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Locals impacted by MAC’s football postponement

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The Mid-American Conference postponed its entire fall sports season this past weekend, a decision that could have a major effect throughout the country as other Division I-A conferences contemplate making the same move this week.

It also has created a united front among players in a push to save their season. 

Three of college football’s biggest stars, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Oklahoma State running Chuba Hubbard, were among hundreds of players trying to gain some empowerment in the decision-making process. They all used the hashtag #WeWantToPlay en masse on social media as their rallying cry. 

The movement is to avoid what happened in the MAC. 

This was a postponement, not a cancellation. The MAC plans to have all fall sports play in the spring. There is even a hashtag promoting the move #SpringtoMaction.  

Still, the news was hard to take for coaches and players. 

“It was just a crazy day (Saturday),” Buffalo assistant Rob Ianello said. “We have been spending a lot of time with our players.”

The impact was felt locally, too. 

After all, the MAC has plenty of assistants with area ties. 

“It stinks to hear the news even though we anticipated for a while it was coming,” said former Bloomingdale coach Max Warner, now the quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green. “We won’t be the last (conference). I really hate it for the kids.”

Former Plant coach Robert Weiner is in his first season as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Toledo. Now his regular season debut at the college level is on hold. 

“We have a lot of amazing kids on this team and great coaches who were all super excited for the 2020 campaign,” Weiner said. “Football is like life in the world right now. It is certainly a trial in flexibility and making the best of every situation. And that is exactly what we will do, whatever that may be.”

With six local players on the current roster, the Rockets have one of the largest contingents of area talent in the country. In all, there are 18 players in the MAC who played high school football in Tampa Bay. 

“It was very difficult,” Toledo’s Jerjuan Newton, a former standout at CCC, said about the MAC postponing the season until the spring. “But the only way to go is forward and get ready for whatever happens in the future.”

The MAC’s Local Impact

The conference currently has 18 players from the area

Akron 

DL DeMarkus Glover, R-Sr., Northside Christian

DL Julius Hawkins, Fr., Boca Ciega 

Buffalo

WR Antonio Nunn, Sr., Jefferson

LB Caleb Tate, R-Fr., Tampa Catholic 

Central Michigan

DB Demarcus Governor, So., Durant

Eastern Michigan

DB Timarcus Simpson, So., Sickles

RB Karmi Mackey, So., Seffner Christian

RB Willie Parker, Sr., Carrollwood Day

Northern Illinois

RB Erin Collins, Jr., Armwood

Ohio 

RB Walter Wilbon III, R-Fr., Plant

OL Samson Jackson, R-Jr., Palm Harbor University

Toledo

WR Terrel Ferrell, R-Fr., Bloomingdale

CB Jalynn Williams, So., St. Petersburg

WR Jerjuan Newton, R-Fr., CC Catholic

S Caleb Sutherland, So., Armwood

DL Geri Theodore, Fr., Clearwater Academy

OL Lavel Dumont, So., Wharton

Western Michigan

QB Griffin Alstott, R-Jr., Northside Christian

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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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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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Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

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Kickers typically are not offered scholarships while they are in high school. Most at the Division I-A level arrive as walk-ons with the chance to earn a scholarship based on their performance. 

Robert Gunn III is not your typical kicker. 

The Pinellas Park senior is ranked as the nation’s best at the position in the Class of 2022 according to Kicking World. That lofty status got the attention of college coaches.

Gunn III already has offers from six colleges, including Clemson and Texas.

The offer from the Tigers came on June 13 during an unofficial visit. Two days later, Gunn III ended the recruiting process by committing to Clemson. 

“I wanted to go to Clemson because of the people and how they care about the school so much,” Gunn III said. 

The Tigers have been successful landing area special teams stars. Former Jesuit and IMG standout Aidan Swanson will be a redshirt sophomore punter for Clemson this season. 

Now the Tigers will have an area kicker, too. 

This past season, Gunn III hit both of his field goal attempts and had 16 of his 19 kickoffs go for touchbacks. He also averaged 44 yards per punt.  

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