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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?

Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

That's ten years old. As in, he has been on this earth for a decade. He is the same age as Ryder, the boy in the TV show Paw Patrol, which the young man might very well watch when he isn't earning scholarship offers from a Big Ten program. Because he's 10 (ten) years old.

We can talk about how ridiculous it is to offer a college scholarship to a kid in elementary school - and it is very, very ridiculous - but let's look at another part of this.

Smith's program is offering a recruit who might not be old enough to sign with a college until 2025. Given Smith's resume and the nature of college football coaching, what are the odds the former Bucs head coach is still with the Illini in eight years?

So, our poll question: Where will Lovie Smith be in 2025?

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Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

Florida Gators defensive back Duke Dawson came in at No. 72 - ahead of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (among others). Dawson should be UF's top player in the secondary, with Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye all in the NFL.

Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is No. 69. He was an all-ACC pick last year on a strong defense thanks to 49 tackles (10 ½ for a loss) and six sacks.

Clemson receiver and Tampa Bay Tech product Deon Cain is No. 67. He averaged 19 yards per catch and had nine touchdown receptions last year to help the Tigers win the national title in his hometown. With Mike Williams gone to the NFL, Cain should be Clemson's top receiving target this fall.

SI's ongoing countdown is here.

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NBA draft: Jonathan Isaac could make FSU history tonight

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac will probably hear his name called early in tonight's NBA draft.

Maybe historically early, at least by Seminoles standards.

SI projects him to go third overall to the Celtics. ESPN calls him the draft's No. 5 prospect and headed to Orlando with the No. 6 pick. CBS suggests No. 7 to Minnesota.

Regardless, he'll be among the highest players ever drafted out of FSU. No ‘Nole has been picked higher than fourth (Dave Cowens to Boston in 1970). The only other top-10 pick, according to Basketball Reference's nifty draft finder tool, was George McCloud, who went seventh to the Pacers in 1989.

Isaac averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for FSU as a freshman.

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Should tackle football be banned until high school?

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Warren Sapp announced Tuesday that he will donate his brain to concussion researchers after his death.

Beyond the headline, Sapp said something else interesting: He wants to eliminate tackle football until high school.

That idea is one that came up in conversations during our recent reporting for this story on the flag/tackle debate in youth football. The group Practice like Pros proposes keeping tackle football in high school but not until then. Middle schoolers would begin learning how to play tackle through weight training, neck strengthening and limited contact so they're prepared once they reach ninth grade.

"You don't need contact football at that level to play at the highest level..." said Terry O'Neil, Practice Like Pros' founder and a former New Orleans Saints executive. "You don't want to start the head trauma at the age of 5, as often happens in this country. You want to delay it as long as you can."

I floated the idea to some people during my reporting. Their thoughts: …

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Who should join Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer as college football ambassadors?

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

First Steve Spurrier became an ambassador for the Florida Gators.

Then on Tuesday, Phillip Fulmer became an ambassador for Tennessee.

Seems like a pretty cushy job. UF still hasn't released Spurrier's contract, but Fulmer will make $100,000 a year for doing...whatever it is that a college football ambassador does.

So who else should leave retirement to begin ambassadoring? Some humble suggestions:

Auburn: Pat Dye. The former Tigers coach can still lobby for the program. His comments about Auburn joining the SEC East led to an actual discussion about the topic during the conference's spring meetings in Destin. Granted, that discussion took place with the AD and media, but hey, even the most complex political negotiations have to start somewhere.

Florida State: Derrick Brooks. Bobby Bowden would be the easy answer, but he's been known to make some comments that are, uh, not popular. That's why I'm going with Brooks. He's retired. He's classy. He loves the university, and he brings credibility to any room he enters. …

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Malik Zaire officially announces he's joining Florida Gators

Getty Images

It's still not officially official, but it's slightly officialer than it was yesterday.

Malik Zaire is joining the Florida Gators, as he announced Tuesday afternoon.

Malik Zaire says he's playing for the #Gators. Again. Now with 50 percent more officialness!! pic.twitter.com/akGq2rNEy2


Zaire, a 6-foot, 225-pound lefty, will bring experience and depth to the position as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. I wrote all about that earlier this month, after he told reporters he planned to come to UF, and after the SEC changed its grad transfer rules to allow the move to happen. 

The Gators haven't yet confirmed the move, but I expect an announcement next week. I'll have more to say on the subject then. In the meantime, here are five things you should know about Zaire.

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With Will Grier eligible at West Virginia, what might have been at Florida?

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Former Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier will be eligible to start the season for West Virginia, the Mountaineers announced today.

pic.twitter.com/WLlUHwDPPn

Grier transferred to West Virginia after earning a one-year suspension for failing an NCAA drug test at UF. He missed the final six regular-season games at UF in 2015, and the NCAA allows him to serve the rest of his suspension while sitting out, anyway, because of its transfer rules.

Grier is expected to start for West Virginia, and he has drawn plenty of buzz in Morgantown as a potential star.

But enough about the ‘Eers. What about the Gators?

Grier was the best quarterback UF has had since the Tim Tebow era. He helped UF start 6-0 with 10 touchdowns, three interceptions, 1,204 passing yards and a 65.8 completion percentage.
If Grier hadn't transferred, he would have been eligible at UF last year starting with the Georgia game. The Gators finished 4-3 in games where Grier might have been able to play. Would he have made a difference? Maybe, but I doubt it. …

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Deondre Francois, Eddy Pineiro among SI's top 100 players

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Sports Illustrated is counting down its list of the top 100 players in college football, and the first installment features three from the state.

Florida Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro is No. 100. Yes, he's a kicker, but he's also a darn good one.

The player in front of Pineiro is even more intriguing - Florida State running back Cam Akers. The next snap he plays will be his first, but his performance in the spring game showed he's worthy of being compared to Dalvin Cook, the player he is trying to replace.

The other on the list (so far) is FSU quarterback Deondre Francois, at No. 91. I'm torn on Francois, but SI makes a solid case for him: He led all freshmen in passing last year (3,350 yards) and can run, too.

Check out SI's full list (well, 100-91, at least) here.

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How far might Clemson slide without Deshaun Watson?

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The AP's Ralph D. Russo summed up one of the reasons why I'm picking Florida State to win the ACC this year:

Clemson is loaded, but teams rarely lose all-time great QBs and not take a step back next season. Even if just a small one. https://t.co/Ef3fbl4d53

He also got me thinking: Just how big of a step back might the Tigers take after winning the national championship in Tampa but losing superstar Deshaun Watson?

I decided to examine Watson-like quarterbacks: Players who finished in the top five in the Heisman Trophy voting at least once and were also first-round NFL draft picks (which weeded out very good but not great players like TCU's Trevone Boykin or Alabama's AJ McCarron). The criteria is admittedly subjective, but hey, it's my blog.

So let's look at the last 11 Clemson-like teams - their record with their Deshaun Watson as a starter and their record the next year without him:

Oregon: 36-5 with Marcus Mariota, 9-4 the next year

Florida State: 26-1 with Jameis Winston, 10-3 the next year

Texas A&M: 19-6 with Johnny Manziel, 8-5 the next year

Baylor: 23-17 with Robert Griffin III, 8-5 the next year

Stanford: 31-7 with Andrew Luck, 12-2 the next year …

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Florida Gators' Jim McElwain, Mike White earn raises, contract extensions

Florida Gators football coach Jim McElwain and men's basketball coach Mike White both received raises and one-year contract extensions to 2023, the school announced Friday.

McElwain receives a $196,300 raise for this season. The six years left on his contract will pay him an average of $4.486 million. That figure is up from $4.1645 and would have ranked 12th in the country last season (just ahead of Clemson's Dabo Swinney), according to USA Today's database.

McElwain's bonuses also increased. He would make $100,000 for a trip to the SEC title game (up from $37,500) and $200,000 for winning the league (up from $75,000). A top-10 finish would mean $100,000, while a national championship would net him $400,000.

The new buyout for termination with cause would jump to $2.5 million per year left on the deal (up from $2.25 million).

McElwain has led UF to SEC East championships in his first two seasons. The Gators are 19-8 in his tenure heading into the Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan in Arlington, Texas. …

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UCF kicker: I must choose between NCAA football and YouTube videos

A UCF kicker says NCAA rules are forcing him to choose between playing football and making YouTube videos.

The kickoff specialist, Donald De La Haye, explained his predicament in a video he posted over the weekend on his channel, which has more than 53,000 subscribers.

"Some people upstairs aren't happy with my videos, and they feel like I'm violating NCAA rules..." he said in his video (which you can see at the bottom of this post). "I guess I can't make any videos that make it obvious that I'm a student-athlete, because that makes it seem like I'm using my likeness and my image to make money and all this, which I'm really not."

De La Haye paused to take a bite from what appears to be a breakfast burger before continuing. The Port St. Lucie native says he is a marketing major, so his YouTube videos are an extension of his career path. He later says that his family back home needs the money he receives online.

His video has been viewed 81,000 times and has more than 1,700 comments.

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Ole Miss booster strikes back with defamation lawsuit

The ongoing Ole Miss NCAA case just got more interesting, thanks to a lawsuit recently filed by an Oxford clothing store, Rebel Rags.

Sports Illustrated has a good summary of the suit: The NCAA case includes allegations that two players at rival Mississippi State and a family member of former Rebel Laremy Tunsil received $2,800 in merchandise from the store. The store says that's false, so it's suing for defamation.

The potential for harm is there, if the accusations are indeed false. I don't think many Ole Miss fans will buy their shirts and hats from a store that could help bring sanctions to their beloved football program.

Regardless, a Rebels booster is striking back in his own way at the never-ending saga in Oxford.

Check out SI's full analysis here.

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Warchant: St. Pete's Jeremy Kerr to receive medical redshirt at FSU

The biggest play of Jeremy Kerr's FSU career: A pivotal touchdown catch at Florida in 2015.

The biggest play of Jeremy Kerr's FSU career: A pivotal touchdown catch at Florida in 2015.

Former St. Petersburg High tight end Jeremy Kerr's Florida State football career is over due to a medical hardship, according to a report Sunday from Warchant.

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Kerr would have been a redshirt senior this fall.

He was an effective blocker but finished his career with only one catch. It was, however, a big one. He snagged a 1-yard touchdown catch on fourth and goal at Florida in 2015.

I'm not a scholarship counter, but the folks at Tomahawk Nation are. By their count, FSU is still one over the limit of 85.

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Jameis Winston snubbed on Athlon's top 50 players of last 50 years

To celebrate 50 years of covering college football, Athlon Sports' preseason magazine ranked its top 50 players of its era.

Georgia running back Herschel Walker was No. 1, followed by Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State) and Archie Griffin (Ohio State).

Other notables on the list were Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (No. 6), Florida State cornerback Deion Sanders (9), Oklahoma defensive tackle and Bucs legend Lee Roy Selmon (13), Miami safety Ed Reed (34) and Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel (48).

The full list is in the magazine (always worth picking up), and Fox Sports' The Audible podcast had an interesting discussion about it recently. We can quibble over some of the names that were left of, but here's one that jumped out.

Jameis Winston.

Winston, obviously, was a star at FSU. He won the Heisman Trophy. He finished 26-1 as a starter. He led the Seminoles to two ACC titles, a national championship and an appearance in the first College Football Playoff. His 9.36 yards per passing attempt are the sixth best since 1956.  …

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William Floyd, Tony Thomas headed to Florida State hall of fame

Former Florida State fullback William Floyd will be inducted into the school's athletics hall of fame, FSU announced this week.

Floyd, a Lakewood High alumnus, was a key part of the Seminoles' 1993 national championship team. He later played seven seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the 49ers.

Baseball player and Bloomingdale High product Tony Thomas is also a member of the class. He was Collegiate Baseball's national player of the year in 2007. Thomas was also the first Seminoles player with 30 doubles, 100 hits and 30 steals in one season.

Check out FSU's full class here. The formal induction will take place on Sept. 8, the night before FSU hosts Louisiana-Monroe in its home opener.

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