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Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

Joey Knight

A fourth-generation Floridian, Joey Knight was born in Tampa and raised in Zephyrhills, where he still resides. He moved to the Times in July 2006 after 15 years at the Tampa Tribune, which included a seven-year stint (1997-2004) as University of Florida beat writer. He began covering the University of South Florida athletic department for the Times in 2013. A married father of three, he enjoys running, classic television and classic heavy-metal music.

Phone: (813) 310-6328

E-mail: jknight@tampabay.com

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  1. Villar leads USF baseball to 19th consecutive win

    Blog

    USF sophomore David Villar's scorching stretch continued Tuesday.

    So too, did his team's.

    Villar's three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh -- his fourth homer in as many days -- lifted the Bulls (20-1) to a 7-3 victory against North Florida (14-8), extending their win streak to 19 games.

    "Our pitching and defense was really good," third-year coach Mark Kingston said. "Kept us in the game long enough so that our offense could find a way to get runs on the board. It's a complete team."

    And darn close to being a historic one.

    USF can tie the program record for consecutive wins Wednesday night when it travels to Florida Gulf Coast (18-3) -- ranked 12th by Baseball America -- in Fort Myers.

    If Villar's bat boards the bus, the Bulls' chances are strong.

    After hitting .636 (7-for-11) with three homers and 12 RBIs in a four-game weekend sweep of Harvard, Villar sent a 2-1 pitch from UNF reliever Austin Howze over the right field fence in the bottom of the seventh.

    That gave the Bulls a 6-3 lead. DH Luke Borders added insurance with an RBI-single in the bottom of the eighth.

    "You see a developing hitter right now is what you're seeing," Kingston said. "A guy that uses the whole field to hit in, a guy that knows what to look for and what to do with it when he does."...

  2. USF's Marlon Mack, Rodney Adams limit their drills at pro day

    College

    TAMPA — For the first half of USF's annual pro day, the two most prominent figures remained on the sideline. While nearly two-dozen of their old teammates lunged, leaped and lifted, Rodney Adams and Marlon Mack balked.

    Few could blame them.

    Less than three weeks after posting solid performance numbers at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Adams and Mack opted not to gamble on tarnishing them Tuesday, participating only in position drills before a plethora of scouts at the Morsani Complex....

    South Florida Bulls defensive back Jamie Byrd (2) runs the 40 yard sprint during the USF Pro Day at Morsani Football Practice Complex at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
  3. USF spring football: Day 4 observations

    Blog

    Following a 10-day layoff for spring break, the Bulls reconvened Tuesday on a clear, mild morning for their fourth spring practice. Here are five quick observations.

    * The offensive line, obviously one of Coach Charlie Strong's biggest concerns, will continue to be a mix-and-match endeavor, especially with senior T Jeremi Hall nursing a mild leg injury. On Tuesday, redshirt freshman Michael Wiggs logged some first-team reps at right guard, with third-year sophomore Billy Atterbury filling in for Hall at left tackle.

    "You have a good group of receivers, a good group of running backs, a good group of defensive backs," Strong said. "I would say with our...tight ends you have a good selection there. But linebackers, we're still a little thin; but offensive and defensive line is where you'd like to get some more guys."

    * Redshirt freshman DeVontres Dukes, a 6-foot-4 Wharton High alumnus, continues turning heads with virtually each practice. On Tuesday, he was on the back end of arguably the offensive highlight of the day when QB Quinton Flowers scrambled, stepped up and lofted a 30-yard TD strike to his outstretched frame in the left corner of the end zone.

    "Tres Dukes is really doing very good," veteran S Devin Abraham said. "(Darnell) Salomon...is doing very well, and then of course Marquez Valdes (Scantling) is awesome every day."

    * Have we mentioned lately that the offensive tempo is brisk? Watch a practice, and you're not likely to discover any glaring differences from last season (other than perhaps more downfield shots and nary a jet sweep). But the pace is sure to be crisper.

    "Some of the routes that we're running now are way different from what we ran last year," Flowers said. "But as you get into the offense, most of the things will be similar to what we ran last year, it's just faster. You get the signal one time and that's it."

    * MLB Auggie Sanchez, sidelined while recovering from labrum surgery, is fine. Sanchez even suited up in full pads with the rest of the Bulls on Tuesday, he just didn't participate. Strong has suggested Sanchez is getting sufficient "mental reps" while rehabbing.

    * In terms of offensive and defensive skill guys, this might -- might -- be the deepest team in program history.

    "I'd say it's deeper than deep," Flowers said....

    The Bulls reconvened Tuesday after a 10-day layoff for spring break.
  4. Brian Gregory primer: 10 facts about USF's 10th coach

    Blog

    As a prelude to Brian Gregory's formal introduction Wednesday, here are 10 items of interest regarding the 10th permanent men's basketball coach in USF history:

    * He's the second member of the Tom Izzo coaching tree to matriculate to USF, joining Stan Heath. Gregory and Heath were assistants on Izzo's 2000 Michigan State team that defeated Florida for the national title. When Heath's youngest son Josh transferred from USF in 2014 (following his dad's dismissal), he went to Georgia Tech, where Gregory was coach.

    * He and wife Yvette, both from the Chicago area, met in the Windy City in the early 1990s.

    * Yvette went into labor with the oldest of the couple's two daughters (now a high school freshman) when Gregory and Izzo were visiting recruit Paul Davis in suburban Detroit. Gregory had left his cell phone in the car while visiting Davis (a no-no when you're wife's due at any moment).

    * Georgia Tech, which fired Gregory after the 2015-16 season, paid him $806,250 this year and owes him $537,500 in 2017-18, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gregory is set to make $1 million his first season at USF.

    * Gregory's official bio from his tenure at Dayton (2003-11) indicates he and his wife were heavily involved in the community. Among their philanthropic efforts was their involvement in a local chapter of "Secret Smiles," a charity that delivers beds and bedding to children of families who cannot provide for them.

    * He remains the third-winningest coach in Dayton history (172-94).

    * He spent only one season (1985-86) at Navy, mostly watching the Midshipmen -- led by David Robinson -- reach the Elite Eight. There's no record of Gregory getting in a game that season, according to sports-reference.com.

    * Gregory transferred to Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and remains the Golden Grizzlies' career leader in assists (905) and average minutes played (36.4). He's second in career double-doubles (40), seventh in steals (161) and 10th in free-throw percentage (.816).

    * Though all of the four-year seniors in Georgia Tech's program under Gregory graduated, and the Yellow Jackets' APR mostly sparkled on his watch, he leaned heavily on transfers his last two years. Among them was Josh Heath, one of four transfers who accounted for 44 percent of Tech's minutes in 2014-15. The following season (Gregory's last), five seniors played 62 percent of the minutes and scored 76 percent of the points. Four were transfers, including three who played only their senior year at Tech.

    * Three of Gregory's Dayton recruits -- Brian Roberts, Chris Wright and Chris Johnson -- made the NBA. He coached Glenn Rice Jr. at Georgia Tech, but didn't recruit him to the school....

    New USF men's basketball coach Brian Gregory remains the third-winningest coach in Dayton history (172-94).
  5. Former Gulf standout Alton Voss confident after NFL tryout

    College

    If times and tape measures are any sign, former Gulf High standout Alton Voss likely enriched his chances at landing a free agent deal during his de facto NFL tryout Monday in Michigan.

    The former USF signee, who conquered drug addiction to land a second chance at Division II Grand Valley (Mich.) State, Voss was among a handful of former GVSU players working out for approximately five NFL teams — and at least one Canadian club — at the Lakers' pro day....

    Alton Voss, scoring during his days playing for Gulf High, is trying to catch on as a free agent defensive end in the NFL or get an opportunity in the Canadian Football League at age 28.
  6. Marlon Mack's stock surging as USF pro day arrives

    Blog

    Roughly six weeks before the NFL Draft commences on the same Philadelphia steps Rocky Balboa immortalized, it has become clear Marlon Mack will be one guy who won't go the distance.

    To the contrary, USF's all-time rusher could be gone by the early rounds.

    If the March projections are any sign, Mack -- a three-time 1,000-yard rusher -- will become the program's highest NFL draft pick since Kayvon Webster (third round) in 2013.

    In his latest mock draft, Draft Wire editor Luke Easterling projects Mack -- who participates in the Bulls' on-campus pro day Tuesday -- to be taken by the Colts in the third round (80th overall pick). WalterFootball.com projects Mack to go to the Giants in the second round (55th overall).

    Mack is coming off a solid effort at the NFL Combine, where he was joined by Bulls WR Rodney Adams (who also will participate at USF's pro day). Mack logged a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, a 35 1/2-inch vertical leap, and did 15 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

    "Looks like he has ball bearings in his hips," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein said in his analysis of Mack. "Able to swivel in multiple directions. Can tilt and slalom around defenders on the second and third level and is able to string moves together."

    Mack and Adams will be joined by 16 other former Bulls at USF's pro day. The event is open only to media and invited guests.

    The draft is set for April 27-29 in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    USF pro day participants
    WR Rodney Adams  
    WR Austin Aikens  
    OL Kofi Amichia  
    DT Daniel Awoleke   
    PK Brandon Behr 
    QB Steven Bench
    DB Jamie Byrd 
    P Mattias Ciabatti              
    DB Nate Godwin   
    DT James Hamilton            
    LB Nigel Harris                
    RB Marlon Mack             
    LS Dylan Rutledge          
    LS Alex Salvato               
    DB Shannon Smith           
    DB Jalen Spencer             
    OL Dominique Threatt    
    DB Johnny Ward...

    Recent mock drafts have USF tailback Marlon Mack being picked in the early rounds.
  7. USF baseball streak win streak at 1 month and counting

    Blog

    Consider all of baseball's quirks, and it's easy to understand why prolonged win streaks rarely occur at most levels of the game.

    One microscopic strike zone, one divot in the clay, one misread fly ball can determine the outcome.

    "You can get a bad hop," USF third-year coach Mark Kingston said, "it can be the difference in the ball game."

    Hence the reason Kingston's presiding over one of the most astounding stretches in recent USF sports memory. Home and away, in February frigidness and summer-style humidity, against power pitchers and junk-ballers, the Bulls still have managed to win every game they've played the last month.

    One month. USF (19-1) won its 18th in a row Sunday afternoon, collecting 13 hits off an overmatched Harvard pitching staff for a 14-2 romp. Two more victories, and the Bulls tie the program record established in 1991.

    "I just think it means we can win games in a lot of different ways," said Kingston, whose team owns the nation's second-longest active streak (Missouri and Louisville both have won 19 in a row).

    "I just think the fact that we can pitch on most days, we bring our offense on most days, we play really good defense on most days, just gives us a chance to win every day. So because of that, we've been able to put a nice streak together."

    Here's a more detailed look at the streak, which can stretch to 19 when the Bulls play host to North Florida on Tuesday.

    * Only three of the victories have been by one run. The only one to go extra innings was a 13-inning, 4-3 win against Toledo on March 3.

    * Sunday marked the fifth game during the streak in which the Bulls have scored at least 10 runs. They tallied double-digit runs twice all of last season.

    * USF is hitting .316 during the streak. For the season, five players -- SS Kevin Merrell, 2B Coco Montes, RF Duke Stunkel, 3B David Villar and DH Luke Borders -- are batting over .300.

    * The Bulls have hit 17 home runs during the streak, almost half their total (36) from last season.

    * The pitching staff boasts a 1.82 ERA during the 18 games. With 234 strikeouts for the year, it's on pace to fan more than 650 batters in 2017. Kingston, whose staff was decimated by injuries in 2016, said the group's effectiveness and plethora of contributors so far has been the "biggest pleasant surprise."

    * USF's opponents during the streak are a combined 59-83 (.415). Only two, Iowa (10-8) and FSU (14-7), currently own a record above .500....

    The USF baseball team topped Harvard 14-2 on Sunday for its 18th consecutive victory.
  8. NCAA Women's Tournament: Heartbreak at the buzzer for USF

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — For the better part of four months, USF's women defied conventional thinking. Thin on depth and national acclaim, the unranked Bulls blocked out everything from pessimism to plantar fascia injuries.

    But in the end, they couldn't block out Sierra Michaelis.

    The Missouri senior's uncontested put-back with 0.6 seconds remaining lifted the sixth-seeded Tigers to a 66-64 triumph against the 11th-seeded Bulls in Friday's opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Donald L. Tucker Center....

    Forward Jazz Bond, right, comforts teammate and leading scorer Ariadna Pujol (20 points), center, after USF’s first-round loss to Missouri.
  9. Addiction vanquished, it's on to age and the NFL for Alton Voss

    Bucs

    Physically, Alton Voss belies his birth certificate. His 6-foot-3, 260-pound frame doesn't bear the welts or surgical scars of other football players his age.

    "I made it through college pretty healthy, so I don't have the wear and tear on my body," the former Gulf High two-way force of nature said. "And I don't feel 28."

    But therein lies the gripping paradox that has made Alton William Voss IV arguably the most intriguing prospect of this NFL draft season: An edge rusher oozing robustness already has lived the life of three men....

    Grand Valley State University's Alton Voss (87) blocks a punt during a game versus Colorado State-Pueblo during the 2nd round of the NCAA D2 playoffs.


Photo credit: Grand Valley State University athletic department.
  10. New USF basketball coach's deal: six years, $6.85 million

    College

    New USF basketball coach Brian Gregory signed a six-year, $6.85 million contract that could extend by a year if the Bulls receive NCAA sanctions.

    The university released Gregory's contract — signed Monday — upon a public records request. If the program is hit with NCAA penalties for infractions committed before Gregory's arrival, the deal is extended by a year from the date the sanctions are communicated to the school. ...

  11. Brian Gregory's USF contract: 6 years, $6.58 million

    Blog

    New Bulls men's basketball Brian Gregory has signed a six-year, $6.58-million contract that could extend by a year if the Bulls receive NCAA sanctions.

    USF released Gregory's contract -- signed Monday -- upon a public-records request. If the program is hit with NCAA penalties for infractions committed before Gregory's arrival, the deal is extended by a year from the date the sanctions are communicated to the school....

    New USF coach Brian Gregory signed a six-year, $6.85 million contract with the school on Monday.
  12. Even during a trying season, USF women meet NCAA tourney expectations

    College

    TAMPA — Moments after seeing his team's name appear Monday evening on the NCAA women's bracket, Jose Fernandez perched himself on a stool in front of the watch-party audience of about 150 and chirped two sentences of gratification.

    "How 'bout that for a rebuilding year," USF's veteran coach said into his microphone. "Pretty good, huh?"

    The crowd responded with whoops and cheers of affirmation, which was all the adulation Fernandez afforded himself. Minutes later, he was sequestered in his Muma Center offices with his staff, studying tape of first-round foe Missouri. ...

    South Florida Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez smiles as the team and fans clap in honor of his 300th victory after the game between the South Florida Bulls and the Memphis Tigers at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. The Bulls beat the Tigers 79-49.
  13. New USF coach Brian Gregory to be introduced Wednesday

    Blog

    New USF men's basketball coach Brian Gregory will be formally introduced Wednesday at 2 p.m. inside the Sun Dome Arena Club, the school has announced.

    (VIEW BRIAN GREGORY'S CONTRACT HERE)

    The public is invited to attend. Fans are asked to park in Lot 6, between the Sun Dome and Selmon Athletics Center, and enter the Sun Dome through Gate C.

    Gregory, who owns a 248-180 record with six postseason appearances in 13 seasons as a Division I head coach, was named the program's 10th permanent coach on Tuesday....

    The public can meet new USF men's basketball coach Brian Gregory on Wednesday.
  14. Will nation see swooning or surging 'Noles tonight?

    Blog

    The question posed to FSU coach Leonard Hamilton and his players seemed as inevitable as downtown Orlando gridlock.

    How do you explain the differences between your January surge and late-season swoon?

    The inquiry came at Hamilton and Co. twice Wednesday, both times with less conciseness and more tact. The 'Noles (25-8) went 5-1 against six consecutive nationally ranked foes from Dec. 31 to Jan. 21, but finished 7-6 down the stretch with four double-digit losses.

    So what happened? "I think our mindset was hunting people (in the early stretch)," junior PG Xavier Rathan-Mayes said from the Amway Center, where the third-seeded 'Noles face No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast (26-7) in a West Region first-rounder tonight.

    "We were trying to earn our respect as a program and as a group of guys. I think we did a really good job of going out there and performing at a high level each and every night."

    But from there, human nature kicked in a little, Hamilton suggested. The likes of North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville were followed by Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Miami and Clemson.

    FSU lost by 22 to the Yellow Jackets (managing only 15 first-half points) and by 10 against the Orange in the Carrier Dome.

    "And we probably did have an emotional pause there for a minute, but a lot of it had to do with the quality of the teams we were playing," Hamilton said.

    "We were playing in a league that everybody was prepared for you. So now you're getting everybody's best shot when you're sitting there ranked in the top 10 in the country."

    Entering his program's first NCAA Tournament in five years, Hamilton insists that emotional-pause button has been disengaged.

    "I think we're in a good place now," he said. "We'll put that in the past and let's see what we can do about the present."...

    FSU coach Leonard Hamilton oversees his team's public practice Wednesday at the Amway Center, where the Seminoles open NCAA Tournament play tonight.
  15. FSU's Xavier Rathan-Mayes has adapted well in move to point guard

    College

    ORLANDO — His out-of-body experience lasted four minutes, 38 seconds. During that fleeting, finite stretch, FSU shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes was a PlayStation dervish. Kid couldn't miss.

    "One of the greatest shooting performances I have ever seen," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.

    The 'Noles fell 81-77 to the 'Canes on that February night two winters ago, but not before Rathan-Mayes had staged arguably the greatest scoring exhibition in FSU lore. Thirty of his 35 points came in the last 4:38. His surge began with a 3-pointer and ended with a four-pointer, when he was fouled while banking in a trey....

    Xavier Rathan-Mayes is the son of an ex-FSU star.