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Rays designate Brignac, Elliot Johnson for assignment


By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Watching the Rays stop, start and make a few unexpected turns through their offseason rebuilding, Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac had the same thought as many observers: that the team had too many middle infielders.

Tuesday, they found out for sure, designated for assignment as the Rays made room on the 40-man roster to add one of those new infielders, Kelly Johnson, plus reliever Kyle Farnsworth. (The addition of DH Luke Scott in the next few days will require another move.)

The Rays have 10 days to trade, release or put the two through waivers, but both Elliot Johnson, a key reserve the past two seasons, and Brignac, the primary shortstop in 2011, were talking as if they were gone, grateful for the opportunity and gracious in their praise of the organization but eager for another chance elsewhere.

Johnson: "I feel good about how I played last year … so I'm looking forward to 2013 and getting the chance to do it in the big leagues with somebody else."

Brignac: "I'm not disappointed, I'm eagerly excited about the opportunity to play for another organization, possibly the chance to get a little more playing time."

Neither looked to get it with the Rays, who acquired Yunel Escobar to play shortstop, seem to be pairing Kelly Johnson, a lefty hitter, with righty Ryan Roberts (or Sean Rodriguez) at second base and have Ben Zobrist able to handle both spots when he's not in the outfield.

Both Elliot Johnson, 28, and Brignac, 27, are out of options, so the Rays couldn't send them to the minors without exposing them to waivers anyway. Johnson, a switch-hitter who can play anywhere, has the right to become a free agent if he clears waivers; Brignac, a slick fielder who swings left-handed, doesn't but would seem to have some trade value.

Johnson acknowledged he was "shaky defensively" last season but felt his offensive production "was great" as he helped the Rays through the absence of Evan Longoria, hitting .242 overall with six homers, 33 RBIs and a .654 on-base plus slugging percentage. Brignac spent most of the season at Triple-A Durham, hitting .231, and over the past two seasons in the majors has a .185 average, and .431 OPS, after hitting .256 in 2010. "It's not like I've fallen off and I can't hit completely anymore," he said. "I had one rough year."

Kelly Johnson signed for $2.45 million, a sizable cut from the $6.375 million he made last season in Toronto, where he hit .225 with 16 homers, 55 RBIs and a .678 OPS. He is "excited" about being used in other positions beside second base (including the outfield) and confident of a bounce-back offensive season. "I don't think it's possible for me to feel any better and more confident about where I'm at than I do," he said.

Farnsworth re-signed for $1.25 million, with a similar amount available in incentives, saying the combination of being near his Disney-area home and being with a team like the Rays was "pretty hard to beat." He also said his elbow, which forced him to miss the first half of last season, feels "as good as it ever has" and he's open to whatever role the Rays have.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

Bucs' Freeman has fun with Michael Jackson getup


By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2013


It may take another season for Josh Freeman to resemble one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. But he's a look-a-like for the King of Pop. • In the upcoming ESPN The Magazine music issue, the 25-year-old Freeman is transformed into Michael Jackson, posing for duplicates of the Thriller and Off the Wall album covers. • Freeman was born six years after Jackson's Thriller album debuted in 1982, but he always has admired the King of Pop's music. • "I've always been a huge fan of Michael Jackson," Freeman said. "He's an icon. The way that he took so many different styles of music and dance. He almost created his own genre."

The concept of the music issue and recreating album covers with athletes was the idea of ESPN The Magazine contributor Stacey Pressman. Originally, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was a candidate to pose as Michael Jackson. But while Pressman was having dinner with friends, Bucs fullback Erik Lorig and his sister, Elise, they suggested Freeman.

Rays All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria also made the magazine's music edition. Longoria helps duplicate Devo's Freedom of Choice album along with MLB's Justin Upton, Brandon Phillips, Giancarlo Stanton and Shane Victorino.

The photo shoot was done in December on a Tuesday, the NFL players' day off, at a studio in Tampa and took four hours to complete. In a behind the scenes video for ESPN, Freeman talked about the challenge of becoming Jacko.

"It all started with the hair," Freeman said in the video. "You know, you've got to get the hair right. I'm getting there. Just need a few things. It's all about getting dressed, getting the outfit right, it's little subtleties of looking more like him. You're like, 'I don't look like him.' Because you look at yourself almost every day. But the pics came out and I was like, 'Wow, that's crazy.' "

On the Thriller album cover, Jackson lay on his side with a tiger cub on his knee. Yes, ESPN used a real tiger cub in the Freeman remake. Pressman said they discovered "there's a lot of retired performers from Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus living in central Florida and one had a tiger.''

"What you don't realize is how difficult it is to stay slightly propped up with your shoulder right here and your head kind of titled, not too far, while you're balancing a tiger on your knee," Freeman said.'

Freeman also dons an Afro wig and poses in a black tuxedo to duplicate the Off the Wall album, which was released in 1979.

"My favorite Michael Jackson song is Black or White," Freeman said of the Jackson hit off of the Dangerous album in 1991. "Because I am black and white. My father is black, African American, and my mom is Caucasian. So it's a nice split right down the middle."

During the video of the magazine shoot, Freeman attempts the signature vocal and some dance steps made famous by Jackson — with little success.

"Ooh, whoo!' Freeman belts off-key. "I can't get the notes, but you guys know what I'm going for."

A little history lesson. Freeman had some similarities to the Jackson family that was first spotted by former Bucs coach Raheem Morris, who nicknamed him Tito while he was a freshman at Kansas State and Morris was the defensive coordinator for the Wildcats.

But Freeman was stunned to see the striking resemblance between him and Jackson after artists had applied the wigs, make up and clothes.

"I think it kind off scared him when he saw himself," Pressman said. "He said, "I do look like him.' He was a great sport. He hasn't done a lot of lifestyle stuff and I think they told him, 'you never do anything fun.' "

"I think a selling point for him to do it was we told him the issue came out in February. He was worried about it coming out during the season. So he said, 'okay.' "

Tampa Bay had its QBKILLA, Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Now the QB Thriller.

Then again, since Freeman is in the final year of his contract, he needs a good performance in 2013 or the Bucs might say Beat It.

Ravens revel in Super party


Times wires
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

BALTIMORE — Baltimore celebrated with its Super Bowl champion Ravens on Tuesday, with thousands of fans in purple lining the streets and packing the team's stadium for a celebration.

Fans filled the square in front of City Hall and cheered when the team arrived and when players held the silver Lombardi Trophy aloft. The Mayor's Office of Emergency Management estimated that 200,000 took part in Charm City.

Coach John Harbaugh thanked fans for their support, and safety Ed Reed sang the melody of Eddie Money's Two Tickets to Paradise. Retiring middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the only current player to have started with the team when it came to the city from Cleveland in 1996, told fans the team had fulfilled a promise to go to New Orleans and win.

"The city of Baltimore — I love you forever and ever and ever and ever," Lewis told fans in front of City Hall.

Fans wore every article of purple imaginable. In addition to jerseys, people were dressed in purple hats and scarves, purple Mardi Gras beads, purple wigs. Many women wore purple lipstick and eye shadow.

Lewis Neal, 59, born and raised in Baltimore, was decked out in a purple tie, vest, pants and shoes.

"My heart goes out for them," said Lewis, who said he had tears in his eyes Sunday when the team beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.

Nancy Monseaux, 63, a Baltimore resident for nearly four decades, cheered the team on Pratt Street, where fans lined the sidewalk five or more people deep in some places. She held a sign that said "Doubt the Ravens nevermore."

"These boys earned it," she said, cheering as team members passed along the parade route.

There was a ceremony at M&T Bank Stadium. But the 71,000-seat stadium reached capacity around 12:30 p.m., a police spokesman said, and late-arriving fans were turned away.

Also, Harbaugh said he hopes a compromise can be reached between Reed and the team on a contract. Reed is scheduled to meet with general manager Ozzie Newsome in the next few weeks; the perennial All-Pro's contract has expired.

SUPERDOME OUTAGE: Concerned the Superdome might not be able to handle the energy needed for its first Super Bowl since Hurricane Katrina, officials spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on upgrades to decayed utility lines, according to documents obtained by AP. The improvements weren't enough, however, to prevent a 34-minute power outage Sunday. Two days later, officials still had not pinpointed the cause of the outage.

ONLINE INCREASE: The Super Bowl was streamed online by 3 million people, an increase from 2.1 million online last year, according to CBS.

BENGALS: Adam Zimmer, the son of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, was hired as an assistant defensive backs coach.

BROWNS: Defensive end Frostee Rucker was released as part of the switch from a 4-3 to a multi-front system of new coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Ray Horton.

CARDINALS: New coach Bruce Arians completed his staff, announcing of the hiring of 13 assistants including former Cardinal Stump Mitchell as running backs coach and Amos Jones as special teams coordinator.

COWBOYS: The team promoted Wes Phillips — son of former Dallas coach Wade Phillips and grandson of former Oilers and Saints coach Bum Phillips — to tight ends coach and hired Frank Pollack as assistant offensive line coach.

GIANTS: Linebacker Michael Boley was released after appearing in all 16 games this season.

JETS: Former punter Louie Aguiar was hired as an assistant and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was fired.

LIONS: They released two starters, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and guard Stephen Peterman.

RAMS: Receiver Titus Young was claimed a day after the Lions released him.

Florida stunned by Arkansas


Times wires
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Florida ran into an Arkansas team lying in wait Tuesday night, one that started quickly and never let up in an 80-69 win over the second-ranked Gators.

The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for Florida (18-3, 8-1 SEC), which had ascended to No. 2 in the AP poll one day earlier.

Arkansas opened the game 15-of-20 from the field. Michael Qualls and Marshawn Powell had 11 points each and 11 players scored for the Razorbacks (14-8, 5-4) in their first win over a top 10 team since early in 2008-09.

The Gators started 4-of-15 from the field and were 7-of-24 in the first half. They never recovered in suffering their first loss since a 67-61 setback at Kansas State on Dec. 22.

That loss also marked the most points Florida had allowed this season before Tuesday night.

"Clearly we did not play the level of defense that we had played," coach Billy Donovan said. "A combination of I didn't think we did a very good job and a combination of I thought they did do a very good job.

"They made some shots there early in the game and got themselves going."

Mike Rosario led Florida with 15 points. Scottie Wilbekin added 14, Michael Frazier 11 and Kennny Boynton 10.

The Razorbacks gave second-year coach Mike Anderson the signature win had he been looking for in an electric Bud Walton Arena.

BJ Young led three players in double figures with 13 points as Arkansas opened quickly and never let up, fueled by a raucous crowd of 13,816. It was an energy-filled arena that reminded Anderson of the Arkansas of old, when he was an assistant to former coach Nolan Richardson and the Razorbacks were among the nation's best.

Arkansas, 14-1 at home, visits UF's O'Connell Center on Feb. 23.

"If I gave two game balls tonight, one would certainly go to our fans," Anderson said. "This place was lively tonight. It brought back a lot of memories for myself, especially sitting on that bench and seeing our fans so engaged in the game."

After trailing by as many as 23 points in the first half, the Gators cut the lead to 43-26 at halftime.

The Razorbacks didn't give Florida a chance to come up for air to open the second half, forcing turnovers on two straight possessions to open the half and extending the lead 49-26 on a jumper by Qualls.

Florida had one final run in it, responding with an 11-2 stretch to cut the deficit to 51-37 after an inside basket by Frazier.

The Gators did close the gap to 11, but by then it was too late against an Arkansas team that hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 2008. The Razorbacks were then coached by current Florida assistant John Pelphrey, who entered Bud Walton Arena to handshakes and hugs before walking off the court with a stunning loss in his second return to his former home.

"They had that lead and we just kept trying to chip away, but they kept coming at us and eventually time just ran out," Florida's Erik Murphy said.

The win was Arkansas' first over a top 10 team since victories over No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas early in 2008-09, Pelphrey's second season.

Anderson took over last season, and his previous best win was over then-No. 15 Mississippi State. Tuesday's game was the third in six days for the Razorbacks, who have yet to win away from home this season.

"They were ready to play," Anderson said. "And I don't think it was just one game. Hopefully, I think, they want to continue to build on what's been taking place with this team."

Hunter Mickelson responded to Florida's second-half run with a putback for the Razorbacks, beginning a 16-3 run that opened the lead to 67-40 and put the game well out of reach.

Lightning loses fight-filled game to Flyers


By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — Is there bad blood brewing between the Lightning and Flyers?

Hard to say otherwise given what happened during Tampa Bay's 2-1 loss Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center as two fights ended with the winner connecting with punches after the opponents were down, a breach of accepted protocol among NHL players.

In the first period, Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo decked B.J. Crombeen with a good right hand then appeared to hit him twice when down on his knees. In the third period, Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier put Max Talbot on his back and slugged him for good measure.

In between there were scrums and officials talking to players to try to keep the lid on a boiling pot.

"They always play a hard physical game and we're trying to establish that we do that, too," Crombeen said. "We're a big team, we play hard and we're willing to stand up for ourselves any time. When two teams like that meet, there's going to be some physicality and some bad blood that grows over time."

Crombeen — as a "precaution" coach Guy Boucher said — was held out of the rest of the game and Lightning right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie said he warned Rinaldo.

"He was telling me it was fair and (Crombeen) was not going down," Labrie said. "I told him to keep his head up because I'll be coming for you but we didn't match up after that. … One day."

The teams meet again March 18 in Tampa.

As for the game, Tom Sestito's second goal with 8:49 left in the third period — on a three-on-two that began when Labrie was too deep in the offensive zone — broke a 1-1 tie 1:41 after Ben Pouliot scored for the Lightning.

Both Sestito goals came from the slot and went through goaltender Anders Lindback's legs.

Tampa Bay had a season-low 22 shots with only two coming on four failed power plays. Steven Stamkos was stopped by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on two prime scoring chances. Cory Conacher was robbed on one.

But it was the Crombeen-Rinaldo dustup that was front-and-center.

Some believed Rinaldo went after Crombeen for roughing up Flyers captain Claude Giroux during a Jan. 27 game at Tampa. Rinaldo said that was the case.

Besides it was the apparent late punches that were the issue.

"I hit him until he was down," Rinaldo said. "I'll never hit someone when they're down. I hit him until he was down and made sure he was down and that was it."

Rinaldo said he got confirmation from referee Kelly Southerland the punches came before Crombeen fell.

So, was it dirty?

"I'm not going to say that," Crombeen said. "I always fought by that if a guy is in a bad position you stop throwing. But guys fight different ways. I'm not going to say if it was dirty or not. You're fighting. You put yourself in that situation and you know the consequences."

Lecavalier didn't admit it but his late punch on Talbot certainly was payback.

"It just happened," Lecavalier said.

With these teams, the question, is what will happen next?

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8622. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com.

Flyers 0 1 1 2
Lightning 0 0 1 1

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesCrombeen, TB, major (fighting), 6:19; Rinaldo, Phi, major (fighting), 6:19; Pouliot, TB (interference), 8:58; Knuble, Phi (tripping), 10:51; Coburn, Phi (cross-checking), 19:39.

Second Period1, Philadelphia, Sestito 1 (Voracek, B.Schenn), 4:25. PenaltiesNone.

Third Period2, Tampa Bay, Pouliot 3 (Purcell, Pyatt), 9:30. 3, Philadelphia, Sestito 2 (Fedotenko, Talbot), 11:11. PenaltiesLecavalier, TB, minor-major (slashing, fighting), 11:16; Talbot, Phi, minor-major (slashing, fighting), 11:16; Stamkos, TB (interference), 12:36; Knuble, Phi (slashing), 15:10; Coburn, Phi (holding stick), 19:46. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 8-5-9—22. Philadelphia 6-10-8—24. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 4; Philadelphia 0 of 2. GoaliesTampa Bay, Lindback 5-2-0 (24 shots-22 saves). Philadelphia, Bryzgalov 4-5-0 (22-21). A19,616 (19,538). T2:32.

Michigan outlasts Ohio St. in OT


Times wires
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Tim Hardaway Jr. brought Michigan back with a relentless streak of 3-point shooting then blocked a shot by Aaron Craft in the final seconds of overtime to give the third-ranked Wolverines a 76-74 victory over No. 10 Ohio State on Tuesday night.

Hardaway finished with 23 points, including five straight 3-pointers in the second half. The Wolverines (21-2, 8-2 Big Ten) led by two when Craft rushed the ball into the frontcourt after a missed Michigan free throw. He got all the way to the basket, but Hardaway was there to smother his last-ditch attempt to tie it.

After scoring at will most of the second half, Ohio State (17-5, 7-3) managed only two points in overtime.

Trey Burke missed a 3-pointer at the end of regulation that would have won it for Michigan, the Wolverines' only miss in nine second-half 3-point attempts. Burke's 3 at the start of overtime made it 75-72, then neither team scored until Craft's driving layup with just less than a minute left.

Craft stole the ball from Burke, but the Michigan point guard hustled back to prevent an easy basket. The ball went out of bounds to Ohio State.

With the shot clock off, Craft drove past Burke, but Burke recovered to block Craft's shot from behind at the free-throw line. Michigan's Glenn Robinson III was fouled and made one free throw with 7.6 seconds left.

Deshaun Thomas scored 17 for the Buckeyes.

Michigan and Ohio State were meeting for the first time with both teams ranked in the top 10.

With a sold-out, early arriving crowd cheering them on, the Wolverines went on an early 12-0 run and led 18-8 after Burke scored off a nifty hesitation dribble. But the Buckeyes settled in, scoring the next seven and eventually taking a 29-28 lead when Craft drove for a layup.

NO. 8 MIAMI 72, BC 50: Junior reserve Rion Brown tied a career high with 22 points for the host Hurricanes (18-3, 9-0), who equaled the school record for ACC victories in a season. Miami has won 10 consecutive games and is 10-0 in its on-campus arena, winning each of the past three home games by at least 22 points. It is the last unbeaten team in league play among the major conferences.

NO. 13 KANSAS ST. 68, TEXAS TECH 59: Rodney McGruder had 18 points and nine rebounds for the visiting Wildcats (18-4, 7-2 Big 12), who won their third straight game.

KENTUCKY 77, S.C. 55: Julius Mays' 15 points led five players in double figures, and the host Wildcats (16-6, 7-2) moved within a game of first-place Florida in the SEC.

NORTH CAROLINA: Sophomore guard P.J. Hairston returned from a concussion that sidelined him for one game. He had 11 points in 12 minutes in an 87-62 win over visiting Wake Forest.

OLD DOMINION: Coach Blaine Taylor was fired with eight games remaining in the regular season. Taylor has the most wins in school history with 239 over 12 seasons, but his team is 2-20 this year and has lost 10 straight.

TENNESSEE: Senior forward Kenny Hall was arrested on a charge of driving with a suspended license.


NO. 2 NOTRE DAME 59, VILLANOVA 52: Muffet McGraw became the 13th Division I coach to win 700 games as the visiting Irish (21-2, 9-0 Big East) held on. McGraw is 700-257 in 31 years and has 612 wins at Notre Dame.

NO. 3 UCONN 94, MARQUETTE 37: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 24 to lead six players in double figures for the host Huskies (21-1, 8-1 Big East), who were coming off a lackluster six-point win at St. John's.

NO. 22 OKLA. ST. 76, TCU 59: Tiffany Bias scored 19 for the host Cowgirls (16-5, 5-5 Big 12), who bounced back from two straight losses.

NO. 24 SYRACUSE 72, CINCINNATI 48: Kayla Alexander and Elashier Hall had 23 points each as the visiting Orange (19-3, 7-2 Big East) won its third straight.

FSU nips Georgia Tech


Times wires
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ATLANTA — Michael Snaer was a late-game hero for Florida State again, hit a driving layup just before the buzzer to give the Seminoles a 56-54 victory over Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.

Snaer made up for a turnover on the Seminoles' previous possession, when he let a routine pass slip through his hands and couldn't save it from rolling out of bounds. After Mfon Udofia missed a 3-pointer, keeping the score tied at 54, FSU rebounded and called timeout to set up the last play.

Devon Bookert dribbled down the clock before passing to Snaer. He might have gotten away with a push-off — Udofia went flying near the top of the key, and Georgia Tech complained bitterly — but the refs made no call. Snaer spotted an opening down the right side of the lane, darted toward the hoop and banked it in just before the red light went off. The officials looked at the replay and quickly ruled the shot was good.

It was FSU's third win in less than two weeks. The other two ended in similar fashion: Snaer hit 3-pointers to beat Clemson and Maryland.

Snaer led the Seminoles (13-9, 5-4 ACC) with 15 points. Daniel Miller and Brandon Reed had nine points each for Georgia Tech (12-9, 2-7).

Kiel Turpin and Boris Bojanovsky added 10 points each for the Seminoles, who took a 13-0 lead but couldn't put the Yellow Jackets away. In fact, Georgia Tech was ahead by halftime, and it was tight the rest of the way.

The Seminoles have won eight straight in the series, their longest run of dominance against Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets failed in their bid for a second straight home victory, having rallied in the final minutes to knock off Virginia in their previous game. Georgia Tech got points from 10 players.

FSU took its early lead by outrebounding the shorter Yellow Jackets 7-1 and taking advantage of five turnovers.

But Georgia Tech began to cut into the deficit, sparked by Reed's consecutive 3-pointers from nearly identical spots. When Reed hit another 3 with 1:44 left in the half, the Yellow Jackets had their first lead of the night, 25-23.

The home team was still on top at the half, going to the locker room up 27-26 after Udofia ran down the clock, drove toward the lane and got off an awkward pass to Miller. The 6-foot-11 center made a strong move to the hoop, dunking over two defenders with 3 seconds left.

Two PHCC basketball players stand out


By Derek J. LaRiviere, Times Correspondent
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A pair of Pasco-Hernando Community College guards received honorable mention in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 8/Florida College System Activities Association Men's Basketball Player of the Week voting in January.

Brandon McWhorter, a 6-foot guard, averaged 21.5 points per game over two contests during the week of Jan. 14. He graduated from Anclote High School in Holiday last year after averaging 18 points per game for the Sharks over his last two varsity seasons. He is currently leading PHCC, averaging 19 points per game.

"McWhorter, a late recruit for the team, is a valuable player," coach James E. Johnson said. "He is a quiet leader and has earned respect from his teammates and from opposing teams."

Ja'mil Jones, another 6-foot guard, scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds in a 72-67 victory over TAAG Academy on Jan. 25. He is currently a sophomore and team captain. A graduate of Spring Valley High School in South Blythewood, S.C., Jones leads PHCC with five assists per game and is second with 16.1 points per game.

"Jones has really demonstrated that he can play this game," Johnson said. "Jones is committed to involving each of his teammates in the game."

The Conquistadors began the season 0-11 but have done better recently and now stand at 7-13.

NFL STAR HARRIS RETURNS: Hernando County native DuJuan Harris, who became a starting running back for the Green Bay Packers this season, will hold an autograph session this evening at Monti Magill's Irish Pub, 2396 Commercial Way, Spring Hill.

Harris will be on hand from 7 to 9 p.m. and will sign whatever fans want for a $10 fee. Proceeds will go to a local resident struggling with multiple sclerosis.

The running back graduated from Central High School in 2007 and went on to star at Troy University in Alabama. After limited time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Harris found a home in midseason with the Packers and worked his way to the starting role by the time the playoffs rolled around.

For information, call Monti Magill's Irish Pub at (352) 683-0668.

LOCAL MARTIAL ARTIST PUBLISHES BOOK: Local martial arts instructor Jay Blanton recently had his autobiography published by DSI Productions in Virginia.

Blanton's book is 256 pages and talks about his early years. He worked through bullying issues with the help of his strong faith to become a Soke grandmaster and the founder of a new discipline of Jujitsu called Mang Ho Jujitsu Ryu.

DSI Productions is associated with Dragon's Society International, a martial arts organization.

Blanton, a 10th-degree black belt, was appointed by the European Jujitsu Union as a U.S. delegate over a year ago.

Blanton will attend the DSI convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in April as a guest instructor.

HERNANDO WOMEN'S 500 CLUB BOWLING: The Women's Hernando County 500 Club will have its third tournament of the season Feb. 24 at Spring Hill Lanes.

The event will be a doubles tournament, with bowling starting at 1:30 p.m. It is open to all members of the Women's 500 Club who are also members of the Hernando County U.S. Bowling Congress and Women's Bowling Association.

The deadline to register is Feb. 19. To become a member of the 500 Club, one needs to have bowled a sanctioned 500 series.

For information, call Sheila Wehrenberg at (352) 688-1575.

HERNANDO YOUTH LEAGUE SOFTBALL: Hernando Youth League Dixie Softball has scheduled registration at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville for its spring season.

League officials will accept sign-ups from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

A copy of a child's birth certificate is necessary for registration. The fees cover all games, insurance and trophies. All new players receive a $10 discount. Returning players who bring a new player will receive a $5 discount on their fees. There is also a family discount of $5 for the second child or each additional child.

For information, contact Bonnie Anhalt at (352) 584-1558 or bonnita2u@hotmail.com. Parents can also visit the league website at hylsoftball.com or the league Facebook page at Hernando Youth League Softball.

HERNANDO SPORTSMAN'S CLUB CLINICS: The Hernando Sportsman's Club, 16121 Commercial Way, north of Weeki Wachee, is offering National Rifle Association classes next month.

The NRA Basic Instructor Training course will be from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday. Instructor candidates must possess and demonstrate a solid background in firearm safety and shooting skills and be intimately familiar with each action in the discipline they wish to be certified.

All students will receive the NRA trainer's guidebook. The cost of the course is $100.

The NRA Pistol Instructor course is a two-day class from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 15 and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 16. Candidates must pass the exam with a score of at least 90 percent and receive the endorsement of the training counselor for certification.

Students in this course must first complete both the NRA Basic Pistol class and NRA Basic Instructor Training class. The basic instructor training course must have been completed within the past two years. The cost of the course is $300.

Preregistration is required for all classes. For information, call the Hernando Sportsman's Club at (352) 597-9931.

SUSAN G. KOMEN GOLF TOURNAMENT: The Ladies League at Toscana Crossing at the Heather, north of Weeki Wachee, will host the Passionately Pink for the Cure Golf Tournament on Feb. 19.

All donations and proceeds will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and its nationwide initiatives to support breast cancer research.

Registration for the nine-hole tournament will begin at 7:15 a.m.; the shotgun start is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. A light breakfast and coffee will be served prior to tee-off.

The minimum donation is $25, with checks made out to "Susan G. Komen for the Cure." Greens fees will be collected the morning of the tournament. Fees are $9 per golfer for those who walk, and $14 for those who want a cart.

Interested golfers must sign up at the Toscana Crossing clubhouse by Tuesday. Information and donation checks may also be mailed to Myrna Newton, 12345 Club House Road, Brooksville, FL 34613.

UMPIRE CLINICS: The Hernando-Sumter Umpires Association has scheduled a set of baseball/softball umpiring clinics.

The clinics are designed to train anyone who wants to become an umpire and also can help seasoned umpires improve. The final local clinic will take place Feb. 17 at the Anderson Snow Sports Complex in Spring Hill.

The sessions are open to men and women age 16 and older. All clinics will start at 10 a.m.

Visit hernandosumterumpire.com to register. Call (352) 593-6998 or send email to clinics@hernandosumterumpire.com for information.

Contact Derek J. LaRiviere at derekjlariviere@gmail.com or (352) 584-6337.

Bears honor star alumnus


Times staff
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris was in Brooksville on Wednesday to see his old No. 20 jersey be retired in his honor. "It was a complete surprise," the 24-year-old Harris said. "They called me up and asked me if I could come over. They know I can't say no to them." Former Central High School Bears football coach Mike Giorda, who helped Harris during his time at Central said, "We could tell he was something special, he has this burst of speed in him, it was a gift from God." Harris' jersey will be officially retired during a Bears game in the fall.

Captain's Corner: Good time for redfish


By Tyson Wallerstein, Times Correspondent
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What's hot: With a new moon approaching, this weekend's tides should provide good action for redfish. Low incoming tides have been productive the past few days, and bigger high tides by the weekend should allow for plenty of time to pattern the fish.

Tip: Targeting schools of mullet will put you in the right area. As the tide moves in, pay attention to how fast the mullet are making their way up to the mangroves. This will let you know when it's time to move up a little.

Tactics: Caution is needed when approaching fish in some no-motor zone areas. Use the wind to assist you so you can use the trolling motor on a very low speed. If using live bait, consider using an outside bait pen when at anchor. Shutting down your live well pump will allow you to stay within casting distance of wary fish.

Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email capt.tyson@hotmail.com.

UCF fills gaps despite sanctions


Times wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

ORLANDO — George O'Leary knew he would have issues to overcome while securing his first Big East recruiting class.

The Central Florida coach believed NCAA sanctions would be the biggest. Instead, it turned out to be last-minute poaching attempts.

"(Running back) Micah Reed, right up until (Wednesday) morning and five minutes before he (sent) the letter (of intent), he had schools trying to flip him," O'Leary said of one of his top targets Wednesday.

The Knights lost 20 seniors from their 2012 team that finished 10-4 and won the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. And the NCAA reduced the their allotment of official visits from 56 to 30 as part of a litany of penalties levied last year for recruiting violations that stemmed from involvement with agent runners.

O'Leary, though, believes he filled the needs of his roster with a 19-player class to compete in a new conference this fall.

"This is the first year that the class that we had … there were at least nine or 10 guys that were trying to get flipped by SEC schools, ACC schools, which I think shows the quality of the class," he said.

The class also includes three January enrollees, including quarterbacks Pete DiNovo (East Lake) and Justin Holman.

"The three key elements that we looked at (for all recruits) was range, speed and versatility," O'Leary said. "A number of the athletes that we signed can play a couple of positions."

Big catches: At a position of need, UCF held on to Reed after Texas came calling with a late offer. When his letter arrived, it drew cheers from the coaches. The final faxed letter to come in, from linebacker Chequan Burkett, was vital, too. Auburn took a hard look at him late in the process. Coaches also were excited about Lakewood defensive back Shaquill Griffin, who drew major interest in the past week.

A SCARE: The Knights weren't sure what would happen as the clock ticked past noon and Burkett's letter had not come across their fax line. Eventually they got ahold of Burkett and finalized a class that did not have any of the final oral commitments flip at the last minute.

One lost: Offensive lineman Wilson Bell, a one-time recruit, signed with Florida State.

Big potential: O'Leary has high hopes for William Stanback. Listed as an athlete, he shined as a running back at Hempstead (N.Y.) Uniondale but showed potential on both sides of the ball.

Information from the Associated Press and the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.

Ray Lewis III follows father to Miami Hurricanes


Times wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

CORAL GABLES — For Ray Lewis III, going to Miami has been a safe assumption since the day he was born.

His father, newly retired Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, played for the Hurricanes. His mother is a Miami graduate as well. So picking a school was easy for their son.

Lewis III was one of 11 players to send letters of intent back to Miami on Wednesday, joining five early enrollees in a class that the Hurricanes believe can make an immediate impact.

Lewis III, listed as an athlete after playing running back and picking off four passes on defense his senior year, sent his letter of intent in early Wednesday. Then, his father at his side, he went through a ceremonial signing later in the day at his school, Lake Mary Prep near Orlando.

"I made a stand my junior year in college, the year he was born, that it was time for me to go to the league," said Ray Lewis, whose last game was the Super Bowl he helped the Ravens win Sunday. "Now the year that he's walking into college I've made another stand that it's time for me to leave the league. Him being born has been a factor in entering the league and leaving the league."

MISSES: The Hurricanes missed out on several blue-chip targets, including a pair of Miami Booker T. Washington High teammates in linebacker Matthew Thomas (Florida State) and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (Arkansas). Miami was also hoping for more help on the defensive line.

SWAG: Many expected wide receiver Stacy Coley to sign with Florida State. Instead, he pulled out a cap with the word "Swag" and done in Miami colors to announce his decision. His goal: "Win a national championship."

STATE OF MIAMI: Two of Miami-Dade's top prospects signed with the Hurricanes, as expected: defensive back Artie Burns of famed Miami Northwestern High, and defensive back Jamal Carter of Miami Southridge.

Strong Ties: Linebacker Jermaine Grace had people guessing until late in the day, when he announced his intention at Miramar High, the same school that produced 2012 Miami signees Tracy Howard and Deon Bush.

"My auntie, she's in love with Coach (Al) Golden," Grace said. "That's a big reason why I came, too. He's just a great guy. He's got a great spirit."

Taggart likes USF running back recruits


By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TAMPA — Running backs are a major part of Willie Taggart's offense, so USF's new coach was pleased by the signings of Kissimmee Osceola's Sta'fon McCray and Miami Northwestern's Darius Tice as part of Wednesday's recruiting haul.

The two have similar frames. McCray is 5 feet 11, 205 pounds, and Tice is 6-0, 205.

"I like big guys with little-guy feet. They can go the distance," Taggart said. "Being a running back, you've got to be tough. You've got to be competitive, and I think both guys have all those qualities."

McCray ran for 3,248 yards and 42 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

USF convinced Tice to decommit from Cincinnati, and he chose USF after a campus visit late last week. Tice, who rushed for 1,210 yards and 20 touchdowns and gained 8.8 yards per carry as a senior, said he likes his combination of size and speed.

"I can run by you, run through you, make you miss," Tice said. "I try to mix it up."

HELP ARRIVING: Most plentiful position? Defensive back, where the Bulls signed six players in hopes of shoring up a major concern after poor play and the graduation of both senior starters at cornerback.

"Two interceptions," Taggart said, holding up two fingers to emphasize how many interceptions the Bulls had as a team in 2012, including one by tackle Elkino Watson. "We can't have that."

The best looks to be Lamar Robbins, rated a four-star recruit by 247sports.com who had a high-profile list of finalists: Oklahoma, Louisville, West Virginia and Purdue. Louisville made a late push after he committed last week, but the Bulls held on to him.

"Coach Taggart really wanted to add difference-makers," said assistant Larry Scott, the tackles/tight ends coach who recruits the Miami area. "We wanted to add some guys we thought could make an impact pretty early in their careers."

RANKINGS: Comparing the 2014 Big East lineup, the Bulls had the top class and 54th nationally, according to 247sports.com. On the other hand, by Scout.com's rankings, the Bulls' class ranks fifth in the 2013 Big East and 61st overall.

1-for-3: Among the three stars from Miami USF sought, it got only Robbins. Northeast receiver Stacy Coley chose Miami while Washington offensive lineman Den­ver Kirkland chose Arkansas.

SHORTHANDED: The key to USF's recruiting success? Perhaps Taggart bunkering down in the first week after being hired with only two of his current assistants, Scott (retained from Skip Holtz's staff), and Ray Woodie (brought from his Western Kentucky staff).

"We were in here … all night, watching video, making phone calls, trying to piece things together and get another watch group of kids to get evaluated," said Scott, who was also carried over from Jim Leavitt's staff when Holtz was hired. "It was pretty important to be the bridge for what was going on. (Western Kentucky) recruited Florida so heavily, they knew a lot of the kids, too. We hit it running."

THIS AND THAT: The class includes two sets of prep teammates: offensive linemen Jeremi Hall and Dominique Threatt of Atlanta Tri-Cities and McCray and defensive back Hassan Childs of Kissimmee Osceola in. … Smallest signee? Kicker Emilio Nadelman of Miami Central, who enrolled in January at 165 pounds. That's literally half the size of the 330-pound Hall.

Preview: Lightning at Devils


By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

. Tonight

Lightning at Devils

When/where: 7; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: The Lightning entered Wednesday with the league's No. 2 power play at 32.5 percent despite being 1-for-13 (7.7 percent) on the road. … Devils G Martin Brodeur is 36-16-2 with five ties in 61 games against the Lightning, with a 2.11 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. … Tampa Bay had a league-most five players with double-digit points entering Wednesday. … New Jersey is one of four teams without a regulation home loss.

Late choices boost FSU class


Times staff, wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coaches erupted in cheers when linebacker Matthew Thomas announced Wednesday he was signing with the Seminoles. It was one of the few suspenseful moments; the five-star recruit from Miami Washington was choosing between FSU and Miami.

"We got some big-time commitments at the end," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We hit a little bit of every position."

Thomas said he felt at home at FSU: "I think it's a family atmosphere. It's not that far away. My family can come and see me."

Thomas became the gem of Fisher's class and the second five-star player to commit in 24 hours. Brentwood (Tenn.) cornerback Jalen Ramsey switched from Southern Cal on Tuesday and signed with FSU on Wednesday morning.

A state champion in the decathlon and long jump, Ramsey also plans to run track.

"I feel like Florida State has everything that I'm looking for," Ramsey said. "This is the most comfortable fit for me."

Although Ramsey called Fisher on Monday night to tell him he planned to attend FSU, the coach didn't breathe easily until shortly before noon, when the formal paperwork arrived.

"I sweat them until I get them," Fisher said.

Florida State finished signing day with a class of 21 players, including three who already have enrolled.

"We got a lot of speed, guys that are very dynamic," Fisher said. "These guys will change numbers on the scoreboard. It's a time of celebration, and the sky is the limit for this group."

LOCAL 'NOLES: As expected, St. Petersburg Catholic running back Ryan Green and St. Petersburg tight end Jeremy Kerr signed. "We text all the time," Kerr said. "We can't wait to get there."

FSU honored its scholarship offer to Plant offensive lineman Richy Klepal, even though he won't play anymore because of multiple concussions. Klepal already has enrolled.

QUICK STUDY: New Smyrna Beach defensive end Davarez Bryant is a longtime basketball player who has played only one season of organized football but has great potential, Fisher said. "The guy's upside is unbelievable," Fisher said.

COACHING TURNOVER: Fisher said he didn't believe the recruiting effort was hurt by losing six assistants in the past month.

"It could have (hurt), maybe, but not as (much)," Fisher said. "I actually think it opened up more doors on guys that we ended up getting on the back end of it. It's probably a wash."

MISSES: The Seminoles failed to get Miami Northeastern receiver Stacy Coley, who signed with Miami; Prattville (Ala.) offensive lineman Austin Golson, who signed with Mississippi; and Miami Washington offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, who signed with Arkansas.

Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press, Orlando Sentinel and Miami Herald.

Gators hold on to strong recruiting class


By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

GAINESVILLE — Fresh off an 11-2 season and holding tight to recruits who pledged their allegiance months before signing day, Florida coach Will Muschamp said Wednesday that he was relieved to have finalized his class of 28 recruits. Sixteen are among ESPN's top 300; eight are already enrolled.

"The coaching process is really about four things: evaluation, recruiting, developing and coaching," Muschamp said. "I think in two years on the recruiting trail (at Florida) from an evaluation standpoint, a recruiting standpoint, we've got a staff that can do it all. Very proud of the staff and the job they did."

WE'RE NO. 1: The Gators picked up two consensus No. 1 players at their positions: Wharton defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III and running back Kelvin Taylor. Taylor, the state record holder for rushing yards, is enrolled and scheduled to participate in spring drills.

Hargreaves will have an opportunity to compete when he arrives in July, Muschamp said.

"The guy has been around the game a lot, and he really gets the game," Muschamp said. "He understands the game and is very mature. … Highly intelligent. (He is) a guy that you would certainly point to that will have some opportunities as a freshman to contribute. Now, how much will be up to him."

FILLING NEEDS: Anybody who has watched the Gators play over the past year realizes they need receivers. Florida got five, including former Clemson commitment Demarcus Robinson.

"You've got to improve," Muschamp said. "When you say filling needs, you talk in terms of depth and talent. And those are the two things you've got to be able to address. I think we've taken a step forward in both situations. We've improved our depth, and I think we've improved our talent, some guys that can come in and compete."

BAILEY'S RESUME: Muschamp is high on Armwood's Alvin Bailey, particularly because the receiver also played quarterback in high school.

"A lot of times in high school you put your best athlete at quarterback because they touch the ball every snap, so they've got an opportunity to make something good happen for your team," Muschamp said. "And Alvin's a guy that's got a lot of playmaking ability.

"But I also look at all the intangibles that Alvin brings. … He's a slot receiver. He's a guy you can stick in the slot, and he can stick his foot in the ground and change direction."

ONES THAT GOT AWAY: Earlier this week, junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy chose Wisconsin over the Gators.

Wednesday, New Smyrna Beach wide receiver James Clark stunned many when he chose former Florida coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State over the Gators and Clemson.

"It was really hard," Clark was quoted as saying to the Orlando Sentinel. "Florida is a great school. Ohio State, I felt it was the right place for me. Coach Meyer told me don't come to Ohio State unless I was ready to make grown-man moves. That's what I had to do."

Tashawn Bower, a four-star defensive end, chose LSU.

FINAL WORD: "This coaching stuff is way overrated. It's about players, at the end of the day, and they want to play with other good players." — Muschamp

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Reality hits Lightning; Stamkos birthday milestone


By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. — The Lightning has lost two straight one-goal games to foes determined to forecheck, swarm in the defensive zone and play physically.

In other words, as coach Guy Boucher has preached since training camp: This is not going to be easy.

For a time it seemed almost too easy. Tampa Bay started 6-1-0 with a league-best 37 goals. Since then it has three goals total in losses to the Rangers and Flyers, and third-period mistakes that cost games.

"You have to go out and earn it every night, and I don't think we've done that the last two games," right wing Marty St. Louis said Wednesday. "Did we play bad? No. Did we go out and try to earn the win? No, we didn't.

"It's not for lack of effort, but we have to be better."

That's quite a different tone from the team's rip-roaring start, during which it benefited from what St. Louis called a "perfect storm." The Lightning played six of its first eight games at home. Three teams were playing the second of back-to-back games. The Lightning faced three backup goalies, got 35 power-play chances and scored on 13.

But against the Rangers and Flyers, the intensity and level of play were raised, and the Lightning didn't quite measure up.

In both games, third-period gaffes led to winning goals. Tuesday against the Flyers, right wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie got caught in the offensive zone, sparking a Philadelphia three-on-two that defensemen Keith Aulie and Brian Lee did not defend well and goalie Anders Lindback failed to stop.

"Not awful mistakes," Boucher said, "but mistakes that a team makes when not mature enough to deal with those tight games."

Tampa Bay also had a season-low 22 shots, went 0-for-4 with two shots on the power play and did not bury scoring chances.

This isn't to put it all on the Lightning. As Boucher said, "There's an opponent on the other side, and they're good, too."

Still, "we have to be a team that is comfortable with a 1-0, 1-1, 2-2 games. As we go along, that's what it's going to be."

A few more shots on goal wouldn't hurt. Tampa Bay has been outshot in five of nine games and all three on the road. Center Steven Stamkos said players "have been guilty of making an extra play or an extra pass." That hasn't helped a road power play that is 1-for-13.

"Our power play is good when we have movement and we have shots," Boucher said. "When we have no movement, we have no shots. You can stay in there for two minutes if you want and pass to each other while the other guys are reading the newspapers, they're ain't going to be no goals."

Perhaps the worst thing for the Lightning was the 8-3 rout of the Jets on Feb. 1. That kind of game is fun, Boucher said, but dangerous because "you can get the feeling you're very powerful offensively and things are going to come."

Not that it necessarily happened to Tampa Bay.

"We know we're not going to score five, six, seven goals a game," Aulie said.

But the team hasn't won since, and things won't get easier against the Devils tonight.

"There's no panic, but there's urgency," Stamkos said. "We have to find a way to win these close one-goal games. It's more indicative of playoff hockey."

And that kind of hockey never is easy.

CROMBEEN UPDATE: Right wing B.J. Crombeen, who left Tuesday's game after his first-period fight with the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo, is cleared to play. It was unclear if he would be in the lineup against the Devils.

2013 Florida State Seminoles signing class


Times staff
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Florida State
Player Pos. Ht/Wt School
Nate Andrews DB 6-0/195 Fairhope (Ala.)
Wilson Bell OL 6-4/296 Prichard (Ala.) Blount
Davarez Bryant DE 6-4/240 New Smyrna Beach
Keith Bryant DT 6-2/306 Delray Beach Atlantic
Ira Denson G 6-4/317 Madison County
John Franklin QB 6-1/171 South Plantation
Ryan Green RB 5-10/187 St. Petersburg Catholic
Ryan Hoefeld C 6-3/265 New Orleans Brother Martin
Desmond Hollin DE 6-4/260 New York ASA JC
Ro'Derrick Hoskins LB 6-3/215 Orlando Evans
Isaiah Jones WR 6-4/210 Milton
Jeremy Kerr TE 6-6/254 St. Petersburg
E.J. Levenberry LB 6-3/230 Woodbridge (Va.) Hylton
Tyrell Lyons LB 6-2/220 Jacksonville First Coast
Jalen Ramsey ATH 6-0/189 Nashville Brentwood Acad.
Matthew Thomas LB 6-3/210 Miami Washington
Marquez White CB 6-1/175 Dothan (Ala.) Northview
Levonte Whitfield WR 5-9/176 Orlando Jones
Jesus Wilson WR 6-1/175 Miami Columbus
Early enrollees
Freddie Stevenson LB 6-1/230 Bartow
DeMarcus Walker DE 6-3/265 Jacksonville Sandalwood
Florida State
Player Pos. Ht/Wt School
Nate Andrews DB 6-0/195 Fairhope (Ala.)
Wilson Bell OL 6-4/296 Prichard (Ala.) Blount
Davarez Bryant DE 6-4/240 New Smyrna Beach
Keith Bryant DT 6-2/306 Delray Beach Atlantic
Ira Denson G 6-4/317 Madison County
John Franklin QB 6-1/171 South Plantation
Ryan Green RB 5-10/187 St. Petersburg Catholic
Ryan Hoefeld C 6-3/265 New Orleans Brother Martin
Desmond Hollin DE 6-4/260 New York ASA JC
Ro'Derrick Hoskins LB 6-3/215 Orlando Evans
Isaiah Jones WR 6-4/210 Milton
Jeremy Kerr TE 6-6/254 St. Petersburg
E.J. Levenberry LB 6-3/230 Woodbridge (Va.) Hylton
Tyrell Lyons LB 6-2/220 Jacksonville First Coast
Jalen Ramsey ATH 6-0/189 Nashville Brentwood Acad.
Matthew Thomas LB 6-3/210 Miami Washington
Marquez White CB 6-1/175 Dothan (Ala.) Northview
Levonte Whitfield WR 5-9/176 Orlando Jones
Jesus Wilson WR 6-1/175 Miami Columbus
Early enrollees
Freddie Stevenson LB 6-1/230 Bartow
DeMarcus Walker DE 6-3/265 Jacksonville Sandalwood

Rays re-sign Scott


By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — How much stronger and healthier the Rays' Luke Scott feels going into this season vs. last can be measured in several ways:

The 10 pounds of muscle he added as part of a new training program emphasizing core strength. The long distances and ease with which he's throwing with no issues from the right shoulder that hampered him in recovery from July 2011 surgery. And the residuals of being able to again incorporate activities into his offseason such as wood chopping and bow hunting.

"There's definitely some meat in the freezer," Scott said. "I definitely put that bow to use and harvested some of God's furry little creatures."

Scott, 34, officially rejoined the Rays on Wednesday, completing a one-year deal for $2.75 million, with another $750,000 in incentives. Plus, he got a $1 million buyout when the Rays declined a $6 million option. Reliever Dane De La Rosa, whose chances to make the team were slim, was designated for assignment.

After hitting .229 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs in a disappointing debut season with the Rays marred by two disabled-list stints, Scott said he welcomed the chance for redemption. "I'm very thankful for another opportunity to see the fruits of my labor and put up the same numbers," he said.

With the shoulder feeling good — in part from the bow-hunting, he said — Scott expects to be able to play first base and the outfield right away, making him a better fit in the Rays' scheme.

"I'm back to where I was before I had surgery," he said. "I'm just strong as a bull, and I feel great."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

USF routed by Marquette


By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TAMPA — There were seven turnovers and three missed shots in USF's first 11 possessions, and that was only the start.

The Bulls didn't really stop digging a hole until two minutes were left in the opening half, and No. 24 Marquette had a 38-13 lead. At that point, USF did well just to trade baskets with the Golden Eagles, dropping to 1-9 in Big East play after a 70-47 loss before an announced crowd of 5,186.

"The turnovers were huge in the first half," said coach Stan Heath, whose team had 14 turnovers before the half, leading to 23 Marquette points. "Too good a team to let them race out to a lead. Ball wasn't dropping very well for us and I think that got a little frustrating for us, too. We've got to find a way to get ourselves a little bit tougher … to not put our heads down when things go wrong."

Much has gone wrong for the Bulls (10-12), who went 12-6 in the Big East during last year's NCAA Tournament run but find themselves at the bottom of the conference standings. Just nine days earlier, USF had played Marquette much closer, trailing by eight with eight minutes to play in a 63-50 loss.

"I think part of that had to do with being overly aggressive. … They made us pay with silly turnovers, and they got easy baskets," senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. "We just didn't protect the ball. I don't fault our guys for trying … they're a really good defensive team. They like to press you, they like to speed you up, and that's exactly what they did."

USF's top scorers were largely quiet. Fitzpatrick and Victor Rudd each went 3-for-10 from the field, finishing with seven and eight points, respectively. Point guard Anthony Collins went 2-for-7 from the field on the way to six points, five assists and four turnovers.

Marquette (16-5, 7-2) had four players in double figures, bouncing back nicely from a 70-51 loss at No. 12 Louisville on Sunday.

"I thought our guys' preparation and how they handled the whipping we took Sunday … I thought they were really locked in," coach Buzz Williams said. "It wasn't like it was James Naismith or anything, as far as the adjustments (from the first game)."

Freshman forward Zach LeDay led the Bulls with 14 points, with six in the final five minutes as Marquette emptied its bench. Heath gave 7-foot-3 freshman center Jordan Omogbehin a rare start; he had two points and four rebounds in 16 minutes, continuing to work on handling a larger role.

USF is back on the road, playing Saturday at Villanova, which is now 5-5 in the Big East and defeated the Bulls 61-53 in Tampa last month.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3346.

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