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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Nine Gators, including Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett, face felony fraud accusations

Star receiver Antonio Callaway is among at least four Florida Gators who face potential felony charges on accusations of fraud.

Times files (2016)

Star receiver Antonio Callaway is among at least four Florida Gators who face potential felony charges on accusations of fraud.

Nine Florida Gators face at least 62 potential felony charges on accusations of credit card fraud. 

Star receiver Antonio Callaway, starting running back Jordan Scarlett are the two biggest names facing potential felonies. The other seven: receiver Rick Wells, defensive lineman Jordan Smith, linebacker Ventrell Miller, linebacker James Houston, defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort. 

(READ THE SWORN COMPLAINTS)

The State Attorney's Office will decide whether to file formal charges.

The players are accused of using credit cards they did not own to add to their bookstore debit accounts. They then used the extra money to buy electronics, which some players sold. Telfort faces 30 potential charges, and Smith faces 18. The others face two apiece.  …

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Luke Del Rio to start against Vanderbilt for Florida Gators

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

GAINESVILLE - The Florida Gators have made another quarterback change.

A week after leading a second-half comeback at Kentucky, Luke Del Rio will start Saturday against Vanderbilt.

Del Rio replaced redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks against the Wildcats. Franks has been benched in two of his first three college starts; UF also pulled him in the opener against Michigan. 

Del Rio injured his knee and both shoulders last year but still went 5-1 as a starter. It turns out that he was more injured than UF (and the rest of us) knew at the time, until his season finally ended after the loss at Arkaansas. The son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, Luke knows the offense better than Franks and Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire.

"He's a vet," receiver Brandon Powell said. "He's been here."

Coach Jim McElwain will meet with us soon, and I'm sure he'll have plenty to say about the decision.

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East Lake alum George Campbell starting to click at Florida State

MONICA HERNDON | Times

When receiver Auden Tate (Wharton High) went down with a shoulder injury for Florida State on Saturday, the Seminoles' offense took a major hit. Quarterback James Blackman was 16-of-22 for 190 yards before Tate's injury and 6-of-16 for 88 after it.

The only bright spot: It allowed another Tampa Bay product to have the biggest game of his career.

East Lake High alumnus George Campbell flashed his five-star potential with one second-half grab - a 60-yarder down the right sideline.

"For me to give my team good field position meant a lot to me," Campbell said. "Being able to contribute, that's big to me. Just being able to do that was a big thing."

It's something he hadn't been able to do much before Saturday; he entered the game with only 63 career receiving yards.

But Campbell was a five-star athlete for a reason, beyond his 6-foot-4, 207-pound frame. Injuries just prevented him from showing it until his redshirt sophomore season.

"It's the first time he's been healthy since he's been here..." coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He creates plays. He can block. He can run with the ball after a catch." …

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Florida State out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Florida State's first 0-2 start since 1989 has led to another low.

The Seminoles are out of the AP Top 25 after Saturday's 27-21 home loss to North Carolina State. The last time they were unranked? November 2011, before beating Florida in the regular season finale.

Miami is the state's highest ranked team (No. 14). USF moved up three spots to No. 18, and the Gators fell one (to No. 21) despite a down-to-the-wire win at Kentucky.

Alabama stayed at No. 1, followed by Clemson, Oklahoma, Penn State and USC.

Here is my ballot (which also does not include the ‘Noles).

Here is the rest of the AP Top 25:

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Oklahoma

4. Penn State

5. USC

6. Washington

7. Georgia

8. Michigan

9. TCU

10. Wisconsin

11. Ohio State

12. Virginia Teche

13. Auburn

14. Miami (FL)

15. Oklahoma State

16. Washington State

17. Louisville

18. South Florida

19. San Diego State

20. Utah

21. Florida

22. Notre Dame

23. West Virginia

24. Mississippi State

25. LSU

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My AP Top 25 ballot: FSU out, USF, Florida Gators back in

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher still thinks he can have a good team, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Maybe he's right.

But right now? He doesn't have a top-25 team - at least not on my eyes.

I dropped the Seminoles off my AP Top 25 ballot after a 27-21 home loss to North Carolina State gave FSU its first 0-2 start since 1989. I was higher on FSU than most of the other voters after the opener, because Alabama is really, really good and because I wanted to see how James Blackman fared before dropping the ‘Noles too far. Well, I saw it. Mostly, I saw a defense that isn't performing up to expectations and an offense that struggled in the red zone.

Do I think FSU would beat some of the teams on my ballot? Yes. But I can't justify ranking a winless team that just lost at home to a good (not great) Wolfpack team after losing by 17 in the opener. The criteria is on results, not reputation. 0-2 speaks for itself.

So the ‘Noles are off my ballot, along with Vandy, Kentucky and Maryland. Four teams had to enter, so hello, Duke, and welcome back USF, Florida and Notre Dame. …

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Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.

Associated Press

Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a soldout crowd at Kroger Field with a 28-27 win Saturday night.

Florida avoided its first loss to Kentucky since 1986 (31 straight wins) with Jesuit High graduate Malik Davis playing a big role in the rally. The true freshman carried 21 times for 93 yards, picking up crucial yards during the fourth quarter.

In the first half, Florida fans got what they wanted in terms of an explosive offense. Both of the Gators’ first-half touchdowns came on plays that started outside the red zone, including a 36-yard rush from Kadarius Toney in the wildcat formation and a fourth-down, 45-yard reception by Tyrie Cleveland that had the Gators (2-1, 2-0 SEC) tied 14-14 after the first half.  …

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Cue the Scott Frost to Nebraska speculation

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Nebraska shook up the college sports world Thursday afternoon when it fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

And that should scare UCF fans.

It's no secret that the Cornhuskers' present doesn't match its blue-blood pedigree. That starts with Eichorst, who hired coach Mike Riley.

It has not gone well. Riley is 16-13 in Lincoln and 1-2 this season after a humiliating home loss to Northern Illinois.

Eichorst's dismissal is already fueling speculation that Riley could be the next to go. If that happens, the Huskers will need a new coach.

Which leads us to the Knights' Scott Frost.

Frost starred for the Huskers and was the quarterback of the 1997 team that finished 13-0 and claimed a split national championship with Michigan. His coaching career started there as a grad assistant in 2002 (before he spent some time with the Bucs). Clearly he knows the program well. …

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Oops: Florida Gators sent out wrong 2018 football schedule

Well this is awkward.

The Florida Gators, it turns out, released an incorrect 2018 football schedule on Tuesday. What they sent out (and I posted) differed from the master schedule released by the SEC at the same time. I didn't notice the discrepancies, but the fine folks at Alligator Army and FBSchedules did. 

And that leads to the corrected schedule UF released Wednesday morning (with fixes to three SEC games).

So here is UF's actual 2018 schedule (weather pending). All games at home unless noted otherwise:

Sept. 1: Charleston Southern
Sept. 8: Kentucky
Sept. 15: Colorado State
Sept. 22: at Tennessee
Sept. 29: at Mississippi State
Oct. 6: LSU
Oct. 13: at Vanderbilt
Oct. 20: OFF
Oct. 27: vs. Georgia (at Jacksonville)
Nov. 3: Missouri
Nov. 10: South Carolina
Nov. 17: Idaho
Nov. 24: at Florida State

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Florida Gators announce 2018 football schedule

MONICA HERNDON | Times

The Florida Gators announced their 2018 football schedule Tuesday, including an early SEC game against Kentucky and a matchup against Colorado State, which was part of coach Jim McElwain's buyout from the Rams.

Also of note, UF will host LSU for the second year in a row, after the Tigers hosted two consecutive games in the series because of Hurricane Matthew last season. And Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin gets a trip back to his former employer, Mississippi State, on Sept. 29.

Here's the full schedule, with kickoff times announced much later. Games are in Gainesville, unless otherwise noted:

Sept. 1: Charleston Southern
Sept. 8: Kentucky
Sept. 15: Colorado State
Sept. 22: at Tennessee
Sept. 29: at Mississippi State
Oct. 6: Missouri
Oct. 13: LSU
Oct. 20: OFF
Oct. 27: Georgia (in Jacksonville)
Nov. 3: at Vanderbilt
Nov. 10: South Carolina
Nov. 17: Idaho
Nov. 24: at Florida State

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Toledo feels like a second season opener for Miami Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes suit up for practice Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex

MATT BAKER | Times

The Miami Hurricanes suit up for practice Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex

LAKE BUENA VISTA - The schedule says Week 4, but it sure doesn't feel that way for the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes.

"It's like opening the season again," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Tuesday.

That's because UM, like Florida State, had two games postponed/canceled because of Hurricane Irma. The ‘Canes are still dealing with the storm's aftermath. The team was dismissed two weeks ago to prepare for the storm, and it didn't reconvene until Friday - and not at home. The ‘Canes don't return to class next week, and they're practicing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and staying in a hotel on Orlando's International Drive.

I'll have more on Miami coming later, but here's one interesting football wrinkle to the situation: This week's opponent, Toledo, has a high-powered offense (16th nationally at 46 points per game) that can up the tempo. That sounds like trouble for a talented Miami defense that could be rusty and a little out of shape given the time off.

"Some of the same issues that you have with opening games, you kind of feel..." Diaz said before Tuesday's practice. "We have to kind of be in midseason form Saturday at 3:30, no excuses."

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Jesuit alum Malik Davis brings juice to Florida Gators' run game

Getty Images

GAINESVILLE - Jesuit High product Malik Davis had one of the most impressive plays of the Florida Gators' young season - a 72-yard rush against Tennessee.

He also fumbled just before crossing the end zone; that comes with being a true freshman.

But Davis is UF's leading rusher (102 yards on five carries) through two games, with more opportunities potentially coming.

"He brings a little juice, there's no doubt," coach Jim McElwain said Monday. "He's a little bit different. He's a slasher. He does a really good job of sticking his foot in the ground and running through inside arm tackles."

McElwain said Davis is like many young players, who will get expanded roles when they're ready. McElwain believes you can paralyze a youngster by giving him too much too soon.

But given UF's overall offensive struggles dating back to the Will Muschamp era, Hillsborough County's all-time leading rusher looks like a potential spark, starting this weekend against Kentucky.

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AP Top 25: Florida Gators, USF and Miami Hurricanes all up

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF, Florida and Miami all moved up in the latest AP Top 25.

The Gators are up four spots to No. 20 in the updated rankings, released Sunday afternoon. USF is up one (to 21) after Friday's win over Illinois, and the idle Hurricanes rose three spots to No. 14.

Florida State dropped one spot, to 12th.

Alabama remained No. 1 in the rankings, although Clemson chipped away some of its first-place votes to jump to second. Oklahoma is third, followed by Penn State, USC, Oklahoma State, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Also of note, former Bulls coach Willie Taggart is back in the top 25; his Oregon Ducks are 24th.

Check out the full rankings here

1. Alabama (first-place votes -- 45)

2. Clemson (15)

3. Oklahoma (1)

4. Penn State

5. USC

6. Oklahoma State

7. Washington

8. Michigan

9. Wisconsin

10. Ohio State

11. Georgia

12. Florida State

13. Virginia Tech

14. Miami 

15. Auburn

16. TCU

17. Mississippi State

18. Washington State

19. Louisville

20. Florida

21. South Florida

22. San Diego State

23. Utah

24. Oregon

25. LSU

Dropped out: Kansas State (18), Stanford (19), Tennessee (23), UCLA (25)

My ballot has a different No. 1 team, and no Gators or Bulls. You can see it here.

MORE …

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AP Top 25: A new No. 1 on my ballot, still no Gators or USF

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

There's a new team atop my weekly AP Top 25 ballot: Clemson.

It's nothing Alabama did wrong. The Crimson Tide has the best win (24-7 over Florida State in the opener). But the Tigers have the best overall body of work (two top-25 wins, including Saturday's dominant road win against Louisville). That's enough for Clemson to move up to No. 1 this week.

What looked like a pretty mediocre slate of games ended up having a huge impact on my ballot. Six teams dropped out (Adios, UCLA, Kansas State, Stanford, Tennessee, South Carolina and LSU). Math tells us that six teams had to come enter. Picking the six was brutal, because there were few good options. The six I chose: Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Utah, West Virginia, San Diego State and Kentucky. Two I didn't choose: USF or Florida. …

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Jim McElwain wants Florida Gators to play with passion for the state

Associated Press

GAINESVILLE - -The Florida Gators returned to practice Tuesday and to media availability Wednesday, but coach Jim McElwain's mind was clearly on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, not Saturday's challenge against No. 23 Tennessee.

McElwain was uncharacteristically somber during Wednesday's weekly news conference. He said the storm has affected 60-some members of the team. Some families evacuated from their homes to UF to ride out the storm. Some, McElwain said, are still displaced.

But the game is coming, whether UF is ready or not. McElwain said the team will be prepared and try to play with "a little bit of passion and desire for the people of the state of Florida."

"It's what we do," McElwain said. "It's in our fabric."

In football news ... McElwain had no update on the nine players who are indefinitely suspended for their role in a university-related financial card scandal, and he said he has "no concern" about whether these suspensions will continue to drag on. Those sidelined include leading receiver Antonio Callaway and leading rusher Jordan Scarlett. …

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Tennessee-Florida game is on

Bryan Cox Jr. #94 of the Florida Gators tackles Joshua Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Getty Images

Bryan Cox Jr. #94 of the Florida Gators tackles Joshua Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The SEC announced late Tuesday morning the Florida-Tennessee game will go on as planned Saturday in Gainesville.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. CBS will televise the game live.

"The University of Florida has been diligent in assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Gainesville community and has made a thoughtful decision in moving forward with the game," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

"We appreciate the communication, coordination and cooperation among the many agencies and groups necessary to produce a game in a safe environment. Our prayers remain with the people of Florida as well as Texas as they recover from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey."

UF announced that fans should expect increased congestion and traffic before the game due to continued storm cleanup, coupled with the capacity crowd that typically accompanies a Gators-Vols contest.

Fans are encouraged to be in their seat 30 minutes earlier than a normal home game. Reserved and RV parking lots will be operational. Additionally, the school expects current road closures on Museum Road by Lake Alice to be operational by the game. …

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