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Tampa Bay Bucs place three players on AP All-Pro team

Three members of the Tampa Bay Bucs — Mike Evans, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy — have been named to the second team All-Pro squad, says the Associated Press.

It is the second selection for David, after earning first-team honors following the 2013 campaign. He is one of only four linebackers in team history to earn multiple AP All-Pro selections, joining Derrick Brooks, Hugh Green and Hardy Nickerson. This season, David tied for the league lead in tackles for loss with 17, while forcing four fumbles, tied for the seventh-most in the NFL. David also posted 5.0 sacks, tied for the most by any player with at least 80 tackles.

Evans is the first Buccaneers wide receiver to ever earn All-Pro honors and only the third receiver in team history to receive All-Pro honors of any kind (Mark Carrier, 1989 second-team All-Pro, College and Pro Football Newsweekly; Keyshawn Johnson, 2001 first-team All-Pro, Sports Illustrated). This season, Evans had 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ranked sixth in the NFL in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and tied for second in the league in receiving touchdowns. His 12 touchdown catches tied his own mark from 2014 for the most touchdown receptions in a single season in team history, while his 96 receptions were second-most and his 1,321 receiving yards were the third-most.

This is the third career selection for McCoy, who earned first-team honors following the 2013 season and second-team honors following the 2014 season. He is the eighth player in team history to be named to three or more AP All-Pro teams, joining Ronde Barber, Brooks, Nickerson, John Lynch, Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp and Lee Roy Selmon. McCoy started all 15 games he played in this season, leading the team in sacks with 7.0, which ranked fourth in the NFL among defensive tackles. McCoy also tied a career-best with five passes defensed, which tied for the fourth-most in the league among defensive tackles.

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Rowdies pluck English defender Luke Boden from Orlando

The Tampa Bay Rowdies didn’t have to go very far for their latest addition.

The Rowdies added defender Luke Boden, who has made 45 appearances for Orlando City in the MLS over the last two seasons. He made 95 USL appearances from 2011-2014.

Boden, 28, is originally from Sheffield, England.

Luke is a great addition to our team,” Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell said. “He brings a great deal of experience to our side having played in so many matches at both the USL and MLS levels. He’s a reliable defender with a great left foot that will bring a lot of intensity to our side.”

He is the fifth defender signed to the Rowdies’ 2017 roster. He will wear the No. 14 jersey.

Boden moved stateside in 2011 to join Orlando City. In his six years with the club, Boden won three USL Championships and was named to the USL Pro Team of the Season in 2014.

Tampa Bay is currently preparing for its Florida Cup opener against the German Bundesliga’s VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday, January 8. The Rowdies will then take on Brazilian Serie A side Atletico Mineiro on Saturday, January 14.

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Lightning clobbered again in 6-1 defeat to Nashville Predators

Another night, another half-dozen goals, another scoreboard that was just too ugly to accept.

That’s how bad Thursday night was for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay absorbed a 6-1 loss to Nashville, finishing a five-game homestand in which they hoped to make up ground at 2-2-1. The Predators scored the game’s final four goals, three of them by Colton Sissons, who had the first hat-trick of his career.

Nashville scored its goals on only 19 shots as Bolts’ goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy struggled.

“He’s a young goalie,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Eventually, he’s going to be a starting goalie in this league. You’re not going to have you’re A-game every single night. Nobody does. Under certain situations like this, Hall of Fame goaltenders have all gone through this.

“It’s how are you going to be the next game? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get ready for the next game. That’s all you can do. Tyler Johnson doesn’t have his A-game every single night. Ondrej Palat, go down the list, everybody doesn’t have their A-game every single night. I felt for him tonight, but, in saying that, we only scored one goal. So, regardless of how he did, it would have still been tough to win just getting one.”

 The game went from 2-1 to 6-1 quickly.

“If you look at that game overall, I don’t know if it is a 6-1 game,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t as bad as the score (indicated).”

Said defenseman Victor Hedman: “Just one of those games where you can’t find a way tos core. I definitely don’t think it was a 6-1 game. A tough one to explain.”

Cooper agreed.

“We defended,” he said. “We worked. We had 70 shot attempts at the net. We held them to barely 35 or something like that. There’s a lot to build on that. We didn’t really give them much the whole night. They did an exceptional job. Well, you look at it both ways. Did they do an exceptional job blocking shots or did we shoot them into them? They had 24 blocked shots. That’s a lot. That’s more than the shots on goal they had.”

The Bolts now travel to Philadelphia and to Pittsburgh over the weekend.

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USF running back Marlon Mack declares for NFL Draft

The high-powered offense of the USF Bulls absorbed a blow Thursday night when junior running back Marlon Mack announced he was entering this year’s NFL draft.

Mack leaves as USF’s all-time leading rusher with 3,609 yards and a program-record average of 6.2 yards per carry. Mack also owns program records for all-purpose yards (4,107), rushing touchdowns (32) and total touchdowns (33) while ranking third with 198 career points scored.

“This decision was not easy but after weeks of contemplating I’ve decided to declare for the NFL Draft,” Mack said. “I would like to thank the University of South Florida for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love. I would also like to thank my coaches and teammates for guiding me and being there for me during my collegiate career. I will always be a Bull. Go Bulls!”

Mack posted three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons at USF and became the first Bull to earn first team all-conference honors three times. He ran for 1,187 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry, while catching a career high 28 passes for 227 yards in his junior season. Mack set a USF record with 20 career 100-yard games, including a season record nine in 2015, and owns three of the top six rushing seasons in USF history.

Mack set an American Athletic Conference record and equaled a USF game record in his collegiate debut when he ran for 275 yards and four touchdowns vs. Western Carolina in 2014. He also posted 230 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulls’ victory over No. 21 Temple in 2015. Mack twice led the American Conference in rushing, doing so in 2014 and 2015.

He ends his collegiate career ranked seventh all-time among FBS collegiate rushers in the state of Florida history. He played in and started 36 games at USF and averaged 100.2 yards rushing per game   for his career.

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USF coach Charlie Strong adds Sterlin Gilbert as offensive coordinator

With his first hire, USF coach Charlie Strong added a hint of Texas to his staff.

Strong added offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, who worked for him in the same capacity with the Longhorns.

Gilbert served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Strong at Texas during the 2016 season and previously held positions as co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Tulsa (2015), Bowling Green (2014) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13). Gilbert’s last four offenses at four different universities have posted a combined average of 505.3 yards and 36.8 points per game, producing 304.3 yards per game through the air and 200.9 yards per game on the ground.

 “Sterlin has put together a tremendous track record of developing players and producing highly productive offenses that build on his players strengths,” Strong said. “He’s young and passionate about his players and the game of football. We are excited to have Sterlin on our Bulls staff and to have him working with the very talented players we have at South Florida.”

 Gilbert’s Texas offense ranked 17th in the nation and second in the Big 12 in rushing, posting 239.3 yards per game on the ground, and was 16th nationally and fifth in the Big 12 averaging 491.3 total yards per game. Longhorn running back D’Onta Foreman became just the 28th player in FBS history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. He ran for over 100 yards in all 11 games he played and ranked first in the nation in rushing yards per game (184.4 ypg), second in total rushing yards (2,028 yards) and third in all-purpose yards (191.18 ypg). Foreman earned first team All-America honors and was named the 2016 Doak Walker Award winner and the 2016 Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

 “I’m excited to join Coach Strong at South Florida and to get to work building on the great season they just had,” Gilbert said. “We have some very talented players, led by a dynamic quarterback in Quinton Flowers, and I am really looking forward to working with them and the great football talent in the state of Florida. Being a former high school coach, I look forward to meeting the high school coaches in the state and know they play great football here.”

 Prior to Texas, Gilbert led a Tulsa offense that ranked 11th in the nation in passing (333.2 ypg), 13th in total offense (507.4 ypg) and 21st in scoring (37.2 ppg) in the nation.

Gilbert was a three-year starter and two-year captain at quarterback at Angelo State University, where he led the Rams to back-to-back Lone Star Conference South Division championships and concluded his career fourth all-time in total offense at the school. He was also a two-time All-State quarterback and 1996 District MVP at San Angelo Lake View High School, where he also earned Big XII Region All-America and All-West Texas 4A MVP honors.

 He earned his degree in kinesiology with a minor in history from Angelo State in 2002.

 The Bulls will play seven home games in Raymond James Stadium in 2017, hosting notable games vs. Illinois, Houston, Temple, Tulsa and Cincinnati.

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Former Lightning Coach John Tortorella poised to make history

Tampa Bay Lightning fans will remember John Tortorella. In 2004, he coached the Lightning to their one and only Stanley Cup, defeating the Calgary Flames, four games to three.

Trailing three games to two, Tampa Bay won Game 6 on the road and Game 7 at what was then the St. Pete Times Forum. Calling the games for ABC was Sarasota resident Gary Thorne, Bill Clement and John Davidson.

Davidson and Tortorella would join forces in Columbus, Ohio a decade later to form a partnership that would change both of their lives. On Thursday night, Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets will try to do something only one other team in history has accomplished: 17 straight wins.

A lot has happened to Tortorella between the historic night of June 7, 2004 when the Stanley Cup was hoisted over the head of the coach and his jubilant players, and today. He won the Jack Adams Award as National Hockey League Coach of the Year in 2004 and is favored to win it this year, but it has been a long road for him.

His tenure in Tampa Bay was winding down when he told a New York Post reporter to “get the **** out of here” in 2007. One year later he was fired and moved on to the New York Rangers.

During his five years in Gotham, the Rangers were respectable, but made it to the conference finals only one time. Unfortunately, he is best remembered for an incident in Washington where he tossed a water bottle and brandished a hockey stick to a taunting Capitals’ fan.

After he was fired in New York, Tortorella spent one disastrous season in Vancouver, where the Canucks missed the playoffs in 2014, their first absence in seven seasons.  Tortorella again made the wrong kind of news when he tried to get into the Calgary Flames’ locker room between periods of a game. The brawl that ensued led to a 15-day suspension.

By 2012, John Davidson was President of Hockey Operations for the Blue Jackets. After firing Todd Richards just seven games (all losses) into the 2015-16 season, Davidson hired Tortorella. The Jackets showed some promise, but did not make the playoffs.

Tortorella was tapped to coach Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey event last fall. True to his nature, he made news, but what he did earned the support of many Americans who were aware of it.

He said if any of his players sat during the national anthem, they would be “benched.” That turned out to be the least of his worries as Team USA failed to win a game.

This year’s Blue Jackets team got off to a respectable 11-5-4 start. On November 29, the Lightning came to Columbus and left with a 5-1 defeat. That was the first in a string of 16 consecutive wins for the Blue Jackets.

On Thursday, Tortorella and Columbus will try to match the consecutive wins record held by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins. That team was led by Mario Lemieux and coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman.

While Tortorella has eight fewer Stanley Cups than Bowman, a win on Thursday would have him standing next to hockey royalty for good reason. No one, other than Tortorella, Davidson and a few others saw this team come together this fast.

He has instilled a strong work ethic in a team devoid of superstars. He likes to call them a “group of focused businessmen.”

“They’ve accepted the thought of coming to work every day and worrying about that day, worrying about that game and not worrying about what happened, what’s ahead of us,” he told local media. “That’s where we are right now. We’re becoming pretty good pros.”

If the streak continues for another week, the Lightning would have the chance to be the ones to start and end it. The Blue Jackets visit Amalie Arena on Friday the 13th.

Thirteen years after winning a Stanley Cup, it appears John Tortorella has come full circle.

 

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FSU has big shoes to fill with the departure of Dalvin Cook

FSU has a lot of players coming back to its football team. One who won’t is a big one.

Dalvin Cook finished the season as the nation’s No. 1 running back, according to Pro Football Focus. It remains to be seen if Cook is the top back taken — some mocks seem to prefer LSU’s Leonard Fournette — but Cook’s season put him above everyone else in college.

Cook finished the year with 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns on 288 carries this season, and also finished as the Seminoles second leading receiver with 488 yards and a touchdown on 33 receptions.

Here is what PFF’s Gordon McGuinness had to say about Cook:

“Coming into the year, the big question was who would emerge as the best running back in the nation, with strong candidates in Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. In the end, it was Cook who had the best year, capping off an incredible collegiate career with an impressive three-game stretch to end the year that summed up his play nicely.

In games against Syracuse, Florida and Michigan, he averaged 3.7, 4.8 and 6.0 yards after contact per carry, and forced 33 missed tackles. Particularly against Michigan that really is incredible, with 119 of his 145 yards coming after contact and Cook forcing a missed tackle once every two carries.

“Cook led all running backs in 2016 with 1,195 yards after contact, the most of any running back in the nation, but also more than all but 31 running backs managed total rushing yards. The best pure runner in the nation, Cook stands out in terms of raw stats, advanced stats and passes the eyeball test too, with plenty of quality runs of four and five yards in his repertoire. In a year when many of the top running backs in the nation didn’t live up to expectations, Cook was able to tie a career best in touchdowns and post career-best numbers in rushing yards and yards after contact.”

FSU has a few candidates to run the ball next year, including junior Jacques Patrick, freshman Cam Akers, Ryan Green, Amir Rasul, freshman Khalan Rayborn and freshman Zaquandre White.

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Clemson’s Deshaun Watson prepares for strong Alabama defense

Deshaun Watson has looked forward to his Tampa trip, oh, for about a year now.

Watson, the Clemson quarterback, was among those who weren’t satisfied when the Tigers lost a 45-40 game to Alabama a year ago. Immediately, he suggested he would see everyone in Tampa.

“Just belief,” he said Wednesday in a teleconference. “That’s just the type of person I am. That’s it. I have high standards for me and my teammates, and this is where we wanted to be. We weren’t going to sit there and say we’re not going to be in Tampa or in the National Championship. That was one of the things, we wanted to be in the front again and be one of the best teams. Just having that belief and that’s it, going into the year and putting in the work.”

Watson said the Tigers’ preparation has been based on tapes from this year’s Alabama team, not last year’s.

“Last year is last year,” Watson said. “You can’t go based off last year. They have maybe – I want to say seven new starters, eight new starters on this defense, and everyone else is in the NFL. So totally different defense, so you’ve got to go based off this previous year. You can’t live on last year’s success. You’ve got to keep moving forward and see what’s going on this year.”

The Tide has 50 sacks this season. Watson is sure to face pressure.

“It won’t be a shell shock or a shock when we step on the field on Monday,” Watson said. “I think they’re very good and we’ve prepared and we’ve prepared the defense, so we’ll just turn our eyes to ourselves and keep moving forward and worry about Clemson.”

Win or lose, Watson has left a fine legacy at Clemson.

“Just leading this platform for the right reasons,” Watson had. “Help others, impact the community, and I’ve done it with no regrets, just had fun and enjoyed the time at Clemson.”

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Two recruiting sites say FSU is having a Top 10 recruiting year

The rich, evidently, get richer.

The recruiting sites are writing that most of the Florida schools are doing well in recruiting, led by FSU, which both 247sports.com and Rivals.com see as having a top 10 recruiting class again.

Of course, the signatures are not on the line yet, so recruitings can shuffle somewhat.

The website 247sports.com has FSU fifth in the nation. They have Miami 15th, Florida 19th, UCF 60th, USF 73rd, FIU 89th and FAU 95th.

Rivals, has most of the teams in the same neighborhood. They have FSU eighth, Miami 13th, Florida 17th, UCF 50th, USF 73rd, FAU 88th and FIU 89th.

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Lightning has an awful second period in loss to Winnipeg Jets

For a while, things were going along swimmingly for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And then the team drowned.

Tampa Bay gave up three goals in the second period Tuesday night, losing a 6-4 game to Winnipeg. The Bolts gave up three goals or more for the 10th time in 12 games.

“It was men against boys after that first period,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We’ve been able to accumulate some points at home, and we come out and do everything we wanted to do in the first period except get the lead. Just to come out like we did, we just didn’t defend. We thought about one net only and once you do that, that’s it for you. Next thing you know it’s 4-1 and that’s a long way to come back. It’s tough, too, in this league to score four goals in a game and lose. That’s tough and we found a way to do that tonight.

“We let one slip through our fingers tonight. Give Winnipeg credit. I know they outshot us two to one after the first period. When you break it down, they played two good periods of hockey and we played one. Usually that means the team playing two is going to win the game.”

The Bolts gave up the first goal for the fifth time in six games. They tied the game on Michael Peca’s first NHL goal.

“We just didn’t have a good follow-up shift after that, and the next thing you know, the penalty shot,” Cooper said. “It’s the call they made. But still, even with that going in, it’s one, but then we gave up the third one right away. After kind of a long shift in our own zone that we just did not compete hard enough and that’s what happens  against good teams.”

Nikolaj Ehlers scored twice for the Jets, including on a penalty shot.

The Bolts came back to within one after Nikita Kucherov scored twice and Ondrej Palat once.

Tampa Bay is home Thursday night against Nashville.

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