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Oregon’s Jordon Scott among Pac-12 players behind #WeAreUnited movement

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Oregon’s Jordon Scott, a former standout at Pinellas Park, joined a growing contingent of Pac-12 players who are contemplating boycotting the upcoming season unless demands for safety regulations and social injustice are met.

This past weekend, a group of players from the conference wrote a letter addressing their concerns that was published in The Players’ Tribune. To get behind the movement, they urged players throughout college football to use the hashtag #WeAreUnited.

They also sent a release with the names of 13 Pac-12 players from 10 schools, all of whom provided statements about what they perceived as conference shortcomings in handling these issues. 

Among the calls for action listed in The Players’ Tribune:

  • Allowing players the option not to play without losing their scholarship or spot on the roster.
  •  Prohibit COVID-19 agreements that waive liability. 
  • Player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by players to address COVID-19.
  • And end to lavish facility spending and reduced pay for conference executives and coaches. 
  • Form a permanent civic-engagement to address racial injustice and spend two percent of conference revenue directed by players to support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives, and development programs for college athletes on each campus.
  • Medical insurance selected by players for sports-related medical conditions, including COVID- 19 illness, to cover six years after college athletics eligibility ends.
  • Distribute 50 percent of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.

Scott, considered one of the nation’s best defensive lineman, was not among the players listed in the release. His biggest concern is “if they are going to allow us to keep our scholarship if the season is altered or if players decided to opt out due to health risk.”

This past Friday, the Pac-12 released its revised football schedule that pushes the regular season back to Sept. 26 and includes only 10 conference games. 

The conference also announced a new practice schedule that includes 20 hours per week of mandatory team activities for football (weight training, meetings and unpadded walk-through practices) starting on Monday. Preseason practice for Pac-12 schools can begin on Aug. 17.

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics

In the offseason, Scott (photos courtesy of Oregon Athletics) announced he was returning to the Ducks for his senior season rather than declaring for the NFL Draft. He has already been added to watch lists for the Outland and Bronko Nagurski trophies. 

So would Scott opt out if his concerns are not addressed? 

“Yeah, I think so,” he said. 

Each Power Five conference has already committed to either honoring scholarships or allowing individual schools to make that decision for athletes who opt out of playing due to health concerns. 

But some Pac-12 athletes are already facing repercussions for supporting #WeAreUnited. Multiple Washington State players were “released” from the program but would still retain their scholarship for this season according to Theo Lawson of The Spokesman Review.

The Pac-12 released a statement this past weekend in response to some of the issues raised by players involved in the #WeAreUnited cause. 

“We support our student-athletes using their voice,and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics,” the Pac-12 said in the statement. “As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority.” 

Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter, who starred at Hillsborough, was vocal about raising his own worries in college football, retweeting the #WeAreUnited hashtag that was followed by him saying, “Enough is enough.”

Would Carter join the Pac-12 players who are considering opting out for the season?

“Possibly,” Carter said. “With good leadership.”

Still, not every player wants to sit out.

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Comminications

Texas Christian tight end Pro Wells, a former Dixie Hollins standout who is on the watch list for the John Mackey Award, plans to finish his college career by playing his senior season. 

“My thing is when we were quarantined every football player was saying that, ‘oh I miss football, they need to let us play and all this’,” Wells said. “Now that they are letting us practice I see players crying and making excuses. It’s simple: Do you wanna play or not?

“I’m playing no matter what.”

RELATED: Pro Wells named to John Mackey Award watch list

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Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits

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Since arriving at Iowa State five years ago, Matt Campbell has guided the program to four straight bowl appearances, including a Fiesta Bowl win this past season that vaulted the Cyclones to No. 9 in the final AP poll, the highest ranking in school history. 

That success is due in part to the talent accumulated in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area. 

There are currently five local players on the roster, all of whom were recruited by Campbell’s staff. Anthony Johnson, a former standout at St. Petersburg, starts at cornerback. Two other defensive backs, T.J. Tampa (Lakewood) and Kym-Mani King (Mitchell), should get significant playing time this season. 

It does not end there. 

This offseason Iowa State had perhaps its biggest haul of local talent with three offensive stars — Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht, Tampa Bay Tech receiver Greg Gaines III and Berkeley Prep athlete Xavier Townsend — all committing to the Cyclones as part of the 2022 class.  

Gaines is a four-star recruit while Becht and Townsend are both three-star prospects according to 247Sports. The addition of that trio helped the Cyclones’ current recruiting class rise to No. 5 in the Big 12 and No. 23 nationally. 

The recruiting efforts are not just limited to the staff. Becht, who committed in April, said he tried his best to get more offensive talent from the area to join him. 

“I talked to Greg and Xavier everyday,” Becht said of his recruiting pitch to that duo. “I was on them from the beginning.”

Rocco Becht

Iowa State’s staff also zeroed on those targets — and the area.

“The Tampa Bay area is a huge priority,” said Cyclones assistant head coach/linebackers coach Tyson Veidt, who recruits locally. “Some of our best players are from there and it has helped us develop some all-around continuity.”

Iowa State has a knack for landing playmakers in the bay area, particularly on the defensive side. It started more than a decade ago with linebacker Jeremiah George (Clearwater) and defensive back Leonard Johnson (Largo), both of whom played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL careers. 

There has been even more of an emphasis on the area with Campbell and his staff.

That comes from experience. 

Before taking over the Cyclones, Campbell was an offensive coordinator (2009-11) and head coach (2012-15) at Toledo. During his time with the Rockets, the program landed several prospects from the area, including former Lakewood star Bernard Reedy, who went on to play in the NFL. 

In fact, Campbell had at least one local commit in each of his recruiting classes as Toledo’s head coach. That helped the Rockets rank among the top two recruiting classes in the MAC in three of the four years during Campbell’s tenure. 

The trend has continued at Iowa State. 

And it is having an impact, especially with the camaraderie among locals. 

“Well, of course, the decision was for me and my future as a student athlete,” said Townsend, who committed to the Cyclones on Sunday. “But it was icing on the cake knowing a couple of my boys are coming up with me.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama

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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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College Football

Football: Local list of 2022 commits

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The Tampa Bay area always produces a tremendous amount of football talent. This year is no different. Several seniors have already pledged their allegiance to colleges. Here is the list, which is expected to grow considerably in the next few months. 

Armwood

WR Kye Stokes

College: Ohio State

Berkeley Prep

LB TJ Bullard

College: UCF

TE CJ Hawkins

College: Florida

Related: Berkeley Prep’s CJ Hawkins commits to Florida

Calvary Christian

OL Preston Cushman

College: Mississippi

Carrollwood Day

DL Brandon Cleveland

College: North Carolina State

Clearwater Academy

CB Rhyland Kelly

College: Minnesota

Clearwater Central Catholic

LB Melvin Jordan 

College: Oregon State

Gaither

DL Mario Eugenio

College: Michigan

Hillsborough

RB Jordaan Bailey

College: Pittsburgh

DB Adrian Ramsey

College: Howard

LB Joseph Sipp Jr.

College: Colorado State

Jesuit

WR Jaydn Girard

College: Wake Forest

ATH Junior Vandeross

College: Toledo

Related: Jesuit’s Junior Vandeross commits to Toledo

King

OT Tony Livingston

College: Florida

Related: Tony Livingston transfers to King

Lakewood

TE Amari Niblack

College: Alabama

Pinellas Park

PK Robert Gunn III

College: Clemson

Related: Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

Sickles

WR Javohn Thomas

College: USF

Tampa Catholic

OL Chris Williams

College: Florida A&M

Wharton

LB Daveon Crouch

College: Boston College

Wiregrass Ranch

QB Rocco Becht

College: Iowa State

Related: Wiregrass Ranch’s Rocco Becht commits to Iowa State

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