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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. FSU, Gators, USF and Miami all in Athlon preseason top 25


    The college football preseason magazines are trickling in, as our Joey Knight wrote earlier.

    Athlon formally unveiled its top 25 Monday.

    Florida State is No. 3, behind Week 1 opponent Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State. The site writes: Florida State will be tested right away with a matchup against Alabama in Atlanta to open the season. The Seminoles host Miami, NC State and Louisville in key conference games, but a matchup at Clemson and a road date at Florida will determine whether or not Fisher's team can finish in the top four....

  2. Florida coach Jim McElwain: Tampa Bay area key for Gators


    CLEARWATER — Before speaking to the Pinellas County Gator Club on Thursday night, Florida football coach Jim McElwain had a Q&A session with reporters. Three quick hits:

    1. The Malik Zaire rumors are swirling but not in the quarterback room. If the SEC changes its graduate transfer policy in two weeks at its spring meetings , the Gators could be in the mix to land Zaire, a former quarterback at Notre Dame. He would be eligible immediately and expected to battle Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Luke Del Rio for the starting job. McElwain said his quarterbacks haven't asked him about Zaire or the speculation. "And yet everybody on our team knows we're going to continue to do whatever we can to get good players in here, at whatever positions they are," McElwain said. "Here's the beauty of it: When you've got competition at positions, then you've got a pretty good team." ...

    UF coach Jim McElwain signed four bay area players last year after none in 2016.
  3. Florida Gators WR Antonio Callaway cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession


    Florida star receiver Antonio Callaway's up-and-down career took another off-the-field hit with a misdemeanor marijuana possession citation early Saturday morning.

    The Gainesville Police Department said it stopped a black Mercedes SUV for a seat belt violation just before 1 a.m. An officer smelled marijuana and found seven grams of the drug in Callaway's pocket, according to court documents filed Wednesday. ...

    Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) high-fives fans while taking the field for warmups before a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
  4. Jim McElwain 'disappointed' in Antonio Callaway news, won't address status for Michigan opener


    CLEARWATER - Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain said he was disappointed in Thursday's news that receiver Antonio Callaway was cited on a complaint of marijuana possession, but McElwain would not specifically address Callaway's status for the Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan....

  5. Florida Gators star Antonio Callaway cited for marijuana possession


    Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway has been cited on a complaint of marijuana possession, according to Alachua County court records.

    The Gainesville Police Department stopped a Merecedes SUV at 12:50 a.m. Saturday for a seatbelt violation. Police smelled marijuana and found about 7 grams in Callaway's pocket. Another 5.4 grams of marijuana were found in the car. Both Callaway and 40-year-old Kendrick Williams claimed ownership of the drugs, according to the court documents. Williams has a long criminal history with more than a dozen arrests in the state for complaints ranging from drugs and guns to battery and vehicle theft. ...

  6. Battery complaint dismissed against Cleveland Browns' Caleb Brantley


    The State Attorney's Office dismissed the battery case against Browns rookie and former Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley on Wednesday after investigators found "no reliable evidence" to support a complaint that he knocked a woman unconscious last month.

    The decision came after a one-month investigation into an early-morning Gainesville altercation between Brantley and University of Florida student Chelsea Austin....

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) sacks Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) in the second quarter during the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Monday, January 2, 2017.
  7. What SEC football coaches think about early signing day


    After years of debate, college football will have its first early signing period with a 72-hour window beginning Dec. 20. SEC coaches still aren't sure how it's going to work in practice. Some excerpts from Monday's post-spring teleconference:

    LSU coach Ed Orgeron: "It's a war out there. Now you have two of them."

    Florida coach Jim McElwain: "It will put some players that have maybe taken reservations rather than commitments places, it's going to call that bluff, as well as a lot of schools that have a lot of offers out. … I truly believe it's going to call some people's bluff, both from the players' side and the schools' side. It'll be interesting to see."...

    Florida’s Jim McElwain, left, on the new early signing period: “I truly believe it’s going to call some people’s bluff.” And Alabama’s Nick Saban: “I think evaluation is important, and I think the sooner you have to make decisions on these guys, the greater opportunity you have to make mistakes.”
  8. Jim McElwain on Florida Gators' offensive line, leadership and more


    A few quick nuggets from Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain's appearance on Monday's post-spring SEC teleconference:

    • McElwain is excited about the offensive line - a position of weakness when he arrived in Gainesville. UF loses left tackle David Sharpe to the NFL and center Cam Dillard to North Carolina as a grad transfer, but the other parts return. "This is the best we've been since I've been here at that position..." McElwain said. "It's a group that's going to now be a true strength for the Gators."...

  9. Jim McElwain: On red turf, cheap hotels and more


    Even with 2,000 words, I didn't have enough space to share everything I wanted on Jim McElwain's time in the Big Sky Conference. The story posted online this morning and will be in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times. A few things that didn't make the final cut:

    · I mentioned that McElwain donated some money to 2010 fundraiser for new red turf at Eastern Washington. Here's what I didn't include: "Don't sit here and say that I'm excited about the red turf," McElwain said. He hates the red. He's a football purist. But... "If they took a step to do that, it would be really hard for them to drop football." So that's why he gave money for The Inferno....

  10. Jim McElwain: Big Sky to the Big Time


    The pickup truck was in bad enough shape when Jim McElwain bought it.

    The tires didn't match, and water sprayed through the rusted-out floorboards.

    McElwain, then an assistant coach at Eastern Washington University, didn't care about the first part. To fix the second, he took a zip knife to one of the baseball team's old batting circles and used the turf to cover the holes. The splashing stopped....

    Jim McElwain didn't always make millions or drive fancy cars. (Steve Madden, Times illustration)
  11. ACC announces future Notre Dame football games for FSU, Miami


    Get your looooong-range calendars out, because the ACC has announced Notre Dame's league games...through 2037. Gotta give my 3-month-old son time to prepare, I suppose. Judging by how active his legs are, he's going to be a great punter. 

    Anyway, Florida State hosts the Fighting Irish in 2026 and 2029. The Seminoles travel to South Bend in 2030, 2032 and 2036.

    Miami hosts Notre Dame in 2032 and 2034 and travels there in 2028, 2031 and 2037....

  12. ESPN announces 2017 college football bowl schedule


    ESPN announced its college football bowl schedule for the upcoming season.

    The local games:

    The St. Petersburg Bowl will kick off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21 at Tropicana Field. It is scheduled to feature teams from the American Athletic Conference and Conference USA and will air on ESPN.

    The Outback Bowl will start at noon on Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium. ESPN2 will show the Big Ten-SEC matchup....

  13. Legislature advances $1.7 million claims bill for ex-Wharton football player Sean McNamee


    The Florida legislature has passed a claims bill to award former Wharton High football player Sean McNamee $1.7 million almost four years after he hit his head on a piece of equipment.

    McNamee was 16 when his head struck a paint machine before practice in October 2013. School officials did not call for an ambulance at the time. The blow fractured his skull, and doctors put him in a medically induced coma. ...

    McNamee family attorney Steve Yerrid points to the scar on Sean McNamee's stomach where a portion of his skull was put into his abdomen during surgery to give his brain room to swell during a press conference in the Wallace Conference Center at Florida Hospital Tampa on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. McNamee is the Wharton football player accidentally hit his head on a paint machine at practice and was in a coma for nine days.
  14. Auburn football Q&A on Byron Cowart, Nate Craig-Myers and John Franklin


    Auburn isn't on the Florida Gators' schedule this year, but the Tigers have a lot of local/state connections. Auburn signed the area's top recruit in 2015 (Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart) and in 2016 (Tampa Catholic receiver Nate Craig-Myers).

    With that in mind, Opelika-Auburn News beat writer Josh Vitale was kind enough to do a quick Q&A with me. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Vitale used to cover the Rays and the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs for the Charlotte Sun. Thanks to Josh for helping me out. ...

  15. FAMU football coming to Raymond James Stadium in September


    Florida A&M will play Tennessee State in the FAMU Tampa Football Classic at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 16, organizers announced Tuesday.

    The game features an interesting wrinkle: former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris will be returning to the state, potentially as Tennessee State's starting quarterback....