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Fischer: Kiffin & Strong hires make Florida #1 in coaching names

Christopher Fischer

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Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

Welcome to the “Hunger Games!”

With the latest news of Lane Kiffin taking over at Florida Atlantic, it turns the recruiting battle in the state of Florida in to an all out war.

No state in the country features as many big name head coaches as the “Sunshine State.”

Florida high school sidelines have always been a battle ground, but don’t be surprised if you see a WWE chair and ladder match breakout from now on.

Especially if Kiffin reverts back to his Tennessee trash talking ways. We’ve seen UCF’s Scott Frost isn’t afraid to mix it up with a little trash talk and Jim McElwain likes to sneak in a jab once in a while.

While Jimbo Fisher is the current king of the recruiting mountain, his days could be numbered.

Don’t expect Kiffin, or newly hired Butch Davis at Florida International to challenge traditional powers FSU, Florida and Miami for the same type of 5-star recruits. But the 3-star athletes that comprise the “Power 3” rosters will now be prey for the lower level in state programs.

Which ultimately could mean the separation amongst the Florida schools will shrink.

It can’t be understated how in one week, the recruiting landscape shifted so dramatically. The biggest tilt came from USF hiring Charlie Strong as their new head coach.

While Strong underperformed in turning around Texas, don’t forget how successful he was as a recruiter as a defensive coordinator in Gainesville. Strong is known for being a players’ coach, and is revered by high school coaches across the state. He utilized those relationships in transforming Louisville in to a BCS contender.

Davis is another intriguing hire by FIU. It may have been two decades since he began bringing the Hurricanes out of the darkness of NCAA sanctions. But don’t expect Davis to stray away from the winning formula of recruiting hard in South Florida.

Gone are the days of drawing a line across the I-4 corridor and declaring the “State of Miami.” These latest additions to the states’ college head coaching ranks have turned the most fertile football territory in the country in to the “State of Chaos.”

Oh, and if you think Satellite Campus recruiting will continue, I’d think again. I don’t see Urban Meyer or Jim Harbuagh getting invites to come in and poach athletes from Florida any time soon. And if they try it, this group of coaches may send them limping back to Big Ten country.
Check out some of the head coaching resume highlights amongst the coaches who now are vying for talent and wins in Florida:

FSU – Jimbo Fisher: National Championship, 3 ACC titles, 3 BCS appearances, 77-17 record

Florida- Jim McElwain: 2 SEC East titles, 40-24 record, 4 straight bowl game appearances

Miami- Mark Richt: 2 SEC titles, 5 SEC East titles, 2x SEC Coach of the Year, 153-55 record, 16 straight bowl game appearances

USF- Charlie Strong: 2 conference titles, BCS appearance, 53-37 record

UCF- Scott Frost: Turned around winless Knights to 6-6 record and bowl game appearance in first season

FAU – Lane Kiffin: Former NFL head coach, bowl game appearance with USC, 35-21 record

FIU- Butch Davis: Guided Hurricanes out of NCAA turmoil, Former NFL Head Coach, 7 bowl game appearances between Miami and UNC, 79-43 record

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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Florida Gators

Gators in the College Football Playoff this year?!

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows that the SEC is the best conference for college football and has been for the better part of 20 years.

Everyone also knows that the Florida Gators were once proud rulers of the SEC East Division, but now that has changed over the course of the last few seasons.

And now, with first-year Coach Dan Mullen, who was previously part of to Gator National Championships under Urban Meyer in 2006 and 08, ready to guide them through this 2018 season, there’s plenty of optimism in Gainesville.

Well, there’s optimism, and then there’s what SEC on CBS football analyst Brian Jones put out there on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday night.

Yes, you saw that correctly, Jones not only has the Gators winning the East, but obviously winning the SEC Championship Game, and being part of the College Football Playoff come January.

First, a little background on Jones: he’s a former all Southwest Conference linebacker at Texas in the early 1990s and has been with CBS since 2005.  And, he replaced Spencer Tillman as the longtime Studio analyst on CBS’ SEC coverage three seasons ago.

So there’s no doubt, he’s qualified to have opinions about SEC football. However, there’s going out on a limb, and then there’s walking out on a tightrope in between skyscrapers like one of the “Flying Wallendas.”

In the brief clip from the “Inside College Football” show on Wednesday night, Jones says of the Gators making the CFP,

“Florida has everyone coming back and now they have the “Quarterback Whisperer” in Dan Mullen.

The Gators do return 19 starters and that includes welcoming back running back Jordan Scarlett, who was suspended last year during the credit card fraud investigation.

Yes they have options at quarterback including last year’s most of the time starter Feleipe Franks and that is Mullen specialty.

Earlier in the episode, Jones had elaborated on Mullen and the impact he would have on Franks’ development in particular:

The Gators do you have a favorable schedule in conference play as they only travel to Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt.

This is because of the scheduling quirk from 2016 with the postponement of the LSU game due to Hurricane Matthew. LSU got to play Florida at home for a second consecutive year that season, and so now, Florida is getting to play LSU at home for a second straight year this year.

Still the neutral-site game with the Georgia Bulldogs and returning All SEC QB Jake Fromm will be a tall task. And add in that Missouri and South Carolina are both improved, even if they are playing in Gainesville, and it will be tough for the Gators to win the East.

Again, Jones has his reasons for his August outlandish prediction, but it’s much more likely that Florida has some growing pains in 2018. And, is a bigger national contender next year,

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Florida Gators

Latest Browns controversy? Antonio Callaway played too much?

Florida Football Insiders

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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A rookie who played too much in a preseason game? The Browns always seem to have some kind of negative or controversy going on and now, it involves rookie Antonio Callaway and the amount of playing time he had in the preseason opener.

And it’s not that the former controversial Gators WR didn’t get to play or didn’t get to play enough. Rather, the questions being thrown the way of head coach Hue Jackson have to do with: him playing too much.

Too much?

You read that correctly.

Callaway played into the fourth quarter of the Browns 20-10 preseason victory over the Giants, including a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown from rookie #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

But, it’s what Jackson said after the game that is got Browns fans, Cleveland sports radio, and the internet buzzing.

When asked if Jackson had played Callaway an extended amount of time because of his off-the-field troubles, including recently being cited for marijuana possession in a Cleveland suburb, Jackson immediately agreed:

“Absolutely,” Jackson said regarding whether the extensive playing time was discipline related. “That was the plan. It was. I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could. I did not want him to come out. . . . That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it. That is what it was. Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in.’”

And while there are former players who are now speaking out against that kind of tactic, it is not uncommon for younger players to play most of preseason games for a variety of reasons. Most of it is related to: they haven’t been in live contact for an extended period of time in an NFL game.

Of course Callaway hadn’t been involved in any kind of an organized game dating back to his brief career at the University of Florida. After all, he was suspended for the entire 2017 season due to a credit card investigation.

That and his diluted sample drug test at the NFL scouting combine caused his stock to drop. And, he has first-round Talent ended up being still available in the fourth round for Cleveland to take him.

We wrote last week about Calloway’s traffic citation with the drugs being the latest controversy now that he’s a member of the Browns.

In the end, last Thursday night Callaway finished with five receptions, 87 yards and a touchdown and played a total of 57 snaps.

It’s also interesting that this came on the heels of new Browns free agent pro bowler Jarvis Landry lighting into his fellow wide receivers about not wanting to practice hard or when nicked up by injury. Calloway was sitting in the receivers room when HBO and NFL Films “Hard Knocks” cameras caught the tirade.

The Browns had also traded wide receiver Corey Coleman to the Buffalo Bills at the beginning of training camp, and from a football standpoint, are trying to determine, if Callaway can help them immediately.

You have to believe that all of this will be part of the latest airing of Hard Knocks Tuesday night on HBO.

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Florida Gators

Appears former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro is leading for Raiders job

Florida Football Insiders

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We knew that the Raiders were high on former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro when they drafted him back in April. And that became more apparent when they released their successful 2017 kicker, rookie Giorgio Tavechhio, last week.

Now, after last night’s preseason debut in Oakland, it appears it’s Pineiro’s job to lose.

First, Pineiro was perfect with 3-3 in field goals and 1-1 in extra points in the Raiders 16-10 victory over the Lions. And, that included a lengthy make of 48 yards at the end of the first half.

Second, even though Oakland has brought in 13 year veteran Mike Nugent, it appears from what they are saying and what they just demonstrated in game one, Pineiro has the bigger leg for kickoffs, etc.

As for getting rid of a left footed kicker, Tavecchio, who was reliable at 16-21 on field goals and 33-34 on point after kicks, new Raiders coach Jon Gruden explained it at the time to the media that they were simply being too hard on punter/holder Johnny Townsend. They were asking him to repeatedly switch from a left footed to a right footed “hold mechanics” and then, back, again.

Meanwhile, Nugent who has kicked previously for the Jets, Bucs, Bengals and others is right footed. So, that does make it easier on the holder throughout the work they are doing in camp.

As for Pineiro, he is a state product (Miami native), and he had a good college career at Florida. He made 17-18 FG’s during the Gators miserable season last year. And combined with his 21-25 year in 2016, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

We did take a humorous look at his leg strength prior to the 2017 season, when Pineiro’s practice video of him kicking an 81 yard field goal went viral on Youtube.

And, as the photo above shows, the Raiders are the last team still playing in a multi-purpose football/baseball stadium-still sharing it with the Oakland A’s.

And Gruden mentioned postgame that they wanted to get Pineiro a kick or two off the surface in a game, because the Raiders will have that infield dirt in their first couple of September early season games.

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