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College Football

Locals impacted by MAC’s football postponement



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


DL DeMarkus Glover, R-Sr., Northside Christian

DL Julius Hawkins, Fr., Boca Ciega 


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


RB Walter Wilbon III, R-Fr., Plant

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


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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College Football

College football: Athlete update



The top performances from former area stars in week five of the college football season. 

DB Dane Belton, Jr., Iowa: The former Jesuit standout had one of the Hawkeyes’ six interceptions in a win over Maryland.

QB Devin Black, Sr., Bethune Cookman: The former Armwood standout accounted for 258 yards (131 rushing, 127 passing) and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) in a loss to South Carolina State.  

DL Zachary Carter, Sr., Florida: The former Hillsborough standout recorded three tackles and a sack in a loss to Kentucky.  

QB Austin Day, Sr., Marist: The former Clearwater standout threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Valparaiso. 

RB Jerome Ford, Jr., Cincinnati: The former Armwood star ran for 67 yards on 17 carries in a win over Notre Dame. 

RB Dominic Gonella, So., North Dakota State: The former Bloomingdale standout ran for 37 yards on seven carries in a win over North Dakota. 

WR Travell Harris, Sr., Washington State: The former Jesuit standout had seven catches for 46 yards in a win over California. 

DB Kym-Mani King, Jr., Iowa State: The former Mitchell standout recorded three tackles and picked off a pass in a win over Kansas. 

RB Keyvone Lee, So., Penn State: The former American Collegiate standout ran for 74 yards on eight carries in a win over Indiana. 

DB T.J. Limehouse, Jr., West Florida: The former Armwood standout recorded a team-high 16 tackles in a win over Delta State. 

LB Micah McFadden, Sr., Indiana: The former Plant star recorded eight tackles in a loss to Penn State. 

QB Braxton Plunk, Jr., Mount Union: The former Plant City standout threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Otterbein. 

QB Tyler Riddell, Fr., East Tennessee State: The former Chamberlain standout threw for 268 yards and a touchdown in a win over Wofford. 

WR Mike Roussos, Sr., Columbia: The former River Ridge standout averaged 19 yards per kickoff return and 15 yards per punt return in a loss to Princeton. 

RB Deon Silas, Fr., Iowa State: Ran for 30 yards and a touchdown on three carries in a win over Kansas. 

RB Brian Snead, Jr., Austin Peay: The former Armwood standout ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in a loss to Tennessee State. 

TE Michael Trigg, Fr., USC: The former Carrollwood Day/Seffner Christian standout had two catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in a win over Colorado. 

RB Treshaun Ward, Fr., FSU: The former Tampa Bay Tech standout accounted for 95 yards (66 rushing, 29 receiving) in a win over Syracuse. 

LB Kee Whetzel, Sr., West Florida: The former Countryside standout recorded 10 tackles and a ½ sack in a win over Delta State. 

WR Mario Williams, Fr., Oklahoma: The former Plant City star had three catches for 29 yards in a win over Kansas State. 

LB Stephon Williams, Jr., West Florida: The former Calvary Christian standout recorded five tackles and 1 ½ sacks in a win over Delta State. 

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College Football

Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits



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



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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