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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.

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).

Another penalty in overtime dooms the Lightning in loss to Panthers

The hollow feeling was familiar. Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning had let an opportunity slip away.

Once again, the game went into overtime. Once again, Tyler Johnson – the hero of the upset of the Chicago Blackhawks – was called for a penalty. Once again, the opponent quickly scored to win a 2-1 game. It was, in other words, just like the team’s loss on Jan. 17 to Anaheim.

This time, the loss was to the Florida Panthers, who got a goal 1:49 into overtime from former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault for the win.

“Obviously, we’re extremely frustrated right now,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Let’s be honest, that was a long road trip. It was so long we sat through two presidents. But for us to point, we pointed in four of the six games, it’s just a little bit frustrating because you sit here and say, ‘It could have been an unreal trip, but it turns into a mediocre trip just because we got six points out of it.’

“Ultimately, we defended extremely well for most of the game. It’s tough when you’re only scoring one a game. Some of the Grade-A’s we have, we’re not finding a way to bury them. We’ve got to bear down and put these in the back of the net. When you get to overtime and take penalties, you’re pretty much almost giving the game away, and we’ve done that twice now and it’s hurt us.”

The Bolts gave up a shorthanded goal to Jussi Jokinen, another former member of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one on a power play goal, his 19th goal of the year, but the Lightning couldn’t score again.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.

“I haven’t been in this spot before,” Cooper said, “but, ultimately, I’m sure every team that hasn’t made the playoffs at the end of the year looks back and says, ‘We left points here, we left points here, we left points here.’ That’s ultimately how it adds up. Now in saying that, we’ve played fairly well here. We’ve just got to find a way to push ourselves over and get the two points that we feel a lot of these games we’ve deserved. But there’s no moral victories here. We ended up losing. We can’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say ‘good effort.’ We need to find a way to win games. But going into the break, pick up three out of four points and hopefully a little bit of momentum for Boston in a few days.”

The Lightning is now 2-17-5 this year when scoring two goals or fewer.

The Bolts have the weekend off for the all-star game (except for Victor Hedman and Kucherov, who are playing) before returning to play Tuesday night against Boston.

Earlier Thursday, the Lightning traded Nikita Nesterov to Montreal for defenseman Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round draft pick.

Both FSU, Florida football teams will be represented in Super Bowl

There will be at least a bit of the Sunshine State in the upcoming Super Bowl.

Former FSU running back Devonta Freeman, who had his second straight 1,000-yard season this year, will lead the Atlanta Falcons. Former FSU guard Tre’ Jackson is on the Patriots’ physically unable to perform list.

The Florida Gators have been represented in 15 straight Super Bowls, since the Tampa Bay Bucs won. This year, both Keanu Neal and Brian Poole play for the Atlanta Falcons.

divorce alimony

Alimony reform bill filed for 2017

State Rep. Colleen Burton will try again to overhaul the state’s alimony law, filing a bill on Wednesday.

The Lakeland Republican still aims to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed, after last year’s measure was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

“I believe it is the right thing to do,” Burton said in a phone interview. “It costs families a lot of money to go through a process that has no starting point. This gives judges a starting point, the same in Miami as in Pensacola, and gives predictability to former spouses who are trying to determine alimony.

“I have nothing personal invested in this,” she added. “This is just worth trying again.”

The latest bill (HB 283), however, does not contain child custody provisions that garnered Scott’s disfavor in 2016.

He disapproved of that legislation because it had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” his veto letter said.

Family-law related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers have tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

In 2013, Scott vetoed a previous attempt to modify alimony law because, he said, “it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

He added that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

On one side, former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them.

Their exes shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

But Burton’s 26-page bill, among other things, contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

A message for Burton seeking comment was left at her Lakeland district office.

But her Senate counterpart last year, Republican Kelli Stargel also of Lakeland, said in a text message she will not file a companion measure.

“I don’t know that I’m willing to take this on again next year,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in April. “Then again, a lot can happen between now and the next legislative session. But we need to discuss the merits of a bill and not get into heated rhetoric.”

The legislation eventually caused “a hollering battle” between about 100 advocates and opponents of the bill outside Scott’s office days before the veto.

Update: State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, on Friday filed the Senate companion to the House bill, which she says is identical save for  “a few punctuation differences.”

Florida schools’ in-state bowl wins will only help recruiting

We are less than three weeks from National Signing Day for college football. Florida’s power schools will, of course, do well, while South Florida is a finalist for the biggest remaining prize.

Florida, Florida State and Miami each posted impressive bowl game victories in their home state, something that can perhaps sway an undecided star player. Better yet, it can impress an in-state junior or sophomore enough to put your school on the list for a future signing day.

The Gators’ rout of Iowa in the Outback Bowl, Miami’s romp over No. 12 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the Seminoles’ squeaker over Michigan in the Orange Bowl were huge for all three programs. It did not take the Hurricanes long to begin using their bowl trophy as a recruiting tool.

Before bowl season, all three were having good recruiting years. The 2017 Florida State recruiting class is ranked sixth by Rivals.com and seventh by ESPN.

Yes, Alabama has the top-rated class.

Florida is ranked 18th by both outlets, while Miami is 13th by ESPN and 14th by Rivals. None of the other Florida schools are ranked in the top 40, but Central Florida is rated 53rd by Rivals.

USF is a finalist along with FSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and LSU for defensive tackle Marvin Wilson from Houston, Texas. He has already visited the first three, but will travel to LSU on Saturday and USF next Friday.

Statements from Wilson indicate LSU and FSU are currently his top two. Whomever Wilson selects, that school’s class ranking will rise accordingly.

Another top defensive tackle is Aubrey Solomon of Leesburg, Ga. He will visit Southern California on Friday, Auburn next Friday and Florida on January 27, only five days before he will make a decision.

The top remaining Floridian is defensive end Jarez Parks of Sebastian, Fla. He is visiting Florida on Friday and Auburn next Friday. His visit to Tallahassee came during the Florida State vs. Florida weekend.

There is plenty of competition for high school talent, but especially in Florida. The available talent is at the top of the charts.

National Champion Clemson always recruits Florida hard. Winning that championship in Tampa can only help their long-term prospects.

Former Gator Coach Will Muschamp is bringing a couple of Florida recruits to his new home at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have the 11th-best class.

For those that follow recruiting closely, this will be an interesting three weeks.


Examining the expectations for Florida football teams in 2017

If the early prognostications mean anything, then a level of success is going to surround the state of Florida in 2017.

Most of the too-soon predictions for next season have FSU contending for a playoff spot. They think USF could have its best season ever. They think Florida and Miami will both be solid. The predictions come despite FSU losing Dalvin Cook, despite Florida losing much of its defense, despite USF losing Marlon Mack and despite UM losing Brad Kaaya.

ESPN has FSU second in the nation to Alabama. CBS has the Seminoles third. Sporting News has FSU sixth, same as Pro Football Focus. SB Nation has FSU fourth.

USF is 10th by CBS. They’re 20th on ESPN, 25th on Sporting News, 15th by Pro Football Focus and 21st by SB Nation.

Florida is ranked 21st by ESPN, 14th by Sporting News, 21st by Pro Football Focus and 18th by SB Nation. They are unranked by CBS.

UM is 16th by ESPN, 24th by CBS, 21st by Sporting News, 17th by Pro Football Focus and 19th by SB Nation.

FSU ranked eighth in final AP poll; three other state teams ranked

In the final Associated Press poll of the year, the debate anymore is not who is No. 1.

It’s how the rest of the field sorts out.

This year, for instance, there was never any doubt that Clemson and Alabama would be 1-2 in the polls. But Southern Cal climbed to No. 3 in the final poll.

The two national semifinal losers finished behind the Trojans. Washington was fourth and Ohio State sixth (behind Oklahoma).

Four of Florida’s teams made the top 20 in the poll. FSU finished No. 8 and Florida No. 14 in the polls. USF finished 19th, the first time ever the team has been ranked in the final poll. Miami was 20th.

LSU was 13th. The Tigers, Florida and USF all climbed six spots in the final poll.

Steve Sarkisian: Time away showed me I loved coaching football

Steve Sarkisian has been cramming for a final exam he didn’t know he’d have to take.

The newly elevated Alabama offensive coordinator had all of a week after his earlier-than-expected promotion to prepare and implement the game plan for Monday night’s national championship game with No. 3 Clemson. Not to mention getting better acquainted with players, most notably quarterback Jalen Hurts, and adapting to a very different job description.

“I’m embracing this more than anything,” Sarkisian said Saturday. “I would be remiss if I didn’t exhaust myself in the preparation standpoint to put our players in the best position to go do the best job they can do Monday night because they’ve earned this.”

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told Sarkisian he was getting the early bump in responsibilities last Sunday, the day after the Peach Bowl semifinal game. A day later, Saban announced that Lane Kiffin would head to his new job leading the Florida Atlantic program instead of sticking around through the playoffs as initially planned.

Sarkisian, 42, had already been promoted and started formulating ideas for spring practices and for the offense and he said that made the transition easier .

He amiably faced dozens of reporters and cameras, and a spotlight he’d been able to avoid since his firing as Southern California’s head coach in October 2015, and subsequent entry into an inpatient rehab facility for alcoholism.

He mostly said questions about his battle were “for another time,” but did touch on what he’d learned about himself during that time.

“I think the biggest thing I discovered about me is, I’m a good person,” Sarkisian said. “Not perfect, like none of us are. But the reality of it is I also learned that I love this game and I love coaching football. I love being around these players. I love being around the coaches. I love all of college football. I love game day, when you get to go to that stadium. I really like to try to take it in. I think it’s important that we don’t just gloss over that kind of stuff, and enjoy the moment.”

That was much easier to do as an offensive analyst than a head coach, or coordinator for that matter. Asked how he was doing personally, Sarkisian said succinctly: “Life is good.” He also believes he’ll be a head coach again.

Sarkisian said he has spoken to Kiffin this week and praised his performance over the last three years, which included three Southeastern Conference titles and a shot at a second national championship.

He was expecting to spend the season working as a television analyst, but then started visiting different teams. His first practice observing the Atlanta Falcons drove home how much he wanted to get right back into coaching.

Those stops included the University of Florida, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a week in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with Saban and Kiffin, a former colleague at USC.

“Before he left, he said he was supposed to do some TV work or something, but he would really like to get involved in a program someplace, and if there was any opportunity for him to do it here …” Saban said. “And I liked him in the week that he spent with us.”

They delayed his starting the job until after the opener against USC – to avoid looking like Alabama was seeking an advantage in the game.

Sarkisian had already learned the offense but his behind-the-scenes role didn’t allow him to develop close relationships with most of the players, including Hurts. Hurts says he’d only had three or four casual conversations with Sarkisian before this week.

“Nothing’s changed, it’s just a different guy calling plays,” Hurts said. He did check out some of Sarkisian’s coaching highlights online, and said his postgame celebration was “pretty cool.”

“Lane is moreso a laid-back guy,” Hurts said. “Coach Sark is an enthusiastic guy. He’s kind of electric. He brings a different feel to practice. It’s different for all of us.”

Sarkisian said the two have “a really good relationship” and he’s clearly been able to watch and learn about the freshman throughout the season even if the reverse isn’t necessarily true.

“He’s a kid who loves football,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a gym rat. He works at the game. Those are the kind of guys I like to be around. They make my job easier. I think it’s a good (relationship). I think we’ve worked well together this week and ultimately I think we’ll work well together Monday night.”

Sarkisian was constantly in motion during the media viewing period at practices in Tuscaloosa, including rushing at the quarterbacks with arms upraised to simulate a blitz.

He might have to be ready to get yelled at on the sidelines. Kiffin absorbed more than a few chewing-outs from Saban during games.

Sarkisian says he hasn’t experienced that from a head coach since the 2009 Rose Bowl when USC was playing Penn State (and won 52-49). Sarkisian had already accepted the head coaching job at Washington.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m a head coach, too,'” he said, smiling. “But not in that game I wasn’t.”

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

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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