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The latest on college sports in Florida

My AP preseason All-America ballot

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Now that the AP's preseason All-America team has been released, I'll share what I submitted.

Some picks were easy (Lamar Jackson, Derwin James, both running backs). Others were much tougher.

Houston's Ed Oliver was a no-brainer at defensive tackle, but the other one came down to which Clemson player I liked more. I chose the older one (junior Christian Wilkins) over the younger one (sophomore Dexter Lawrence) strictly due to experience. Hey, it's more justifiable than a coin flip, right? …

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Two FSU Seminoles, two Florida Gators honored as AP preseason All-Americans

Florida State safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden were both named AP first-team, preseason All-Americans on Tuesday.

James is considered one of the best players in the country, regardless of position, despite only playing two games last year before tearing his meniscus. McFadden's eight interceptions last season were tied for the most in the country.

Two Gators were second-team choices: kicker Eddy Pineiro and defensive back Duke Dawson.

Check out the full list here.

 

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Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot

Now that you've seen the preseason AP Top 25, here's what I submitted in my first year as a voter. The AP doesn't give us many guidelines in the preseason. I didn't try to predict how this will look at the end of the year, although I did factor in scheduling occasionally (‘Sup, Wisconsin?). My main criteria: If these teams met tomorrow at an empty Raymond James Stadium, I think Team 1 would beat Team 2, which would beat Team 3, and so on.

1. Alabama: Nick Saban, the top perennial top recruiting classes and a starting quarterback who is no longer a freshman? Sounds like a clear No. 1 to me.

2. Florida State: Barely over Ohio State, as I explained the other day.

3. Ohio State: See above.

4. USC: It's not just star quarterback Sam Darnold. The Trojans have a promising running back (Ronald Jones) and four consecutive top-10 recruiting classes.

5. Oklahoma: My gut told me to put the Sooners lower because of first-time head coach Lincoln Riley. My head couldn't overlook 16 returning starters, including dynamic quarterback Baker Mayfield. …

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AP Top 25: Alabama first, FSU, UF, Miami and USF all in top 20

As expected, Alabama will start the season at No. 1 in the AP Top 25.

The Crimson Tide received 52 first-place votes to top No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Florida State. The Seminoles, who received four first-place votes, will play ‘Bama in the Sept. 2 season opener in Atlanta.

The Florida Gators are No. 17, six spots below their first opponent, Michigan.

This marks the fifth time UF will open in a top-25 matchup and the first since a trip to Miami in 1987. The other three: vs. Miami in Tampa in 1985, home against the Hurricanes in 1982 and, of course, at Rice in 1953.

USF (19th) is ranked for the second time ever in the preseason; the other was a No. 19 ranking in 2008.

The Miami Hurricanes start the year at No. 18; it's the first time the ‘Canes have been ranked in the preseason since 2010.

You can see my ballot here

The full top 25
1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. FSU
4. USC
5. Clemson
6. Penn State
7. Oklahoma
8. Washington
9. Wisconsin
10. Oklahoma State
11. Michigan
12. Auburn
13. LSU
14. Stanford
15. Georgia
16. Louisville
17. UF
18. Miami
19. USF
20. Kansas State
21. Virginia Tech
22. West Virginia
23. Texas
24. Washington State
25. Tennessee

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Ex-Florida Gators QB Treon Harris will start at Tennessee State

Former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris is a starter again.

At Tennessee State.

"Anybody who plays football wants to start," Harris told The Tennessean over the weekend. "It's been a long journey since I was on the field last. I've been missing it. It was tough out here at the beginning of camp - the heat, waking up, the meetings - but I got through it and it feels to come out of it as the starter."

Harris started 15 games at UF from 2014-15 before transferring. He had been suspended from the team, reportedly for a Title IX-related investigation. In his two years with the Gators, the Miami native threw 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and rushed for 570 yards and three scores.

Harris' new school will play Florida A&M in the Tampa Classic at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 16. His old school is still trying to settle on its starting quarterback for this fall.

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Jim Harbaugh's Michigan football team is still hiding its roster

Jim Harbaugh slipped one more offseason antic in just at the buzzer.

His Michigan football team has not yet published a roster on its website. I haven't checked every team, but I would be shocked if there's another program in the country that hasn't done so. The Wolverines' stance is so ridiculous that nj.com filed a public-record request to the university for a roster. That's the kind of journalism you do when you're trying to track spending or see contracts, not find out how many wide receivers a team has.

And here's the thing: It still might not work. Here's what Harbaugh tweeted over the weekend:

Final tryouts for roster spots on 2017 Michigan Football Team can start no earlier than 8/28. Roster to be determined & publicized on 8/30.

The minor detail of which walk-ons will play on the scout team doesn't stop Michigan's first opponent (Florida) from listing its roster. It didn't stop UF from updating its roster during the 2015 season when Chamberlain High product Neil MacInnes joined the team as a kicker. 

But the Gators are not Michigan, and Jim McElwain is not Jim Harbaugh. …

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Florida Gators' Malik Zaire: 'This is everything to me'

"This is everything to me..." said Malik Zaire, the grad transfer from Notre Dame. "I have everything to prove, everything to lose."

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File

"This is everything to me..." said Malik Zaire, the grad transfer from Notre Dame. "I have everything to prove, everything to lose."

GAINESVILLE — We're two weeks and one day away from the Florida Gators' Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan, and the quarterback position remains unresolved.

That's assuming coach Jim McElwain doesn't break some major news when he speaks to reporters later today.

In the meantime, the three quarterback candidates - Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks and Luke Del Rio - addressed the media earlier this morning.

"This is everything to me..." said Zaire, the grad transfer from Notre Dame. "I have everything to prove, everything to lose."

The quarterbacks either don't know where they stand in the competition, or they aren't saying. But it's reasonable to think McElwain could be getting close to naming a starter. One year ago today is when the Gators announced Del Rio would start the first game.

"I know this time last year, (McElwain) named a guy," Del Rio said. "It's up to him. I'm not really worried about it...

"I know we're all good."

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AP Top 25: How I ordered Florida Gators, USF and Miami Hurricanes

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

The toughest part of my preseason AP Top 25 ballot was figuring out whether Florida State or Ohio State should be No. 2.

One of the next toughest parts? Figuring out how to order the other three top state schools - Florida, USF and Miami.

Outside opinions on this are all over the place. USA Today's coaches poll has UF at 16, Miami at 18 and USF at 21. Sports Illustrated ranked the Bulls 17th, above UF (18) and Miami (20). Statistical guru Bill Connelly's advanced S&P+ metrics have USF at 56, the Gators 15th and Miami at 18th.

Those three schools ended up in the same tier during my rankings process (along with Georgia and Michigan). I considered them alongside each other, and UF, USF and UM ended up bunched on my final ballot, too. That wasn't intentional or planned; it's just how it worked out.

I ranked them in this order: …

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Who's No. 2: Florida State Seminoles or Ohio State Buckeyes?

MONICA HERNDON | Times

The toughest decision in my first stint as a voter for the AP Top 25 came at the top.

Not the very top. Spoiler alert: Alabama was a pretty easy choice at No. 1 on my preseason ballot.

But deciding who to put second was tricky. Like most polls I've seen, Florida State and Ohio State were my next two teams. The question: What order?

The full top 25 will be announced Monday, and I'll share my ballot in the next few days. In the meantime, let's break down the Seminoles and the Buckeyes.

The case for FSU

*The defense returns almost every starter, including a fully healthy Derwin James. Sports Illustrated put four Seminoles defenders on their list of the nation's top 100 players and could have added a fifth (defensive end Brian Burns).

*Quarterback Deondre Francois was at least solid (if not better) in his first year as a starter. He's tough, and he showed signs of success in the important areas (third down, red zone). It's reasonable to assume he will continue to progress.

*The offensive line should be better, with Alec Eberle and Landon Dickerson recovered from injuries and Rick Leonard entering his second season after switching from defensive end. …

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Former East Lake star Pete DiNovo no longer with UCF Knights

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Former East Lake High star Pete DiNovo is no longer with UCF, the Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday morning.

DiNovo is no longer listed on the Knights' roster, either.

#UCF QB Pete DiNovo is no longer with the team per OC Troy Walters, who said he hasn’t been at practice the past couple of days.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound DiNovo left East Lake as Pinellas County's all-time leading passer and was the Tampa Bay Times' 2012 all-Suncoast offensive player of the year.

As a redshirt freshman in 2014, he became the first UCF freshman quarterback to start a season opener since Daunte Culpepper in 1996. DiNovo was 3-of-8 for 18 yards in that game against Penn State and appeared in only one game after that.

The Knights tinkered with moving him to receiver in 2015.

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Jim McElwain on Florida Gators suspensions: 'It hurts'

GAINESVILLE - Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain said he is disappointed in the seven players who were suspended for the season opener against Michigan but said he acted quickly in punishing them.

McElwain's comments Monday afternoon were his first since news broke over the weekend about the punishment to standout receiver Antonio Callaway and the others.

"It's not just Antonio," McElwain said. "It hurts."

McElwain said the players were suspended from team activities and didn't rule out further punishment beyond the Sept. 2 game in Arlington, Texas.

"Anything further from there, obviously - we've got a lot of time now between then and whatever the next thing is," McElwain said. 

McElwain didn't detail their actions, which reportedly stem from the misuse of university-related funds.

"Obviously any time there's choices made, you've got to make up for whatever happened," McElwain said. "These guys are doing that." …

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Antonio Callway, six other Florida Gators suspended for Michigan game

The Florida Gators have suspended seven players, including star receiver Antonio Callaway, for the blockbuster Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan, UF announced Sunday.

The six other players (besides Callaway) suspended: Offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, linebacker James Houston, defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis, defensive lineman Jordan Smith, defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones and linebacker Ventrell Miller.

"We have a small group of players that have made some choices that are extremely disappointing," UF coach Jim McElwain said in a statement. "Action has been taken - they have missed some practice and will miss the Michigan game. We will use this as a learning opportunity and we will have some players step up as we move forward."

The specific nature of those "choices" was not disclosed.

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Bucs legend Warren Sapp to be inducted into Miami Hurricanes' ring of honor

Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Mami Hurricanes' ring of honor this season.

AP photo (1994)

Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Mami Hurricanes' ring of honor this season.

Bucs legend Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Mami Hurricanes' ring of honor this season.

Sapp will be recognized during the Oct. 12 Thursday night game against Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium.

Before becoming a Pro Football Hall of Famer for the Bucs, Sapp was the unanimous Big East defensive player of the year in 1994. He won the Nagurski Trophy, became a first-round pick and later helped Tampa Bay win its only Super Bowl.

The other four ex-Miami players headed into the ring of honor: receiver Michael Irvin, linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and the late Sean Taylor. 

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Florida Gators release final assistant coach salary, contract information

Doug Nussmeier's contract has been extended through the 2018 season and will receive a raise from $540,000 to $832,725.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Doug Nussmeier's contract has been extended through the 2018 season and will receive a raise from $540,000 to $832,725.

The Florida Gators released contract information Friday for the rest of their coaching staff under open-records laws.

The notable change is for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. His contract has been extended through the 2018 season and will receive a raise from $540,000 to $832,725. But Nussmeier had reportedly been receiving about $300,000 from Michigan as part of his severance package there.

The other details:

*Receivers coach Kerry Dixon's contract is extended through the 2018 season, with a raise from $275,000 to $290,000

*Special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Greg Nord's contract is extended through the 2018 season, with a raise from $390,000 to $410,000

*Defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Rumph's contract is extended through the 2019 season, with a raise from $490,000 to $590,000

*Linebackers coach Tim Skipper's contract is extended through the 2018 season, with a raise from $440,000 to $446,000.

UF previously released contract information for other assistants, which you can read here.

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Why one FSU player wants Feleipe Franks to be Florida Gators' quarterback

MONICA HERNDON | Times

As redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks battles to become the Florida Gators' starting quarterback, he has at least one supporter from rival Florida State.

Seminoles receiver Keith Gavin said he thinks his former teammate from Crawfordville's Wakulla High is finally ready to contribute at UF.

"I know his work ethic. I know what he can do..." Gavin said Sunday during FSU's media day. "I know he's going to grind for it."

Gavin and Franks were both four-star recruits out of Wakulla, and they remain in touch. Franks is competing with Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire and last year's Week 1 starter, Luke Del Rio, to begin the season as the top quarterback in the Gators' Sept. 2 showdown against Michigan.

Gavin is obviously biased, but he thinks the 6-foot-6, 214-pound Franks has the ability to earn the job.

"He's just an all-around great athlete, man," Gavin said. "I think he's going to show his potential, like, this year. When he gets his chance, I think he's really going to do some big things."

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