Gary Shelton - 5/188 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott talks expansion

Right now, the race for a new MLS expansion team seems to be in a 12-team tie.

At least, that was the impression from a 45-minute conference call with MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, who was careful not to handicap the race and to say only good things about the contestants.

Abbott did say his Expansion Committee – to be made up of team owners – will want a decision on the next four MLS teams by the end of this year with an eye on 2020. He repeated that his criteria was 1) whether it has the dynamics from a fan support criteria to be successful; 2) whether it can add to the league from a media standpoint; 3. whether it has a solid ownership group and 4) its stadium plan.

Where does that put St. Petersburg? Certainly, it would seem to be in the top half. 1) It’s popular. 2) It has the largest media market currently without a team; 3) Plans have been discussed to add to Al Lang and 4) Bill Edwards has been one of the most dependable owners in the NASL.

“Some of the factors are factors that we talked about,” Abbott said.

Said Edwards: “Today Major League Soccer hosted a media call with MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott to discuss the expansion applications they received. We are very encouraged by Deputy Commissioner Abbott’s comments related to our ownership, media market, stadium plan and team history. Our assets stack up well against Major League Soccer’s criteria for selecting expansion cities.”

Are there problems in other cities?

Sure. Sacramento is still working on a unified ownership group. Miami has had problems getting a stadium. Cincinnati is currently in Nippert Stadium. Charlotte has no history of a pro soccer league.

Look at the 12 cities, and it’s easy to put them into four categories, even if Abbott won’t.

1. The favorites: St. Louis, Sacramento, Detroit.

2. The darkhorses: St. Petersburg, Cincinnati, Minnesota.

3. The longshots: Indianapolis, Raleigh, Phoenix.

4. Thanks for playing: Charlotte, Nashville, San Diego.

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Successful football recruiting intensifies FAU, FIU rivarly

The coaches are new. The programs are refreshed.

Soon, FAU and FIU will fight it out the way they did in this year’s football recruiting.

Both teams did well in the Conference USA recruiting, with FAU finishing first and FIU third in the conference competition. FAU was 70th overall in the country and FIU was 75th.

It could signal a new day for both programs. FAU is now led by former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, and FIU is led by former Miami coach Butch Davis.

FAU’s class was headed by receiver Willie Wright. FIU landed athlete Dorian Hall.

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Impact wide receiver Marlon Williams heads UCF’s recruits

Marlon Williams, a one-time commitment to Southern Cal, highlighted a good recruiting class for the UCF Knights.

Williams, whose 47 catches included 22 touchdowns, should help with the aerial attack of coach Scott Frost. He is from Mobile, Ala.

The Knights added 21 names to their recruiting list, which ranked 60th in the country according to 247sports.com.

“I know he’s a good, offensive-minded coach and I really look forward to playing for (Frost),” Williams told the Orlando Sentinel. He also said UCF fans can expect an “exciting player who makes big plays and a fun person to watch.”

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USF climbs the national recruiting rankings with strong finish

The USF Bulls are closing strong on signing day.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s because of new coach Charlie Strong.

The Bulls, No. 119 in the country a day earlier, surged to No. 77 in the 247sports.com rankings Thursday with more work to do. Perhaps it was surprise signings, like Armwood defensive end Jabreel Stephens, and perhaps the website was skeptical if the Bulls could get all of their commits to sign.

Can USF move further up the rankings? With another player or two, maybe.

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Gators hope signee Jake Allen can join the quarterback scramble

Add another name to the quarterback derby of the University of Florida Gators.

The Gators landed Jake Allen, who will join Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask as coach Jim McElwain continues to search for just the right quarterback. Allen, of course, will be a year behind in the derby and might need time to adjust, but he has potential. He was the 23rd ranked pro-style quarterback.

Florida moved up to No. 18 in 247sports.com’s rankings.

The Gators boosted their class Thursday when Virginia defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe announced he was going to join Florida. He is the third defensive tackle to sign with Florida, joining juco transfer Javier Edwards out of Blinn (Texas) Community College and Kyree Campbell, another Virginia product from Woodbridge.

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Miami coach Mark Richt makes an impression in recruiting

The Evidence is in. And others, too.

In all, it was a solid recruiting day for the University of Miami, which rose to 11th in the 247sports.com rankings.

Among the signings was Evidence Njoku, the younger brother of NFL-bound David Nkoju. He will be joined at the U by quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who might be the team’s quarterback of the future with the departure of Brad Kaaya. In his last two seasons at Ocala Vanguard High school, Perry threw for 56 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

Coach Mark Richt always recruited well while he was at Georgia. Evidently, he’s off to a good start again.

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FSU lands two of nation’s top 10 players in recruiting class

The FSU Seminoles can claim a successful recruiting season after landing two of the nation’s top 10 products.

FSU has already enrolled running back Cam Akers, the nation’s second-ranked prospect, and defensive end Joshua Kaindoh, a defensive end.

The Seminoles had tried to bolster their class on signing day with sixth ranked Marvin Wilson, but there was no word by mid-day. Wilson is being recruited by six school.

FSU did miss out on linebacker Levi Jones, who spurned both FSU and Florida and signed with Southern Cal.

FSU has also replenished positions of need with depth in running backs Khalan Laborn and Zaquandre White, four-star safeties Cyrus Fagan and Hamsah Nasirildeen, and four-star quarterbacks James Blackman and Bailey Hockman. Four-star receiver D.J. Matthews is also considered the nation’s best slot receiver.

According to 247sports.com, it was the nation’s top five recruiting class for coach Jimbo Fisher.

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Lightning struggles again in disappointing loss to Boston

This is the way it’s going for the Tampa Bay Lightning: Badly.

This is the way it’s going: The Bolts finally get a game with three goals … and goaltender Ben Bishop gives up four.

This is the way it’s going: The Lightning finally gets a breakaway in the third period of Thursday night’s game…and Tyler Johnson passes the puck backward instead of taking a shot.

This is the way it’s going: Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman is hit from behind by Boston’s Brad Marchand, and no penalty is called. The Bruins promptly score twice in the last two minutes of the second period.

In other words, it was business as usual in the Bolts’ 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins, another in a series of games the team has designated as important. Yet, as usual, the Lightning stubbed their toes and failed to make up any ground.

It would be mystifying if only it had not happened so often.

“Fifty games in?” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I guess it’s not too mystifying anymore. It’s happened too often. How many times do you have to say ‘consistency.’ It’s tough.

“Why do they change the way they play? You pat them on the back and say ‘good first period’ and they go out there and play not so good.”

The Bolts are now 22-23-6 on the season. They are six points out of the final wild-card spot.

Goaltender Ben Bishop fell to 11-12-3 with the loss. He faced 35 shots, but four of them got past him.

After taking a 1-0 lead and playing a solid first period, the Bolts gave up two goals in two minutes – the second with .09 seconds to play – to fall behind.

Alex Killorn’s second goal tied it, but Boston scored two to close out the game. The Bolts had only 13 shots in the second and third period and only 21 for the game.

“We have to have more consistency,” said Killorn. “It’s kind of disappointing. We show a little fight at the end of the third period, but it wasn’t enough.”

The Lightning plays Ottawa on Thursday night in an effort to keep up with a league that is moving farther away from the team.

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Rowdies’ first USL schedule is set with 16 home matches

If the Tampa Bay Rowdies are to contend this year in the USL, they will have the opportunity to get hot.

The Rowdies of coach Stuart Cambell play three games in a row three times during the year, including the first three of the season against Orlando B, Toronto FC II and the Ottawa Fury.

Later in the season, the Rowdies have a three-game set against Charleston, Pittsburgh and Harrison City. The Rowdies close out their home schedule against Charlotte, Bethlehem and the New York Red Bulls II.

In all, the Rowdies will play 32 games, playing each team home and away for 28 of the games. The other four will be games against the Charleston Battery and Ottawa Fury FC, plus an extra visit to Orlando City B and a trip to Texas to play San Antonio FC.

All 16 home matches will start at 7:30. Season tickets can be purchased by calling (727)-222-2000. Single game tickets will go on sale later.

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FSU poised to add even more stars to impressive recruiting class

One day before national signing day, and the FSU Seminoles remain solidly in fifth place in the 247sports.com’s rankings.

The Seminoles have 21 recruits, with five slots left open. FSU is hoping to add another receiver, a defensive end, a defensive tackle, a linebacker and a safety. The Seminoles already have seven recruits enrolled, including much discussed running back Cam Akers.

In all, it looks like another solid class for coach Jimbo Fisher.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the Seminoles’ best chances are with five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and four-star linebacker Levi Jones.

Elsewhere in the state, 247sports.com doesn’t like USF’s recruiting at all. It has the school ranked No. 118. That means new coach Charlie Strong will have to finish, well, strong.

Other state schools include Miami (No. 16), Florida (21), UCF (66), FIU (79) and FAU (79).

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