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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

FSU's Dalvin Cook snubbed in first round, could go early on Day 2

The Bucs weren't the only team that passed on Florida State running back Dalvin Cook in the first round of the NFL draft.

All of them did Thursday night.

Cook was reportedly sliding down draft boards. Maybe it because of his athleticism - his numbers at the NFL's scouting combine were not good. Maybe it was because of rumblings about character concerns because Cook had multiple run-ins with the law, including a BB gun fight and a charge that he punched a woman in the face in 2015 (he was acquitted). Maybe it was because of the decreased value NFL teams have put on running backs (Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey might be exceptions, not the rule).

Regardless, Cook - the Seminoles' all-time leading rusher - is available for the Packers, who have the first pick in the second round Friday night. The same Packers team that has only three running backs on the roster - one of them has 32 career rushing yards, and another (Ty Montgomery) is a converted receiver.

So while you might be shocked to see Cook fall into the second round, don't be surprised if he comes off the board early. …

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Miss on Dalvin Cook? He'll make you regret it

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

I've already made my case for why the Bucs should draft Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, if he's available with the No. 19 pick.

Here's one more reason: He tends to burn teams that could have had him.

At Miami Central High, Cook was committed to two schools - Clemson and Florida - before signing with FSU. Let's thrown in his hometown Hurricanes, too.

Over three seasons at FSU, Cook played nine games against those three teams. Only once did he fail to rack up at least 110 total yards, and that was against Clemson in the second game of his college career.
His numbers against the Tigers, Gators and ‘Canes: 14 total touchdowns and an average of 169 yards per game (including receiving).

That alone isn't a reason for the Bucs to take him, of course. But if they don't, history shows that he might make them pay.

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Jimbo Fisher downplays Cam Akers, opener against Alabama

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Florida State's Sept. 2 matchup against Alabama is still looming as perhaps the biggest opening-weekend game in college football history. That's not hyperbole.

It's also not on the mind of FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, or, he hopes, his Seminoles.

"Our culture is to stay true to the process," Fisher said Wednesday, channeling his former boss, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. "We're not worried about results or opponents. We're worried about ourselves."

Fisher pointed out some of the similar opening games FSU has played recently (Ole Miss last September, Oklahoma State in 2014). He also brought up the old coaching cliché that it isn't a one-game season - the ‘Noles have 11 games after ‘Bama.

He's right, of course. A loss to the Tide but 12 wins after that (including the ACC championship) would likely get FSU into the College Football Playoff. …

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Jimbo Fisher defends Dalvin Cook's character, references fake news

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher brushed off any concerns about Dalvin Cook's character as NFL draft circles evaluate the former Seminoles running back leading into Thursday's first round.

"Tremendous guy to coach," Fisher said Wednesday during the ACC football coaches' post-spring teleconference. "Very easy guy to coach. Great team guy. One of the hardest working guys I've ever coached...Never had any issues with him."

Cook, FSU's all-time leading rusher, will likely be a first-round pick Thursday. He's a potential Bucs target with the No. 19 overall pick.

Sports Illustrated published a piece this week on Cook's character, with allegations that someone is trying to sabotage him. It's a fascinating piece.

Fisher was asked about it, and about the idea of someone making up rumors to hurt a draft prospect. His response didn't mention fake news, per se, but he did reference false information in the presidential election.
Anyway, here's how Fisher summed up Cook: "I know what I had in him was a tremendous player."

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Caleb Brantley's attorney: Complainant wanted to settle battery case

The attorneys for former Florida defensive lineman and NFL draft prospect Caleb Brantley said the attorneys representing the complainant have tried to settle the battery case.

"I was approached by lawyers representing the alleged victim, both yesterday and today," Brantley's attorney, Huntley Johnson, said Tuesday evening. " They indicated to me they were meeting with the State Attorney's Office tomorrow and that they want to settle the case today. I called Mr. Brantley and communicated what they said to me. He told me that under no circumstances were we to offer them money or give them any money. He said no."

The State Attorney's Office is investigating a misdemeanor battery complaint against Brantley, a prospect in this week's NFL draft.

The complainant's attorney, North Florida Lawyers' Michael Williams, could not immediately be reached for comment. 

We'll have more on this developing story soon. 

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Quarterback Jack Allison leaving Miami Hurricanes

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Former Under Armour All-America quarterback Jack Allison is leaving the Miami Hurricanes, the school announced Tuesday morning.

Allison was a four-star recruit and a top-200 overall prospect out of Palmetto High in the class of 2016. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Allison redshirted last fall and was apparently on the outside looking in to become the starting quarterback for the ‘Canes.

"Jack approached me and indicated that he felt like he would have more opportunities for playing time at another program," coach Mark Richt said in a statement. "We wish him all the best in his future plans."

Before signing with UM, Allison held offers from Alabama, Tennessee, USF and UCF. I did a Q&A with Allison back when he was preparing to play in the Under Armour game.

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Attorneys: Caleb Brantley wasn't the aggressor. He is the victim

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Caleb Brantley's attorneys have issued a statement regarding a battery accusation from a complaint that he punched a woman in the face in a fight earlier this month.

The statement from the Gainesville firm Johnson & Osteryoung said Brantley was home until 1:30 a.m. on April 13 before he drove to a restaurant to give a friend a ride. While waiting, he began talking with "a young lady with whom Mr. Brantley had had a prior relationship." She asked about having "an appointment" with him, but he declined.

The statement, signed by Amy Osteryoung, said some women accosted Brantley and said "incredibly foul" things. One of them then "stepped forward and punched him in the mouth with no warning."

"Mr. Brantley, in reaction to that sudden occurrence, put out his right arm in an attempt to push away his attacker. His hand made contact with her face due to his reflex reaction."

He was then pulled away from the scene, and police arrived quickly. Women were still screaming at him and "attempting to physically attack him," the statement said. …

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What does Caleb Brantley battery charge mean for his NFL draft stock?

AP photo

The Caleb Brantley story has a lot of layers. My third (and final) story from yesterday gets into most of them, including the battery charge, an allegation that the Gainesville Police Department "falsified" a report and a comment from Brantley's attorney. GPD said that claim was "absurd" in a statement it issued this morning.

On Monday morning, Brantley's attorney filed a written plea of not guilty, according to court records. 

Let's put all that aside for now and focus on one question: What does this mean for Brantley in this week's NFL draft?

Brantley has been projected as an early-round pick in the draft, which begins Thursday night. I've seen him as high as the No. 17 overall pick, to Washington. Even if he didn't go in the first round, he would have likely been selected Friday in Round 2 or 3. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. pegged him going to Minnesota at No. 48.

That was before this incident. …

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Gainesville PD: Claim of falsified report in Caleb Brantley case is 'simply absurd'

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

UPDATE, 1:05: The complainant's attorney, North Florida Lawyers' Michael Williams, issued this statement Monday to clarify its statement Sunday evening: At no time did North Florida Lawyers, PLLC or the victim Chelsea Austin accuse the Gainesville Police Department of "falsifying" a police report. We do not know the origin of the police report circulated on April 13-14th, 2017.

My earlier post from Monday morning is below.

The Gainesville Police Department has responded to questions on how it handled a battery accusation against former Florida Gators defensive lineman and NFL draft prospect Caleb Brantley. An attorney for the complainant alleged Sunday evening that the police department falsified a report. 

Here's GPD's full response, which public information officer Ben Tobias sent Monday morning: …

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Attorney: Police falsified report in Caleb Brantley case

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.: I just spoke with Caleb Brantley's attorney, Huntley Johnson. Here's his statement: "Caleb Brantley was the victim the night this happened, and he is still being victimized." Johnson declined further comment. 

My first blog post, with comments from the woman's attorney, is below: 

 

The attorney for the complainant in the Caleb Brantley case says the Gainesville Police Department "falsified a report" in the battery investigation surrounding the former Florida Gators defensive lineman and NFL draft prospect. 

Brantley faces a battery charge, but the initial police report from GPD listed Brantley as the victim.

Here's the press release from North Florida Lawyers, which represents the complainant, Chelsea Austin: …

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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 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. You can read that initial police report here. 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.

The April 17 document states that Brantley's action was "clearly out of retaliation and not self-defense" and "far exceeded what was reasonable or necessary." 

Brantley starred at UF and is a potential first-round pick in this week's NFL draft. Brantley -- listed at 6-3, 307 at the NFL scouting combine - was a second-team all-SEC selection last fall as a redshirt junior. He left UF with 20 1/2 tackles for a loss (including 9 1/2 last fall) and 81 career tackles. 

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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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