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Ole Miss shocks SEC with its signing day bounty


Times wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ole Miss muscled in on the powerhouses that usually dominate national signing day, landing several of the nation's most sought-after prospects Wednesday.

The Rebels, coming off a 7-6 season under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, signed three big names and built a well-rounded class.

"I do think (this class) has the possibility of being a program changer," Freeze said. "But it's all on paper right now."

The day started with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Ga., rated the No. 1 recruit in the country by just about every recruiting service, deciding to join his brother, Denzel, in Oxford.

"I feel like it's the right place for me," said Nkemdiche (pronounced kim-dee-chee). "I feel like they can do special things and they're on the rise."

Nkemdiche made a nonbinding oral commitment to Clemson last year, then backed off and made his field LSU, Florida and Mississippi.

A couple of hours after Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, a top-rated offensive tackle from Lake City, picked the Rebels over FSU and Georgia.

"Tunsil to Ole Miss I think was the biggest surprise of the whole (recruiting season)," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com.

Then touted defensive back Antonio Conner from Batesville, Miss., chose the Rebels over Alabama, and Laquon Treadwell from Crete, Ill., one of the top receivers, followed through on his commitment.

Mom won't sign son over to Arkansas

South Plantation's Alex Collins, a five-star running back who was previously committed to Miami and then abruptly changed to Arkansas on Monday, saw his mother exit his would-be signing ceremony Wednesday.

Andrea McDonald, a single parent, went to the school with Alex's brother, Johnny, and older sister, but after a private chat with Alex, she left without signing his papers.

A parent or legal guardian must sign a national letter of intent if the prospective athlete is under 21.

"She said she didn't want to sign," Johnny Collins, 20, told the Miami Herald. "She's having anxiety. I know she preferred him to go to UM."

Alabama at top: The Crimson Tide wrapped up a 25-player class that was rated a consensus No. 1, with 18 of the ESPN 300. Five-star defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen, who could play defensive end or outside linebacker, were among six players rated as a five-star prospect by at least one recruiting service. "I think we added fast-twitch pass-rushing athletic guys to the defensive line category as being a higher priority because of more spread offenses, more athletic quarterbacks," coach Nick Saban said.

Gone to Bruins: Asiantii Woulard, ESPN's top dual-threat quarterback who orally committed to USF then decommitted, signed with UCLA. Woulard, out of Winter Park, is expected to be the backup to Brett Hundley, who will be a sophomore.

Boston College: Former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, the new Eagles coach, will be joined by his son, Louie, who is transferring from Syracuse, and Matt Patchan, an offensive lineman transfer from UF who was an Armwood standout.

UCF-Penn St.: The Nittany Lions will host the Knights on Sept. 14 and make a visit to UCF in 2014 or 2015.

Line change sparks Bruins


Times wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

MONTREAL — Changing his lines in the third period paid off for Bruins coach Claude Julien.

Julien moved rising star Tyler Seguin onto a unit with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, and it produced the tying and winning goals on its first two shifts as the Bruins downed the Canadiens 2-1 on Wednesday night.

"We needed to create more scoring chances because we didn't have many in the first two periods, so we tweaked the lines a bit, and the guys responded well," said Julien as the Bruins improved to 7-1-1.

"That Krejci line's been awesome for us, but (Wednesday) they weren't able to generate much, so I said, 'Let's move guys around here and give them a little spark,' and it worked out. Look at (Seguin) driving the net on that first goal."

Seguin sneaked in front to take a Krejci pass and lift the puck over Carey Price to tie the score 14 seconds into the third period. The speedy young centre then slipped the puck to the left wing on a rush, and Lucic fed it in front. Krejci got there just before Montreal centre Tomas Plekanec to tip it in at 2:05.

The Krejci-Lucic-Nathan Horton line has been Boston's best this season while Seguin went into the game in a slump with one goal in the first eight games.

"I was feeling snakebitten, but I'm glad one went in and we pulled this one out," Seguin said. "I feel I've been playing decently.

"I had a couple of goals called back. Things weren't going in. But we got it going in the third."

P.K. Subban scored his first of the season on a second period power play for Montreal, which was stoned by Tuukka Rask while outshooting Boston 11-4 in the opening frame.

The Canadiens ended a five-game home winning streak.

Julien called it the best game this season for Rask, who has built a 6-1-1 record as the starter while veteran Tim Thomas is on a self-assigned sabbatical.

"He's had the right attitude," Julien said of Rask.

game highlights: The Ducks' Saku Koivu and Sheldon Souray each had a goal and an assist, and rookie Viktor Fasth made 31 saves to get his first career shutout, 3-0 over the host Avalanche. Fasth has won his first four career starts this season.

around the league: Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky was fined $10,000, the maximum allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement, for boarding Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi on Tuesday. He will not be suspended. … Flames No. 1 goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff is day-to-day with a strained knee ligament sustained against the Red Wings on Tuesday. The injury was not thought to be serious.

Bruins 0 0 2 2
at Canadiens 0 1 0 1

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesR.Bourque, Mon (goaltender interference), 4:21; Seguin, Bos (holding), 6:12; Subban, Mon (hooking), 16:53.

Second Period1, Montreal, Subban 1 (Markov, Plekanec), 10:53 (pp). PenaltiesBoychuk, Bos (tripping), :54; Montreal bench, served by Gallagher (too many men), 4:01; Lucic, Bos (high-sticking), 8:56; Lucic, Bos (slashing), 14:09.

Third Period2, Boston, Seguin 2 (Krejci), :14. 3, Boston, Krejci 3 (Lucic, Seguin), 2:05. PenaltiesKelly, Bos (hooking), 5:08; McQuaid, Bos (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:44; Gallagher, Mon (roughing), 7:44; Subban, Mon (tripping), 18:58; Krejci, Bos (hooking), 19:26. Shots on GoalBoston 4-11-8—23. Montreal 11-5-5—21. Power-play opportunitiesBoston 0 of 4; Montreal 1 of 5. GoaliesBoston, Rask 6-1-1 (21 shots-20 saves). Montreal, Price 6-2-0 (23-21).

Big 12 doormat stuns Jayhawks


Times wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

FORT WORTH, Texas — Garlon Green had 20 points and TCU held on for a 62-55 upset of fifth-ranked Kansas on Wednesday night for the Horned Frogs' first Big 12 victory.

The Jayhawks (19-3, 7-2), coming off a loss four days earlier to Oklahoma State, have their first skid in more than seven years. They had played 264 games since January 2006 without consecutive losses, Division I's longest active streak.

TCU never trailed in the game, which marked the midpoint of its first Big 12 season, also the first season for new coach Trent Johnson.

Kansas, which has won or shared 12 of the 16 regular-season Big 12 titles since the league started, didn't score until more than 7 minutes in. The Jayhawks finished with their fewest points in nearly six years.

Kansas trailed by as many as 16 points before going on a 17-4 run that got it within 44-40 on Jeff Withey's dunk with 6:49 left. Naadir Tharpe scored nine in 2 minutes with a 3-pointer then six free throws.

Tharpe had a chance to get it closer but missed a 3-pointer on a break after rebounding a TCU miss. Adrick McKinney then slung a pass inside to Green for layup.

NO. 7 ARIZONA 73, STANFORD 66: Mark Lyons had a season-high 25 points for the Wildcats (20-2, 9-2 Pac-12) on the 40th anniversary of the first game at the McKale Center.

NO. 11 LOUISVILLE 68, RUTGERS 48: Wayne Blackshear had a career-high 19 points and hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 23-2 second-half run for the visiting Cardinals (19-4, 7-3 Big East).

NO. 12 MICH. ST. 61, NO. 18 MINN. 50: The host Spartans (19-4, 8-2 Big Ten) avenged a conference-opening loss to the Golden Gophers (17-6, 5-5) despite losing Keith Appling to a right shoulder injury.

NO. 14 BUTLER 77, ST. BONAVENTURE 58: Rotnei Clarke had 17 points for the Bulldogs (19-4, 6-2 Atlantic 10), who improved to 12-0 at home.

NO. 15 NEW MEXICO 81, AIR FORCE 58: Jamal Fenton scored all five of his points in a late 14-1 surge that lifted the host Lobos (20-3, 7-1 MWC).

INDIANA ST. 76, NO. 16 CREIGHTON 57: Jake Odum had 22 points to top 1,000 for his career for the Sycamores, who held the Bluejays (20-4, 9-3 MVC), the nation's top shooting team, to 41.7 percent.

PROVIDENCE 54, NO. 17 UC 50: The host Friars for the second straight game narrowly won after holding a late lead. With the Bearcats (18-5, 6-4 Big East) down 52-50, Sean Kilpatrick lost the ball on a backcourt violation with 2 seconds left.

NO. 22 OKLA. ST., 69, BAYLOR 67, OT: Michael Cobbins blocked a shot then converted a fastbreak layup with 0.2 seconds left in overtime, lifting the host Cowboys (16-5, 6-3 Big 12).

UCF 60, SO. MISS. 58: Isaiah Sykes hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to lift the host Knights (16-6, 6-2 C-USA) to a fifth win in six games.

ECKERD 63, NOVA SE 59: Alex Bodney had 18 points for the visiting Tritons (13-5, 6-4 Sunshine State), who pulled away early in the second half.

TAMPA 70, ROLLINS 66: Anthony Griffis had 20 of his 25 points in the second half and hit 6 of 6 free throws in the final 28 seconds for the visiting Spartans (16-6, 3-6 SSC).

SAINT LEO 75, LYNN 56: Jerrel Harris made 7 of 9 3-pointers for 21 points for the visiting Lions (16-4, 8-2 SSC), who used a 17-0 run midway through the second half to rally.

IOWA ST.: Point guard Maurice Jones, who averaged 13 points and 3.5 assists as a sophomore last season, won't play next season after the team lost an appeal with the NCAA over his academic eligibility.

NEW MEXICO ST.: Suspended senior forward Tyrone P. Watson was arrested and charged with a third-degree felony count of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm in the beating of a 19-year-old man.

N.C. STATE: Point guard Lorenzo Brown, who has missed two games with a sprained left ankle, may not be ready to play tonight at Duke.

SOUTH CAROLINA ST.: Coach Tim Carter resigned after six seasons. Associate head coach Murray Garvin was named interim coach.


NO. 1 BAYLOR 86, KANSAS 45: Brittney Griner had 26 points and 13 rebounds, moving into 10th in Division I history with 2,929 points for the host Bears (21-1, 11-0 Big 12).

NO. 23 OKLA. 74, KANSAS ST. 68: Aaryn Ellenberg had 18 points, and all five starters finished in double figures for the visiting Sooners (17-5, 7-3 Big 12).

NO. 25 IOWA ST. 67, TEXAS 48: Anna Prins had 19 points for the visiting Cyclones (16-5, 7-4 Big 12), who made 10 of 24 3-pointers.

ECKERD 63, NOVA SE 61: Taylor Bestry hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the wing to help the visiting Tritons (9-9, 5-5 Sunshine State) rally.

ROLLINS 51, TAMPA 41: The host Tars avenged a loss to the Spartans (13-6, 3-6 SSC) by hitting eight 3-pointers and forcing 16 turnovers.

LYNN 68, SAINT LEO 58: Kira Harvey had 17 points as the host Fighting Knights held off a rally by the Lions (10-10, 5-5 SSC).

Ole Miss crashes recruiting party


By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

For one seismic signing day, the fax machine supplanted the Rebel flag as the antiquated symbol of Ole Miss football.

Winless in the SEC two autumns ago, the Rebels stood toe to toe with Alabama and Florida, among others, in the quest for college football's premier paper championship Wednesday.

When dusk settled on national signing day, the first day high school seniors are permitted to sign with colleges, the Crimson Tide had prevailed again with the consensus top class. But the statement made by Ole Miss was a veritable Rebel yell carrying across four time zones.

The consensus national player of the year (defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Loganville, Ga.), consensus top offensive lineman (Lake City's Laremy Tunsil) and arguably the country's best receiver (Laquon Treadwell of Crete, Ill.) will play in Oxford next season.

Those three were the most shimmering in a constellation of five- and four-star recruits hauled in by second-year coach Hugh Freeze, giving Ole Miss a class ranked among the top 10 by all the major recruiting services. ESPN ranked it the highest, at No. 5.

Even LeBron James tweeted about it.

"Ole Miss ain't messing around today!" the NBA star wrote on Twitter. "Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy."

"Most of the guys we predicted would sign with them did," said recruiting analyst Andrew Bone of rivals.com, which ranked Ole Miss' class seventh.

"I think the biggest thing they're doing right is they're building relationships with these players, getting these guys on campus and making them feel comfortable. I think once they leave campus, they feel a different comfort level than some other places that they may visit."

Yet not even the most quantum signing-day strides enabled the Rebels to overtake Alabama. The two-time defending national champion's 25-player class was ranked first by most national services, with 13 signees among ESPN's top 100.

Buoying Alabama's class is Auburn (Ala.) High four-star inside linebacker Reuben Foster, a one-time Auburn commit who has an Auburn tattoo on his right forearm, and 320-pound Fort Worth, Texas, defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, who made an 11th-hour flip from Texas to the Crimson Tide.

"They never get lazy," ESPN Southeast recruiting coordinator Corey Long said of Tide coach Nick Saban's staff.

"They can get the best players in the country, but they know not everybody is the right fit for them. They work meticulously to find the guys that will produce. And that's why they stay on top, because they don't get complacent."

Finishing just behind Alabama in ESPN's ranking was Florida. Rivals and 247sports ranked the Gators fourth. Florida State's 22-member class was ranked from eighth (247Sports) to 15th (scout.com).

Three Gators signees, including Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, are five-star recruits, according to 247Sports. Eight of the 28 signees already have enrolled, including tailback Kelvin Taylor, whose father, Fred, had a few carries for Steve Spurrier in the 1990s.

"It's a high-character class with toughness," coach Will Muschamp said.

"A lot of these guys were guys that have been committed to us a long time and never took other visits. There wasn't a lot of flash in their recruiting process, and that's the kind of guys you want."

Elsewhere, new USF coach Willie Taggart made a resounding local, if not national, statement with his inaugural 23-member class. The group includes 10 players from the bay area (including Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties).

Former coach Skip Holtz's three signing-day classes had eight bay area players combined.

Taggart said he was pleased with the class he put together in less than two months on the job but said he would be better equipped to go up against the state's "Big Three" traditional powers in 2014.

"It's really difficult when you've only been here a month and didn't have a staff together," Taggart said. "Ask me that question in about a year. I think I'll have a better answer for you."

Similarly, one signing class isn't likely to make Ole Miss an SEC West heavyweight overnight, even if it could be the program's best.

Nkemdiche (6 feet 5, 265 pounds), a nimble-footed sack machine and two-time USA Today All-American, reportedly was bench pressing 350 pounds and squatting more than 500 before his senior year. His older brother, Denzel, is a Rebels linebacker.

Freeze also landed safety Antonio Conner, Mississippi's top high school player, and four-star offensive tackle and one-time FSU commit Austin Golson of Prattville, Ala.

Freeze "is a guy that coached (Ravens tackle) Michael Oher," ESPN's Long said of the player who helped inspire the film The Blind Side. "He has a tremendous story to tell. Kids love him. Adults love him. The minute you talk to him, you want to play for him."

Times staff writers Greg Auman and Antonya English contributed to this report.

2013 national signing day: FAMU, Bethune-Cookman, FIU, FAU,


Times wires
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Florida A&M signees

Chole Sims, OL, 6-3/275, Tallahassee Lincoln

Craig Smith, OL, 6-5/310, Royal Palm Beach

Addarius Willis, OL, 6-6/340, Grenada (Miss.) Holmes CC

Lemond Buice, RB, 6-1/220, Gaston, Ala./Clemson/Ariz. J.C.

Keonte Cash, FB, 6-0/300, Miami Belen Jesuit Prep

Traveze Robinson, QB, 6-1/190, Quincy East Gadsden

Victor Love, WR, 6-5/185, Orlando Oakridge

Joseph Williams, WR, 6-3/190, Royal Palm Beach

Darien Holston, DL, 6-6/280, Brookwood (Ga.)

Juwan Howard, DL, 6-3/250, Birmingham (Ala.) Woodlawn

Darius Tolbert, DL, 6-4/305, Orlando Edgewater

Tyrone Williams, DT, 6-2/295, Sumter (S.C.)

Curtis Alexander, LB, 6-1/220, Quincy East Gadsden

Jules Dornevil, DB, 5-10/170, Naples

Luke Helms, LB, 6-1/225, Tallahassee Godby

Craig Makey, DB, 6-0/180, Tallahassee Rickards

Shane Shroeder,LB, 6-4/230, Altamonte Springs

Raphael Smith, LB, 6-1/235, Durant

Tra'von Holmes, ATH, 5-8/165, Tallahassee Rickards

Brian Denmark, ATH, 6-3/185, Tallahassee Rickards

Bethune-Cookman signees

Darian Baker, WR, 5-10/174, Jacksonville Raines

Larry Brihm, QB, 6-0/210, Delray Beach Village Academy

Frank Brown, WR, 5-11/176, Palm Beach Gardens

Johnathan Cagle, P/K, 6-3/175, Pensacola Pine Forest

Jamal Cooper, DL, 6-4/280, Memphis Kirby HS/Coahoma CC

Jawill Davis, WR, 6-0/170, Miami American

Terique Debois, OL, 6-3/310, Bensalem (Pa.) Bensalem HS/Lackawanna CC

Jamal Dozier, WR, 6-1/160, Jacksonville Raines

Andrew Edouard, OL, 6-0/290, Philadelphia Overbrook/Lackawanna CC

Atreyu Farrior, ATH, 6-1/180, Lakeland Kathleen

Anthony Green, DT, 6-1/245, Lakeland Lake Gibson

Uriah Horne, OG, 6-3/260, McDonough (Ga.) Eagles Landing

William Koen III, OL, 6-4/250, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Mountain View

Dazzie Morris, OG, 6-2/260, Apopka

Dre'Sean Nelson, RB, 5-8/160, Ft. Lauderdale Dillard

Phillip Norman, OG, 6-4/280, Sebastian River

Larry Overstreet, RB, 6-0/200, Lehigh Acres HS/Fresno City College

Werley Placide, LB, 6-3/215, Boca Raton Olympic

Nathaniel Pryor, RB, 5-9/180, Sebastian River

Dishawn Ray, DT, 6-4/305, Jesup, (Ga.) Wayne County

Bruce Seymore, WR, 6-2/171, Jacksonville Raines

Jamaruz Thompkins, RB, 5-10, 185, Tampa Bay Tech

Devonte Washington, WR, 6-2/178, Jacksonville Raines

Shelton Willis, QB, 6-0/165, Daytona Beach Mainland

Florida International signees

James Cruise, OL, 6-5/275, Palm Beach Gardens

Alfonso Randolph, RB, 5-11/185, Ocala West Port

Vontarius West, DB, 6-0/185, Bartow

Jonathan Pavlov, TE, 6-4/215, North Palm Beach Benjamin School

Xavier Hines, DB, 6-0/175, Miami Belen Jesuit

Jonnu Smith, TE, 6-3/210, Ocala West Port

Silas Spearmann III, RB, 5-10/175, Loxahachee Seminole Ridge

Chris Flaig, OL, 6-5/305, Vero Beach

Jordan Guest, LB, 6-4/195, Miami Christopher Columbus

Shug Oyegunle, WR, 5-9/175, Gaither

Willie Smith, DB, 6-0/175, Bradenton Manatee

Jeremy Derrick, LB, 6-1/180, Hallandale Beach

Treyvon Williams, LB, 5-11/230, Miami Norland

Israel Paopao, QB , 6-1/240, Oceanside (Calif.)

Wilkenson Myrtil, DB, 6-0/185, Orlando Jones

Jordan Gibbs, LB, 6-1/220, Miami, Fla., Miami Killian

Jordan Budwig, OL, 6-4/330, Fort Lauderdale University School

Akheem Barton, DL, 6-2/235, Miami Norland

Florida Atlantic signees

Jace Banfell, 6-3/289, OL, Pensacola Catholic

Austin Bland, 6-3/265, OL, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas

Dustin Bowens, 6-5/235, TE, Palm Coast Flagler

Reggie Brown, 5-11/170, CB, Jesuit

Lance Burlingame, 6-4/280, DT, Franklin, Mass. (New Bedford/Dean JC)

Derek Butcher, 6-4/295, DL, Delano, Minn. (Delano Senior/North Dakota State)

Marcus Clark, 5-8/185, CB, Tallahassee North Florida Christian

Andrew Curtis, 6-2/220, LB, Paradise Valley, AZ Brophy College Prep

Jeremy Faulk, 6-3/267, OL, Palatka

Greg Hankerson, 6-0/172, QB, Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson

Tyler Henderson, 5-11/195, S, Crestview

Trey Hendrickson, 6-4/222, DE, Apopka

Jaquez Johnson, 6-1/225, QB, Starkville (Miss.) East Mississippi CC

DJ Juste, 6-2/185, QB, Port St. Lucie

Branden Lyons, 6-5/295, OL, Sonoma (Calif.) Sonoma Valley CC San Francisco

Marc Mauro, 6-1/195, S, Bayville, N.Y., Locust Valley/Nassau CC

Robert Miller, 6-2/190, DB, Fort Lauderdale Taravella

Bobby Mitchell, 6-2/175, ATH, St. Augustine

Robert Relf, 6-3/220, LB, Phoenix, (Ariz.) Brophy College Prep

Ronnie Scott, 5-10/165, CB, Panama City Chamberlain

Jakobi Smith, 6-4/250, OL, Miami, Coral Reef

Lester Thomas, 5-10/165, DB, Tallahassee Godby

Jay Warren, 6-0/195, RB, Navarre

Lucky Whitehead, 5-10/163, WR, Manassas (Va.) Osbourn/Dean College

Kalib Woods, 6-3/182, WR, Jacksonville Duncan Fletcher

East Bay Fishing Report


By Capt. Mike Gore
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Out and in. The cold weather has seemed to pass and it is shaping up to be a perfect weekend for fishing. We will have a good incoming tide the first half of the day. It will take most of the morning for there to be enough water to fish close to shore. You will want to plan on fishing the deeper sand holes on the edges of your favorite flat. As the water rises, you will be able to follow the fish in.

Trout. Big trout over 20 inches continue to be caught on a regular basis. They are keying in on big white bait. I know it is a run, but if this is what you are targeting, making a trip to the Skyway for bait is the trick. Make sure to use a bobber when fishing these big baits. While the trout love them, you will need the bobber to slow the bait down. If the wind stays down this weekend, a nice top-water lure worked slowly using the "walk the dog" method is also producing.

Redfish. Most of the reds are being caught close to the mangroves or in the creeks. Shrimp on a number one hook with a small split shot tossed tight against the shoreline or near oyster beds is what they like. The majority of the fish are small but we have been catching a few slot fish as well. There are some upper slot fish on the flats but you will have to wade to them. They seem to disappear as the water rises.

Mike Gore charters out of Tampa Bay. Call him at (813) 390-6600 or visit tampacharters.com.

Armwood wrestler thrives in Brandon's shadow


By Andy Warrener, Times Correspondent
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reports of an East Hillsborough sophomore wrestler bidding for his second consecutive state title might spur thoughts about Brandon High's dominant program.

Donoven Hough, however, wrestles at Armwood and continues to build a reputation as an Eagle-killer.

"I remember the first time I beat any Brandon wrestler, I was in the eighth grade," said Hough, who enters today's two-day Class 2A, Region 3 wrestling tournament at Punta Gorda Charlotte as a prohibitive favorite in the 113-pound division.

Hough (pronounced How) not only holds the 2012 state title at 106, but he ranks No. 1 at his weight in Class 2A and has a win over Class 3A's top-ranked 113-pound wrestler, Brandon's Kyle Norstrem.

Last month, Hough avenged an earlier 4-3 loss to Norstrem in the Hillsborough County Championships with a dramatic 7-5 overtime victory.

"Redemption," Hough put it plainly. "He had only lost one match all year and it was at some big national tournament."

Hough has carved out a little niche of respect for Armwood in the shadow of the state's most successful program. It's a challenge he sought when he joined the Hawks last year.

"I never considered going to Brandon; I wanted to be on a team that could beat them," Hough said.

This desire sprang up with Hough at a very young age. He got started in wrestling around the fourth grade simply because his dad, Donald, was an assistant coach on the King wrestling team.

"I started to realize I was a little small for football, so I tried wrestling," said Hough, who won the third-place match in his first-ever wrestling tournament. "After I won that match, I thought, 'Wow I could be really good at this' and I started winning."

Hough kept on winning and hasn't let up since. He won a state title in the eighth grade for his club, Caveman, and in the ninth grade, he beat King High's Jacob Wasserman for the Class 2A state title at 106 pounds.

"When I wrestle Jacob, we're just competing, we're practice partners," Hough said. "When I wrestle somebody from Brandon, now we are rivals."

Hough takes a record of 36-3 into the regionals, and he holds a career record of 85-6, including two district titles.

Hough doesn't let it get to his head.

"I have all the medals that I've ever won in a shoebox," Hough said. "I don't dwell on a victory. I will maybe celebrate that night, but by the next day I'm over it and I'm in the gym.

"I feel like I can never get too high on myself," Hough said. "I feel like if I get all high on myself, someone's gonna beat me."

Winning a state title as a freshman can set up monumental disappointments for wrestlers as they face three more years of brutal competition, but Hough seems to have the right mindset. Riverdale junior Rich Riechelt (41-7) and Venice sophomore Zachary Kelly could pose the biggest challenges for Hough.

Armwood coach C.J. Gittens said Hough's state experience gives him an edge.

"He (Hough) has high school, state-level experience now," Gittens said. "He's coming in with plenty of familiarity."

Hough's biggest challenge at state likely will come from Springstead sophomore Michael McDonald — but on the radar now is the regional tournament.

"We just try to take it one day at a time. Some days are harder than others," Gittens said.

Andy Warrener can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

McCormick's Waterski lures world champion Chris Parrish


By Eric Vician, Times Correspondent
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DOVER — Two @43 off.

If you are like most residents here, you need a bit more information to help understand the significance of this world record.

On the other hand, if you frequent McCormick's Waterski, Wakeboard and Cable Park, you might be quicker to recognize Chris Parrish's best slalom run from 2010, besting his previous world record of 1 ½ @43 off that stood for five years.

For those not up on water ski lingo, it means Parrish was able to round two buoys with 43 feet removed from the standard slalom 75-foot tow rope.

Parrish, 34, a three-time world record holder, two-time masters champion and four-time Moomba Masters (Australian) champion, recently moved from his native Orlando in part to train three to four times a week at McCormick's, a waterskiing mecca that opened in 1976.

The move will allow Parrish to train with childhood friend Michael McCormick, 39, owner and head coach.

Over the years, Parrish made numerous visits to McCormick Park at Kingsway Avenue and Muck Pond Road north of Interstate 4. He watched McCormick, who is 5 years older, compete in tournaments as a youth and train intermittently with McCormick as a pro.

Now the skier, who has been ranked No. 1 in the world numerous times since he was 19, is happy to be mentored by McCormick more frequently.

"He's an unbelievable coach with so much knowledge," Parrish said. "He keeps it simple and traditional and doesn't try to change the skier, but rather make the skier better."

Born in Destin and destined to be great on the water since he began skiing at 2 and competing at 7, Parrish is dubbed "the Tower" because his 6-foot-5 frame gives him a physical advantage over most skiers. That's part of the reason he and McCormick think there's another memorable run in his future.

"I think I can get him to break the world record again," said McCormick, who has coached for 27 years and included 10 professionals and youths of all ages among his students over the years.

McCormick also competes and recently won a pair of silver medals at the 2012 World 35+ Water Ski Championships in Mexico.

Both credit the facilities at McCormick park for some of their successes. The park features a boat lake — where Parrish trains — a cable lake that was added in 2008, a "Lil Bro" lake for beginners and a pro shop replete with rental equipment. Another lake is tentatively scheduled for development on a 35-acre plot of land that could become a wider and deeper hybrid cable/boat lake.

"It's one of the best. The vibe is good out there," said Parrish, who now resides in Odessa "His lake is so protected. Try to find another place to ski when the wind is blowing."

For now, it's two @43 off, but maybe you should prepare to hear about 2 ½ @43 off.

"I'm a very competitive guy," Parrish said. "What's so cool about our sport and the entire industry is that there is always room to get better."

Strawberry Crest cheerleaders edged out of top three at state


By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DOVER — It could have been a little stumble.

Maybe a small shuffle of the feet. Or perhaps an ever-so-slight slip.

But whatever it was, the miniscule mistake was what separated one place at the competitive cheer state championships for Strawberry Crest.

"It wasn't much, whatever it was," coach Samantha Moody said. "But it was something small."

Something small, as in 0.025 points. That how much Strawberry Crest wound up trailing third-place Lake Howell (78 points) by last week at the state finals in Kissimmee. The Chargers (77.97 placed just out of the top three in the 2A coed small division. The fourth-place finish was one slot better than last year. In 2011, just Strawberry Crest's second year, the Chargers finished second in the 1A large division.

"The girls were pretty disappointed," Moody said. "Especially after the warmups we had."

Moody said the Chargers were on point during the preliminaries and warmup period and fully expected it to continue into the finals. But one of the Chargers' fliers fell on her first stunt and they were never able to recover.

"Competitive cheer is such a mental thing," Moody said. "I think she got a little rattled and there were a couple more stumbles from there on out. I think it shook their confidence a little."

The Chargers came into the state finals on a roll. Strawberry Crest won the Hillsborough County Championship in the middle of January, the school's first-ever such title.

"It really was a little unexpected," said Sierra Miller, who's cheered all four years at Strawberry Crest. "But we put in a lot of hard work so it was gratifying."

The Chargers were at somewhat of a disadvantage in the coed division. Strawberry Crest has just one boy on its roster while most all of the other teams had four, which is the maximum for the division. By having more boys, the other teams were able to perform a higher volume of power moves.

"With the boys being physically stronger, they are able to perform more of the heavy lifting," Moody said. "So by having three and four guys, they were able to pull off three and four times the number of those stunts."

Steinbrenner was the highest finishing Hillsborough County team at the finals, placing third in the 2A large division.

Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Bucs add linebackers coach


By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Robb Smith, an assistant to Bucs coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, was among the five coaching hires announced by the Bucs on Thursday.

Smith will serve as linebackers coach, replacing Bob Fraser, who will assume the role of assistant defensive coordinator. Smith was defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Rutgers last season, and he and served in several capacities at the school before that, including linebackers coach.

Under Smith, Rutgers was fourth in points allowed last season (14.2 per-game average), sixth in rushing defense (95.2 yards per game) and 10th in total defense (311.6 yards per game).

The Bucs also changed the title of defensive assistant Bryan Cox to pass-rush specialist. Cox served as front-seven coach in 2012.

The Bucs had made a series of staff changes over the past month, all confirmed in Thursday's release. They included the hiring of quarterbacks coach John McNulty, secondary coach Tony Oden, receivers coach John Garrett and special teams coach Dave Wannstedt.

Bountygate coach Williams reinstated

The last of the Bountygate punishments has passed into history. The league reinstated former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was hired by the Titans as a senior defensive assistant.

Williams was suspended indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell in March after the league uncovered bounties it said Saints coaches used as incentives for injuring opponents. Williams was deemed to be the scheme's architect and main operator, and got the stiffest of the penalties.

Coach Sean Payton was suspended for a season. General manager Mickey Loomis, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and several players were docked games.

Williams apologized and cooperated with Goodell's investigation, which Goodell cited among the reasons for his reinstatement.

"I understand and respect the game an awful lot, and the past is the past, and what I'm talking about right now is creating a resume from this day forward," Williams said.

Williams, 54, was hired by Titans coach Mike Munchak to return to the franchise where he coached for 11 seasons before being hired by as Bills head coach in 2001. "He knows changes have to be made in the way he's done things in the past," Munchak said.

Williams will be monitored periodically, the NFL said.

In other Saints news, University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham interviewed for the same job.

more titans: All-Pro running back Chris Johnson will return next season, Munchak said. The team had to make a decision by Saturday, when $9 million of Johnson's $10 million 2013 salary would have been guaranteed if he was on the roster.

peterson has hernia surgery: NFL MVP Adrian Peterson had surgery to repair a sports hernia in his abdomen, which bothered the Vikings running back for much of the season's last month. He came up 8 yards short of Eric Dickerson's season rushing record, 2,105 yards.

jaguars: Coach Gus Bradley finalized his staff, adding four assistants including running backs coach Terry Richardson, who had the same job at the University of Miami and was UM's Florida recruiting coordinator.

'freak' in money trouble: Ex-Pro Bowl defensive end Jevon Kearse is facing foreclosure on his Pompano Beach home and is the subject of an IRS tax lien for $432,015, the South Florida Business Journal reported. Known as "Freak" for his athletic ability while at Florida, Kearse bought the 6,064-square-foot home along the ocean for $6.05 million in 2004. Two years later he signed a $5.25 million mortgage on it. The Titans' first-round draft pick in 1999 and the league's defensive rookie of the year, Kearse earned about $45 million in an 11-year career.

How to make Bucs Super


By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Here's how the NFL works: One team wins the Super Bowl, and the other 31 teams study how that one team won the Super Bowl. Then each of those 31 teams tries to figure out how to turn its team into that Super Bowl champ.

Call it follow the leader. Do what the other guy does.

The NFL is often referred to as a copy-cat league. If a team holds practices in a Walmart parking lot while wearing polka dot swim suits and using teddy bears instead of footballs and wins it all, every team in football goes out and buys bathing suits and teddy bears — at Walmart, of course.

That brings us to today and the Baltimore Ravens, the team that just won the Super Bowl.

Their blueprint? A tall, strong-armed quarterback. A stocky, shifty running back. Big, physical receivers. A defense just good enough to keep the other team from scoring too many points.

Sounds a little like the Bucs, right?

Okay, take it easy, I didn't say it sounds "exactly'' like the Bucs. I said it sounds a "little'' like the Bucs. There is quite a difference between a team that won the Super Bowl and a 7-9 team that hasn't made the playoffs since the 2007 season.

But maybe, just maybe, the Bucs do have some of the pieces in place to build a model like the Super Bowl champs. Take a look.

The quarterback

He's a big kid, has loads of potential, wears No. 5. He occasionally struggles with accuracy but has a strong arm and the knack for making plays deep down the field. He's inconsistent, but you can see flashes of good.

Good description of Bucs QB Josh Freeman wouldn't you say? But that was what many folks said about Ravens QB Joe Flacco in his first four seasons.

Bucs fans — especially those convinced Freeman is never going to amount to anything — don't want to hear the comparisons between Flacco and Freeman. Flacco has gone to the playoffs five consecutive seasons. He has won nine playoff games, including a Super Bowl. Heck, he was Super Bowl MVP.

In four seasons Freeman has never even been to the playoffs. For many, comparing Freeman to Flacco is like comparing roller skates to a Corvette. Both have wheels. Both will get you from here to there. But one is way better.

However, maybe the comparisons aren't that far-fetched. Up until this season — and really, up until the playoffs started — Flacco wasn't considered a special quarterback. He wasn't that word du jour: elite. He wasn't like Brady or Brees or the Mannings. He was more of a good quarterback, a solid quarterback, a steady quarterback.

But he had flaws in his game. He struggled with consistency. He wasn't the most accurate passer in the league. If you look at Flacco's second, third and fourth seasons, his numbers are in the same ballpark as Freeman's second, third and fourth seasons.

Maybe Freeman will never be Flacco, but he's only 25. Let's see where he is when he is 28 — the age Flacco is now.

The running back

If you put the Ravens' Ray Rice and the Bucs' Doug Martin in the same jerseys, you'd have trouble telling them apart. And Bucs coach Greg Schiano knows how to use them. He coached Rice in college at Rutgers.

Martin is bigger. Rice is a tad quicker. Both have similar running styles. Both can catch the ball. Both can be the engine that drives the offense. Martin and Rice are the same running back.

Big, physical receivers

Baltimore's Anquan Boldin is a strong, physical receiver who caught 65 passes for 921 yards in the regular season. He may be Baltimore's No. 1 receiver, but if you're going to compare him to a Bucs receiver, the more apt comparison is to the Bucs' No. 2 wideout, Mike Williams, whose numbers (63 catches for 996 yards) are almost identical to Boldin's. Meantime, the Ravens' Torrey Smith had a nice season but nowhere close to the monster season put up by the Bucs' Vincent Jackson, who caught 72 balls for nearly 1,400 yards. Jackson is an elite receiver, better than anyone on the Ravens.

The defense

This is where we throw cold water on the Ravens-Bucs comparison. The Ravens didn't have the swarming, suffocating, stingy defense they had in years past, but it was still middle of the pack. The Bucs' defense was near the bottom, including a league-worst pass defense. To match the Ravens on defense, the Bucs need a big-time pass rusher, a shutdown corner and maybe another linebacker.

Bottom line

If the model you want to follow is the Ravens, then the Bucs do have a decent start. The quarterback here has the potential to be like the quarterback there. The running backs and receivers are similar, and you might even give the edge to the Bucs in those categories. The Bucs' offense was ninth in yards last season, much better than Baltimore's, and Tampa Bay scored only nine fewer points. All in all, the Bucs' offense was every bit as productive — arguably more so — than the Super Bowl champs'.

Now all the Bucs have to do is fix that defense.

Hey, you think Ray Lewis would be interested in one more season?

Captains corner: It's a good time for fooling redfish, trout on artificial lures


By Neil Taylor, Times Correspondent
Thursday, February 7, 2013

What's hot: Redfish action has ramped up all over the region, while big winter trout are also an option. It's a prime time to catch both species on artificial lures. Patterns for redfish have become more consistent but for trout, it's the opposite.

Tackle: For either species, use a medium to medium-light rod-and-reel outfit with 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a soft-plastic jig. Jig heads can be weedless or standard. For the plastic tail, go with 3-inch swimbaits or 5-inch jerkbait tails in the colors of root beer, motor oil, gold and white.

Techniques: For redfish, search the shallows and move quietly to intercept them close to shorelines. When you spot your target, make long casts and bring the lure back slow and steady.

While the trend may reverse itself and the trout may return to the shallower grassy areas, right now they are much deeper. Try finessing a jig deep around bridges and canals.

Neil Taylor charters kayak fishing trips in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at strikethreekayakfishing.com and (727) 692-6345.

Mike White hopes to answer USF quarterback questions


By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2013

TAMPA — If you have any questions about Mike White's qualifications to be a college quarterback, remember where he was when he accepted USF's scholarship offer: on the bus in the parking lot of the Citrus Bowl, having just led Fort Lauderdale University to its first state championship.

The perception of White is an under-the-radar coup.He was underrated or ignored by national recruiting sites and most recruiters until his USF oral commitment Dec. 8, the day Willie Taggart was hired as coach. But USF's coaches have no doubts about the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder who signed his letter of intent Wednesday.

"He went under the radar a little bit just because this was his first year starting," Bulls quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan said. "He went undefeated, completed almost 70 percent of his passes and toward the tail end of recruiting he was pretty highly sought after. Intangibly, he has everything you're looking for: He's a leader. He's a winner. He's a great student."

University trailed Madison County 17-0 in the state final. White rallied the Suns, throwing a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half then the winner with six minutes left.

Earlier that day, assistant Larry Scott showed Taggart video clips of White, convincing him to extend a scholarship offer that hadn't come from the previous coaching staff.

"I was ready to commit. All I needed was an offer," White said.

"My family and I had talked about it earlier, and I was ready to commit. It was surreal; definitely one of the greatest days of my life."

His relationship with USF and Scott started when White was a freshman backing up future Marshall signee Gunnar Holcombe. As Scott watched White at practice, he was impressed by the little things he saw.

"Coach Scott realized his potential early, and that's a great sign of an exceptional recruiter," University coach Roger Harriott said. "He stayed on him.

"Mike's the type of kid now where if you've seen him in person, any recruiter in the country would offer him."

Taggart's offense relies on quarterbacks to read defenses and adjust quickly. So White's intelligence attracted USF's coaches as much as his physical attributes.

"Our offensive scheme is complex, so you've got to be smart," Taggart said.

"You're going to be asked to change a lot of plays on your own. You have to be a gym rat. You also have to be able to throw the football, complete passes, not turn the ball over. Mike can do all of those things."

While said other schools ramped up their recruiting after he committed to the Bulls. Marshall, impressed by his play in the state playoffs, offered him just before the Bulls did. Houston offensive coordinator Doug Meachem, who recruited White as an Oklahoma State assistant, offered. Skip Holtz, who didn't offer White when he coached USF, did so for Louisiana Tech. Holtz's new offensive coordinator, Tony Peterson, had recruited him at Marshall.

Two weeks before signing day, Mississippi State offered. Offensive coordinator Les Koenning tried to sell him on playing in the SEC. As soon as that offer went public, White became a three-star recruit.

"Obviously, the SEC speaks for itself in football," White said. "But there was something about USF. I remember Coach Scott telling me, 'You're going to have these schools coming up who never really were with you from the beginning. USF's always been there.' I took that to heart. They gave me a chance, and I didn't want to let them down."

USF's quarterback job for 2013 is wide open with four-year starter B.J. Daniels graduated.

One nationally touted recruit, Winter Park's Asiantii Woulard, orally committed to the Bulls — twice. But he reopened his recruiting after the coaching change and on Wednesday signed with UCLA.

Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd each have started two games over the past two seasons but combined for one touchdown and nine interceptions.

As it turns out, the biggest hurdle to getting White on campus isn't the SEC, but Major League Baseball. The right-handed pitcher has been projected as high as a fifth-round pick in June's draft.

"(Playing pro baseball is) definitely a possibility, but Mike has dreams of being a college football player and a college baseball player," Harriott said. "Coach Taggart has an open mind to his playing baseball and football. Mike's heart is in football right now.

"We'll see what transpires as we move forward."

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GregAuman.

Outdoors news and notes: Clearwater sailor Paige Railey adds World Cup Miami gold


By Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Making news

Railey leads local sailors at Miami regatta

Clearwater's Paige Railey, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, won a gold medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami on Feb. 2. Railey, who sails Laser Radials, beat 28 of the world's top small-boat sailors. St. Petersburg's Catherine Shanahan placed 19th in Laser Radial. Margot Samson of Bellaire, placed 13th in the women's RS:X (boardsailing) event. St. Petersburg's Brad Kendell was part of a team competing in the Sonar class.

Meanwhile, Eckerd College finished in the top 10 at the Rose Bowl Regatta hosted by Long Beach College. Eckerd's coed sailors were as high as third but had to settle for seventh out of 30 teams.

NOOD returns

The National Offshore One-Design regatta series, one of sailing's most competitive racing tours, opens its 2013 season on Tampa Bay just off the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg on Feb. 15-17. For information, see sailingworld.com/nood-regattas.

Solunar chart


Minor Major Minor Major

2/8 3:25 9:35 3:45 10:05

2/9 4:20 10:30 4:45 10:55

2/10 5:10 11:20 5:30 11:45

2/11 6:00 0 6:25 12:15

2/12 6:55 12:45 7:20 1:05

2/13 7:45 1:35 8:15 2:00

2/14 8:35 2:25 9:05 2:50

Grouper regulations keep heads spinning


By Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor
Thursday, February 7, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — After more than 20 years on the outdoors beat, you'd think I could get my fishing regulations straight.

But when somebody asks me about grouper season, I have to stop, scratch my head and say, "I have to look that up."

That's not because I'm particularly forgetful, it's just that the rules are so confusing.

Take gag grouper, for example. Before 2011, there was a Feb. 1 through March 31 closed season in the Gulf of Mexico.

Starting in 2011, however, the season was open from Sept. 16 through Nov. 15 in federal waters, which begin 9 miles offshore, but closed Feb. 1 through March 31, June 1 through Sept. 15 and Nov. 16 through Dec. 31 in state waters.

But in 2012, federal waters opened July 1 through Oct. 31. The state season was the same, except for Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, which were open April 1 through June 30.

What about 2013?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will meet Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando to discuss gag grouper as well as other species of interest to anglers.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the agency that manages fisheries in federal waters, recently decided to open gag grouper season July 1 but close it when the annual catch target has been met which, by best estimates, will take 133-155 days.

This means that gag grouper fishing will probably shut down sometime in November. But this rule must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce before it goes into effect. That decision should come this spring.

In the meantime, the FWC is expected to follow the Gulf Council's lead in most state waters next week in Orlando but stick to a separate, three-month season in the Big Bend region.

Sound simple? It's not.

Remember, these rules apply only to gag grouper. The rest of the shallow-water grouper are governed under a different set of rules.

Red grouper, black grouper (often confused with gag grouper), scamp, yellowfin grouper and yellowmouth grouper used to be closed from Feb. 1 through March 31 shoreward of the 20 fathom break. But the Gulf Council recently voted to eliminate that closed season. That means that offshore anglers can soon fish for grouper (except gag) anytime they want as long as they don't fish in water deeper than 120 feet, where the old, two-month closure will remain.

However, that change also must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce, and that could happen in May.

So while state and federal officials work all this out, remember that grouper season closed Feb. 1 in state and federal waters. That means if you catch a grouper — gag, black, red, yellowmouth, yellowfin; scamp; red hind and rock hind — you have to release it. The season will reopen April 1.

Until then, grouper fishing is strictly catch and release. Studies have shown that using a dehooking device increases a fish's chance of survival, regardless of species. That's why federal and state officials require anglers on any vessel in the Gulf of Mexico to carry and use dehooking devices.

What is a dehooking device? Any tool designed to remove a hook embedded in a fish. Acceptable tools include blunt-nosed pliers, alligator pliers and dehooking forceps. A device that grabs the line, slides down and gets the hook out quickly is preferred because it minimizes damage to the fish.

If the fish has swallowed the hook, it's sometimes better to cut the line as close to the hook as possible. A nonstainless steel hook, which is required, rusts out in just a few days.

A venting tool is also required. When a grouper is brought up from the depths, the gas in the swim bladder can expand and cause injury. In general, fish caught in 50 feet of water or deeper may need to be vented.

A fish needs to be vented (see flseagrant.org for help) if it is floating or has trouble swimming down to the bottom. A sure sign is when the fish's stomach is distended from its mouth.

Crombeen sits; Stamkos 'maturing'


By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. — B.J. Crombeen said he has not had concussion symptoms since his fight Tuesday with the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo.

Even so, the Lightning right wing was held out against the Devils on Thursday as a precaution, coach Guy Boucher said.

"He's fine to go," Boucher said, "but he also has another injury (left foot) he's been playing on. Sometimes circumstances give you a direction easy to take."

Crombeen left Tuesday's game after his first-period bout in which he took several heavy punches to the head, at least one when he was on his knees in a defenseless position.

Boucher said the heightened awareness of the effects of head trauma was part of the decision to hold Crombeen out. "It's touchy," he said. "It's a lot more touchy than it used to be. I remember when I was playing, you got knocked out and you didn't know what was going on. But if you could say what your name was, you were back in after 10 seconds. It's changed for the better that we're more careful."

Crombeen gets that, but it still is difficult, especially after he skated Wednesday and rode the stationary bike Thursday without concussion symptoms. "Every ounce of me wants to be out there with the boys," he said.

Crombeen, whose four fights entered Thursday tied for second in the league and who has fought 82 times in the NHL, said he understands the concussion risk but "there's a chance something can happen walking down the street. … It's kind of what you signed up for, so you do the best to protect yourself and make sure those kinds of things don't happen."

OLDER, WISER: Steven Stamkos has naturally gotten stronger as he has grown older. But he also has gotten wiser, though the center, who turned 23 Thursday, called it "experienced."

"I'm learning, maturing as a person and a player, picking up different things every day I play," Stamkos said. "It's going to be an ongoing process until the day you're done playing."

For Stamkos — whose 186 goals by age 23 are fourth all time behind Wayne Gretzky (329), Dale Hawerchuk (220) and Mario Lemieux (215) — the most significant changes have nothing to do with his skill set.

"My mind-set compared to the first 40 games of my rookie season is night and day," he said, "the confidence level, what you expect of yourself, what your teammates expect of you, knowing your opponents. Those are the things you pick up."

STORM WARNING: Saturday's game at Boston still was on, though a storm expected to bring up to 2 feet of snow is a concern. Generally, the league considers postponing games if a team is not present or a state of emergency is declared by local officials. The Lightning was scheduled to fly to Boston after Thursday's game (the bigger issue is getting out for Sunday's game at the Rangers), and as of Thursday night a state of emergency had not been declared.

ODDS AND ENDS: Boucher played 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Devils. D Brian Lee and RW Pierre-Cedric Labrie also were scratched. … D Brendan Mikkelson played his second game of the season and first since Jan. 22 against Carolina. D Marc-Andre Bergeron played his third game.

Mahan takes advantage of no rain


Times wires
Thursday, February 7, 2013

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Hunter Mahan was bracing for the worst of Pebble Beach, his golf bag weighed down with rain gear and everything else he needed to handle nasty weather.

Instead, he was reminded how much he loves the place.

It helps that Mahan drilled a 3-wood onto the 18th green for a two-putt birdie that gave him 6-under 66 and a share of the first-round lead to par with Russell Knox in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.

Better yet, the rain everyone was expecting early in the afternoon never showed up. So when Mahan was asked about the most interesting part of the day, all he could think of was that it was boring, in a good way. "I had a good time with my partner (Tom Dundon, president and CEO of Santander Consumer Finance). The pace was great. The weather was good," he said. "We were all expecting rain. The bag probably weighs 100 pounds right now."

Mahan attacked Pebble Beach, the place to be when conditions are calm. He missed only two greens and had only one birdie attempt longer than 20 feet.

It was a good start, but nothing more. With three very different courses in the rotation, weather than can change without notice and one course with a different par, no one has a good idea where he stands until after the third round Saturday.

Knox had 6-under 64 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula. He finished out of the top 125 on the money list last year as a rookie, so his opportunities are limited this year. "I came in here with a lot of confidence because I feel like I've been playing very well," Knox said. "Just haven't had the chance to play."

Mahan and Knox had a one-stroke lead over a group of five that included Tampa resident Ryuji Imada, who also played at Monterey Peninsula.

Vijay Singh had 72 at Pebble Beach. The tour has not decided whether to suspend him for using deer-antler spray, which contains a growth hormone on its list of banned substances.

Phil Mickelson, going after a record-tying fifth win in this tournament after last week's wire-to-wire win at the Phoenix Open, opened with 69 at Monterey Peninsula.

In the pro-am portion of the tournament, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of the first of two female members at Augusta National, beaned a spectator on No. 6 at Pebble Beach. She combined with partner Jason Bohn for 2-under 70.

Sports in brief


Times wires
Thursday, February 7, 2013


Wallace, car to enter NASCAR hall

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rusty Wallace will enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame tonight and his famed car "Midnight" will be part of his induction.

Wallace, winner of 55 races and the 1989 Cup title, will be inducted along with champions Buck Baker and Herb Thomas; car owner Cotton Owens; and innovative engine builder Leonard Wood.

Part of Wallace's display will be the car he drove to 13 victories from 1992-94. Wallace led for more than 5,000 laps in the car.

"If we had Midnight at the race track, everyone else there knew that they had a long day ahead of them; Midnight was just that good," he said.

More Autos: AJ Allmendinger, who failed a NASCAR drug test and completed a recovery program, will test an IndyCar for Penske Racing this month to see if he can run the Indy 500.


Messi extends Barcelona deal

Lionel Messi, 25, signed a two-year contract extension with Barcelona, increasing the annual salary of the Spanish club's career scoring leader to about $17.6 million.

"I'm very happy at Barcelona, I have always said so; it's a great day," said Messi, who signed his sixth extension since he made his debut in 2004. The new deal runs to 2018.

More Soccer: English Premier League clubs agreed to restrain spiraling player salaries and spending through financial controls or face point deductions. Teams with wage bills exceeding $82 million only will be able to increase them by $6 million per season for the next three years if the rise is funded through TV revenue. … Most allegations of match-fixing raised by Europol this week had already been scrutinized, FIFA president Sepp Blatter contended. "Most of the matches which they put in this tray, 600 or 800, have already been analyzed, dealt with and even were at court," he said. The police liaison agency said it knew of 380 suspicious matches played in Europe in recent years and 300 more worldwide.


Skiing: Defending champion Erik Guay of Canada criticized the downhill course at the world championships after his training runs for this weekend's events, calling one of the jumps in Schladming, Austria, "way too big." Guay said he hurt his back landing after a 30-meter jump. "That's ridiculous," Guay said. "Any course you should be able to push in the first training run and not have to worry about injuries like that." Race officials said workers would try to lower the jump by today's session.

Tennis: Rafael Nadal partnered with Juan Monaco and reached the doubles semifinals at the VTR Open in Chile, his third match in three days after being away for more than seven months with an inflamed left ankle and a stomach virus. The former No. 1 moved easily, showing no signs of knee trouble. … The International Tennis Federation revised Fed Cup play, saying the fourth singles will be scrapped if a team has an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Times wires

Schilling told PEDs an option


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Former pitcher Curt Schilling said someone in the Red Sox organization told him performance-enhancing drugs were an option as he tried to work his way back from a shoulder injury in 2008, ESPN reported Thursday.

"It was brought to my attention that this is a potential path I might want to pursue," Schilling said on ESPN Radio this week.

He did not identify the person, but he did say who it was not: "anybody in uniform," then-GM Theo Epstein, then-manager Terry Francona, any of the owners, and certain medical personnel.

Schilling, now an ESPN analyst, said the conversation got back to team brass and launched an investigation by Major League Baseball at the time.

Don't judge, union says: Union chief Michael Weiner said it would be unfair to make judgments about players and agents before evidence is sorted out in the latest drug investigation. Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were among those implicated by the Miami New Times, which published documents it alleged showed they received PEDs from a South Florida antiaging clinic. Ryan Braun and Jhonny Peralta have since been linked to the clinic by other publications, and most of the players have issued denials. MLB officials do not want to request player interviews without evidence. "This investigation that MLB is running has yet to produce any evidence that any player has violated the program," Weiner said.

Canadian Hall: Former Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines was selected for induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 29. The class also includes outfielders George Bell and Rob Ducey, announcer Tom Cheek and minor-league owner Nat Bailey.

Dad lets recruit go to Arkansas


Times wires
Thursday, February 7, 2013

PLANTATION — A day later than intended and after another twist to his recruitment, South Plantation running back Alex Collins signed with Arkansas.

Wednesday, the mother of the consensus five-star recruit refused to sign his letter of intent to go to the SEC school. She wanted him to play closer to home at Miami.

But Thursday, father Johnny Collins, no longer with Andrea McDonald, provided the written consent required by the NCAA.

Collins, who wore camouflage overalls and a matching tie, said his mother supported his decision. But she did not attend a news conference held at a restaurant. And a firm founded by former O.J. Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran said McDonald retained it to represent "the family's interests."

That announcement came about 45 minutes before Alex Collins sealed his college choice.

"I'm happy it's over," said Alex Collins, who added his mother missed the signing because of work. "I didn't think about going anywhere else because I had my mind set. I just talked to my mom. I explained myself, and we have a better understanding. She wants to make sure this is the right decision for me."

Johnny Collins said he got a call from Alex on Wednesday and agreed to sign the papers because, "that's where he wants to go."

Alex Collins said he was unaware his mother hired Jack Paris of the Cochran Law Firm. But in a statement Thursday, Paris said the Collins family wanted "to make a clean choice that is free of any outside influences."

Later, Paris released a second statement, saying it remains "a difficult time" for McDonald.

"She is a loving and caring mother who only wants her son to choose a university without any outside and inappropriate influences," the statement read. "Ms. McDonald hopes all NCAA rules and regulations were followed during today's signing. She is not seeking any personal financial gain because her only concern is for Alex's happiness and well-being."

Gator corner cited

GAINESVILLE — Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was cited for possession of marijuana of not more than 20 grams, a first-degree misdemeanor, early Sunday morning.

Police said Purifoy, who will be a junior in the fall, was in the back seat of a car that was stopped for a right-of-way violation and they found 2.5 grams of marijuana between the front driver's and passenger's seat. Purifoy and two others denied possession, police said.

An arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Purifoy played in all 13 games last season and was fourth on the team with 51 tackles.

More Florida: Orlando Boone punter Johnny Townsend signed. Townsend averaged 44.6 yards in being named a U.S. Army All-American. He orally committed to Ohio State in August.

Miami drug tests: Miami said more than 10,000 drug tests performed by it since 2005 have resulted in no positive results for anabolic steroids by its athletes. The statement came amid reports the school and its baseball program has been linked to an ongoing Major League Baseball investigation into if players — many of whom train at or played collegiately at Miami — received performance-enhancing drugs from anti-aging clinics in South Florida. Miami, a private institution, typically does not disclose information such as its drug-testing policy.

FSU-Pitt: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said the 2013 game at Pittsburgh could be played on Labor Day. That likely would get it on national TV. Currently, both teams are set to play Aug. 31, FSU against Wofford and Pitt against Villanova. There is no timetable for a decision.

Attendance: Four teams drew more than 100,000 fans per home game in 2012, the NCAA said. Michigan led for the 15th consecutive season at 112,252 followed by Ohio State (105,330), Alabama (101,722) and Texas (100,884). Among conferences, the SEC led for the 15th consecutive season at 75,538 followed by the Big Ten (70,040), Big 12 (59,004), Pac-12 (53,679), ACC (49,910) and Big East (39,185).

New Mexico: Athletic director Paul Krebs said a university investigation found anonymous allegations that coach Bob Davie discriminated against players based on race are "unfounded and untrue." The letter, sent to several media outlets, alleged Davie, who coached Notre Dame from 1997-2001, tolerated white players smoking marijuana but not black players and handed out harsher penalties against black players than white players. Davie denied the allegations on Wednesday.

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