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ACC announces future Notre Dame football games for FSU, Miami

Get your looooong-range calendars out, because the ACC has announced Notre Dame's league games...through 2037. Gotta give my 3-month-old son time to prepare, I suppose. Judging by how active his legs are, he's going to be a great punter. 

Anyway, Florida State hosts the Fighting Irish in 2026 and 2029. The Seminoles travel to South Bend in 2030, 2032 and 2036.

Miami hosts Notre Dame in 2032 and 2034 and travels there in 2028, 2031 and 2037.

More immediately, the Irish will play the Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 11, and FSU travels to Notre Dame on Nov. 10, 2018 for the 25th anniversary of the Game of the Century. 

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ESPN announces 2017 college football bowl schedule

ESPN announced its college football bowl schedule for the upcoming season.

The local games:

The St. Petersburg Bowl will kick off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21 at Tropicana Field. It is scheduled to feature teams from the American Athletic Conference and Conference USA and will air on ESPN.

The Outback Bowl will start at noon on Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium. ESPN2 will show the Big Ten-SEC matchup.

ESPN's full list is here.

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Auburn football Q&A on Byron Cowart, Nate Craig-Myers and John Franklin


Auburn isn't on the Florida Gators' schedule this year, but the Tigers have a lot of local/state connections. Auburn signed the area's top recruit in 2015 (Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart) and in 2016 (Tampa Catholic receiver Nate Craig-Myers).

With that in mind, Opelika-Auburn News beat writer Josh Vitale was kind enough to do a quick Q&A with me. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Vitale used to cover the Rays and the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs for the Charlotte Sun. Thanks to Josh for helping me out. 

1. When Byron Cowart left Armwood High, he was the nation's top recruit (per Rivals), but he hasn't made a huge impact at Auburn yet. You wrote this spring that he spent some time at defensive tackle, not end. Is that his future with the Tigers? What kind of a role do you think he'll have this fall? …

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FAMU football coming to Raymond James Stadium in September


Florida A&M will play Tennessee State in the FAMU Tampa Football Classic at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 16, organizers announced Tuesday.

The game features an interesting wrinkle: former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris will be returning to the state, potentially as Tennessee State's starting quarterback.

Harris appeared in 21 games (and started 15) in two seasons at UF. He completed 174 of his 346 passes for 2,695 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also missed two games due to suspensions. The Gators were planning to move him to receiver before he transferred last summer.

RJS will hold a formal news conference to introduce the game, and detail other activities around it, on Thursday morning.

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Countryside alum Gray Crow setting up $500,000 endowment for Miami Hurricanes

Former Countryside quarterback Gray Crow is giving back to the Miami Hurricanes in an interesting way.

The former three-star recruit donated $5,000 to the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility, as the Miami Herald writes. The ‘Canes broke ground on the $34 million facility Thursday.

The 2015 graduate is also setting up a $500,000 endowment fund in his name.

"I don't have a half-million-dollar check to cut, obviously, because a 23-year-old can't do that," Crow told the Herald. "But I'm very young and healthy, fresh out of college football, and it's easier for me to do it that way.

"You're essentially leaving a legacy to the school. I've spent the past year in the securities business, and that was the bulk of what I did for people. I started a new chapter in my life and I felt like it was a good gesture.''

Read the Herald's full story here.

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FSU basketball coach Leonard Hamilton lands contract extension


Florida State men's basketball coach Leonard Hamilton has received a contract extension through the 2019-20 season, the Seminoles announced Thursday.

"Leonard Hamilton is an outstanding basketball coach," athletic director Stan Wilcox said in a statement. "His success coupled with the type of student-athletes we are currently attracting show we are on the right track. This extension will provide him the opportunity to reach both of our goals for the program which are annual NCAA Tournament appearances and success advancing in the Tournament."

Hamilton is the Seminoles' all-time leader with 282 wins in 15 seasons. FSU made it to the Tournament for the first time in five years last season, but the third-seeded ‘Noles were upset 91-66 by 11th-seeded Xavier in the second round.

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Why Isaiah Bolden flipping from FSU to Willie Taggart's Oregon could shift local recruiting


It's not a surprise that news Oregon coach Willie Taggart is recruiting the talent-rich Tampa Bay area.

He did it at USF; his signing classes in 2015 and 2016 each featured four players from Hillsborough/Pinellas (even if at least one prominent local high school coach thought he should have signed more).

But Taggart seemed to turn a corner this weekend when Wesley Chapel cornerback Isaiah Bolden flipped from Florida State to the Ducks.

Granted, Taggart had already been recruiting Florida in his new school. Seven of Oregon's 24 signees in February's class were from Florida. That includes defensive lineman Jordon Scott, a one-time Gators commit from Pinellas Park, and Armwood athlete Darrian McNeal, who switched from Arizona soon after Taggart was hired.

Scott was a well-regarded recruit, but his early high school graduation sped up the process and led to some extenuating circumstances. McNeal had several in-state offers (including USF and UCF) but none from Florida, FSU or Miami.

Bolden had offers from all three. And that's why his commitment to Taggart seems different.  …

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Cowboys draft former Gators, Pasco High star Joey Ivie

Former Gators and Pasco High standout Joey Ivie was drafted Saturday by the Cowboys in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.


Former Gators and Pasco High standout Joey Ivie was drafted Saturday by the Cowboys in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.

Former Gators and Pasco High standout Joey Ivie capped a bustling weekend for local NFL Draft prospects when the Dallas Cowboys picked him in the seventh round with the 228th overall pick.

The oldest of five siblings, Ivie's selection comes almost two years to the day after losing his younger sister. Jordan Ivie passed away April 26, 2015, from injuries sustained in a car accident in a rural part of Dade City.

"Oh man, if only she was here," Ivie said Saturday evening. "But I know she's looking down and I know she's happy and smiling. I know she's a Cowboy up in heaven."

Ivie had his best college season last fall, registering 26 tackles and 2.5 sacks despite missing two games with a broken thumb. He followed that with a strong week of practice for the East-West Shrine Game, and an equally impressive pro day in Gainesville.

Former Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland, who covered Ivie's pro day for the SEC Network, wrote on Twitter that Ivie would get drafted late but spend a decade in the NFL. …

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