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New December high school signing day provides plenty of hype/drama

Jamil King

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

With the installment of a new December early signing period starting Wednesday in college football, there is now some added excitement in between bowl games for the fans.

For the coaching staffs, they can now know who will be attending their program for certain, two months earlier and go after the remaining players on their boards. For the players who choose to sign, it’s a relief to have it solved and over with, too.

Let’s check in on some teams and specific names:

The Florida Gators and new coach Dan Mullen picked up a huge boost for the class by landing duel threat quarterback Emory Jones. Jones was previously an Ohio State commit, but now fills the void left by previous Gator commit Matt Corral who flipped to Ole Miss last week.

The Gators also picked up Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson to help bolster the passing game. So, you have to be pleased in Gainesville with those additions.

The Miami Hurricanes seem to be continuing to showcase that the U is back. Despite preparing for the Orange Bowl, the Canes are putting together an impressive class. They inked a potential future triple threat in quarterback Jarren Williams, running back Lorenzo Lingard, and wide receiver Mark Pope. They also added corner Al Blades Jr. and tight end Brevin Jordan from California.

The Canes currently are holding a top 5 class in most recruiting rankings and it’s looking like Mark Richt is building something special in Coral Gables.

Florida State didn’t get, as lucky as their in-state rivals in this early addition of signing day. With new coach Willie Taggart cris-crossing the state, the Noles lost out to Florida on Emory Jones and lost out to Georgia in trying to recapture James Cook. They did pick up 4-star defensive tackle Robert Cooper, and most of their class is expected to sign on the official signing day in February.

The State of Florida still has some prominent players on the board in Patrick Surtain Jr., who we wrote about previously, as the number two prospect regardless of position in the state.

And the number 5 player Tyson Campbell is Surtain’s teammate from American Heritage and both are being recruited by the Canes, Noles, and a handful of SEC teams.

So far, the Hurricanes are leading the pack in the state being followed by the Gators with the Noles rounding out the top three.

Jamil King is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

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CFB

No, Paul Finebaum isn’t going to the Big Ten Network

Florida Football Insiders

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

We are still a couple of months away from the drama of SEC football. And, that would include whether the Gators under new boss, Dan Mullen, can get their act together in 2018.

But this week there is word that one of the premier “talking heads” of SEC Football, and there are many, is having trouble getting his deal renewed with ESPN/SEC Network. And, there is definitely some fascinating drama around Paul Finebaum’s status.

Some quick background, Finebaum is former long time newspaper writer and columnist covering Alabama, Auburn and the SEC in that state. He hosted a successful state wide afternoon radio show for years in Alabama. And, as the popularity of SEC Football rocketed with both Bama and Auburn enjoying fantastic success in the 2000’s, Finebaum made the evolving transition to television.

So, when the SEC Network debuted three years ago, Finebaum was a natural to anchor the weekday lineup of “TV talk” and his television/radio simulcast is tremendously popular.

And that brings us to the current negotiations between Finebaum, his agent and ESPN.

First, in about two weeks hundreds of SEC media will gather in the new home of SEC Media Days (four of them) in it’s new home, Atlanta.

Coaches, players, former players, and prominent media from all 14 schools are there revving up everyone for September and the SEC.

And for the SEC Network this is known as, “offseason gold.”

And, don’t think for a second that Paul Finebaum and his representation aren’t looking to capitalize on that deadline in his contract talks.

That’s when, the first “warning shot” from Finebaum’s camp was leaked to fellow SEC national radio host and “talking TV head,” Clay Travis and he wrote about it last week:

Now, there’s no doubt that Finebaum was/is exerting leverage on ESPN with that leaked threat.

Well, then things went five levels higher on the absurdity of the negotiations, when again, Finebaum and his agent, let it be known that he might be interested in ……. jumping to the Big Ten Network?!?

Yes, that’s the latest in the “rumor mill”from Sporting News earlier this week:

First, we at F.F.I. would love to know if Finebaum can name the 14 Big Ten Stadiums that the schools play in, much less, if he has even been in half of them to cover/watch a game.

And, we’d be further impressed, if without looking at anything, including Google on his phone, if Finebaum could name half of the Big Ten’s current football coaches, too.

So, the stratosphere level of silliness that he would seriously consider leaving the fan bases, teams, coaches, legacies, etc. of the SEC just doesn’t make any sense.

It again, wreaks of his trying to leverage ESPN anyway possible to get a better deal.

Now, for example, if Finebaum were to seriously talk to CBS and CBS Sports Network, which has been TV home to the SEC Game of the Week for over 20 years now, that would be logical and make some sense. Finebaum would bring serious credibility and audience to their cable channel, and more with his five day a week show.

And maybe, that is actually happening on a quieter level of discussion. We don’t know.

The best guess is that Finebaum re-ups with ESPN/SEC Network,

But if he doesn’t?

He’s not going to a conference/channel to broadcast, where he doesn’t know a Boilermaker from a salt shaker.

Big Ten Network.

Please.

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CFB

ESPN releases days-times for bowl games including College Football Playoff

Florida Football Insiders

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too soon to start thinking college football season, and specifically, the bowl games. Or at least, ESPN thinks that way. The cable television network that basically controls the televising of the sport’s game days and times throughout each season, has released the pertinent bowl info on Wednesday afternoon.

And there are some interesting aspects for the bowl games played in our state this December and January and of course, for the most important games, the College Football Playoff semi-finals and championship early next year.

First, on the bowl games in December:

ESPN will have a quadruple-header of games starting on Saturday December 15th, but none are in the state of Florida.

The first of those from the Sunshine State will be the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl to be played on Tuesday night December 18th on FAU’s campus at 7 p.m. The Owls are the defending champs.

Next up is the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg to be played two nights later on Thursday December 20th at 8 p.m. Temple defeated FIU a year ago in the game.

Continuing, the Camping World Bowl will be played in Orlando on Friday afternoon December 28th at 5:15 p.m. Oklahoma State is the defending champion in that game.

And, then, because of the rotation of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games and where the days and NFL schedule falls, Saturday December 29th will be the day/night for the previously mentioned, College Football Playoff semi-final games.

The Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Dallas will await the CFP and ESPN’s decision on which match-up will go into which slot.

The game times are set for 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on that Saturday with the winners advancing to play in the CFP Title Game the following Monday (9 days later) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

Last year, Wisconsin defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl game.

On New Year’s Eve (Monday) the Taxslayer Gator Bowl will be played in prime time at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville. Mississippi State won last year’s game.

Then, on New Year’s Day, the Outback Bowl will kickoff as the first football game of the new year at noon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. South Carolina is the defending champs.

And, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando will start an hour later at 1 p.m. with Notre Dame as last year’s winner.

The New Year’s Six bowls resume with the Fiesta Bowl at 1 p.m. in Glendale Arizona, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, in it’s traditional 5:30 p.m. slot, and then the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in it’s traditional New Year’s night prime time slot of 8:45 p.m., round it out.

Again, the College Football Playoff will hold it’s championship game on Monday night January 7th at 8 p.m. Alabama beat Georgia in an overtime thriller for the championship in January.

All of those games will be televised on one or multiple of ESPN’s networks.

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Willie Taggart and Dan Mullen have revived Florida’s top two programs

Florida Football Insiders

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Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Granted it was only a Spring Saturday in both Tallahassee and Gainesville, but for the Seminoles and the Gators fan bases, they needed it.

Willie Taggart came from his one season at Oregon (and previously USF) promising to put some “pep back in the step” of everything associated with FSU, particularly after 2017 petered out with a 7-6 year.

And so far, his biggest accomplishment over his first five months is that he has rallied everyone from alumni, to students, to a mass of former players to get back involved with the program.

Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium was proof.

First, in comparison to last April and around 10,000 Noles fans that came to Jimbo Fisher’s final Spring Game, FSU announced that they not only sold over 40,000 tickets, but with students (who were free) included, Saturday had over 53,000 in the house.

Take a look at what “revival” looks like:

Further, and this is equally impressive, Taggart lobbied and worked hard to get former players to embrace the Seminoles efforts, again. And that, too was a rousing success, as a turnout of over 300 strong of former Noles jammed the sidelines and the end zones to be close to it all Saturday.

Here’s an interesting perspective from FSU radio broadcaster Tom Block:

 

Meanwhile in Gainesville, Dan Mullen’s attempt to bring Gator fans back around the program was also successful on Saturday. Their “Pack the Swamp” movement has been ongoing for the last month, and as we wrote, Mullen even took two going personally to fraternities and sororities over the past couple of weeks recruiting students to come back to the games.

The first indication that his campaigning was having a positive effect came prior to the spring game from one of the Gators long time beat writers:

Then once the crowd began to pour into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium it was obvious that there was a spark back, even, again, in a Spring game situation.

The Gators also announced over 50,000 at their game Saturday and this look at the Swamp verifies that the Orange and Blue faithful are embracing what the former Mississippi State head coach (and Florida offensive coordinator) is trying to instill:

So while the results on the field Saturday aren’t significant themselves, no one can deny the two programs that have won a combined four national championships this century demonstrated that they have rejuvenated most of their fan bases.

And that’s good for the state and the sport of college football.

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