Category: Tampa News

Shaquem Griffin Is Feel Good Story of the Draft

It is not typically ordinary for a 5th round draft pick to steal the show, but then again: Shaquem Griffin is no ordinary talent. When the Seattle Seahawks drafted the St. Petersburg, Florida native with the 141st overall pick they weren’t just getting a high energy linebacker from the University of Central Florida: they were getting an inspiration to kids with physical disabilities everywhere.

Griffin, of course, only has one full hand. But he has never let that stop him in pursuit of his dreams of becoming a professional football player. And now — he’s achieved it. Make no mistake, Shaquem Griffin definitely has the chance to produce year in and year out at the National Football League level, look no further for examples of this than his blazing fast 40 yard dash time of 4.38. To make things even greater for the pride of UCF, he will be joining his twin brother Shaquill Griffin on the Seattle Seahawks roster. The Griffin twins are an inspiration not just to families in the Tampa and St. Petersburg areas but for young kids across the country who have dealt with any sort of adversity on the way to achieving their dreams.

Both Griffin brothers on the defensive side of the ball for Seattle will not just be a feel good story, they’ll make an intimidating duo for opposing offenses with their blazing speed and ability to hit and wrap up opposing ball carriers. It seems as if Seattle is going through a tad bit of a rebuild phase, so adding young men like Shaquem and Shaquill who will bring fans into the seat and excite them with their chemistry and high flying action are surely exactly what the Seattle front office will be trying to replicate across the field.

There is no way around it, most of the country is rooting for Shaquem Griffin’s success on the football field. Of course, that will mean a great deal of pressure on the young man’s shoulders. But the good news is he has been dealing with adversity and challenges his entire life, this should be nothing new for the linebacker.

Lightning Bolts in Tampa Bay Aimed at the Stanley Cup

In a city where the average year-round temperature is above 80 degrees, one might not expect to find an ice hockey team, but that is exactly what you will find in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa Bay Lightning Bolts are not just an ice-hockey team, but they are playing against the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs for the Stanley Cup.

Fans thundered after the Bolts won the first round series against the New Jersey Devils. The Bolts now face the Boston Bruins in the Second-Round.

The Bolts started the series with a disappointing 6-2 loss to the Bruins in the first game. There was concern from the start since the Bolts have only won 10 out of 57 games against the Bruins in the past. They found their aggressive edge, turned things around and won in games 2 and 3. Fans are hopeful as the Lightning are set to face the Bruins in Game 4 on Friday, May 4, 2018.

During an interview, Jon Cooper, head coach of the Bolts said one of the biggest assets of the team is their ability to skate. Cooper further described the Bolts by saying, “I guess, use the word relentless. That’s what they’ve been. And, there’s been no quit in them. They don’t give up on plays, and it’s been really effective for us.” Cooper also acknowledged that this is not a time to stop and relish in their victories.

The Tampa Bay community has come together to support their team. For Friday night’s game, there will be watch parties at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Friday night’s event will take place from 4-10 p.m. The starting time for the game is at 7 p.m. The public can expect plenty of family-friendly activities, food, live music, and beer for the adults.

In session 2003-04, the Bolts won the Stanley Cup championship. Fans are looking forward to seeing their team win to continue the series and have another opportunity to bring home the Cup.

Tampa Bay Bucs’ Lavonte David Excited About Bringing His College Teammate And Friend To Town

The NFL draft has concluded and the season is still months away, but for the Tampa Bay Bucs the optimism is pretty high right now. It’s high not only because they picked a big high-ranking defensive tackle to strengthen the middle of that defensive front, but also because linebacker and defensive captain Lavonte David will once again be playing with his old college teammate, Jason Pierre-Paul. The Tampa Bay Times caught up with David during spring conditioning workouts to get his take on what it would be like having Pierre-Paul now playing in Tampa and he was absolutely thrilled with it. The way David described it was that he and Pierre-Paul were always in sync and that the defensive end’s long arms allowed him to shove offensive linemen right out of the way and wreak havoc on the QB.

The Bucs have their work cut out for them as they come into the 2018 season, and their hope is to get back to what they failed to do last year which was build on their 2016 season. They surprised the NFL in 2016 when they finished 9-7 and second in the NFL South under first-rate Head Coach Dirk Koetter, but they failed to meet expectations in 2017 when they dropped to last in their division with a 5-11 record. The offense had its share of problems contributing to that with injuries that included quarterback Jameis Winston for several weeks, and the suspension of runningback Doug Martin who is no longer with the team. But David points the finger at himself and the defense.

The Bucs ranked last in 2017 in two main categories which were sacks and passing yards allowed. In David’s words, those results were “embarrassing” and there is now a sense of urgency with his teammates to get better in all of that. The confidence that they can do that certainly has risen since the arrival of Pierre-Paul who David played with at both a Kansas junior college and the University of South Florida before the defensive end was drafted in 2010 by the New York Giants. He now enters his 9th season in the league.

Tampa Bay Bucs Schedule Release — What You Need To Know

While it is often reiterated to the press so often that it seems like a cliche, it is the absolute truth to say that the NFL has something going on the entire year. This week, just a week before teams head to Texas to make their respective draft picks, the schedules were released for all 32 NFL teams. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedule, like all teams, has some really difficult patches that will truly test the mettle of the Bucs squad.

To begin the season the Bucs have quite the gauntlet: Week 1 they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, then in weeks 2 and 3 they’ll take on the top-level Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. It goes without saying that the Eagles are last year’s champion, and taking them on at home early in the season will be a serious bellwether for how much of a contender this years Bucs team will be. Interestingly, the Bucs will only have on Monday night game this season — and that will be the aforementioned Week 2 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tampa fans have every right to feel a little irked at the lack of Monday night and nationally televised game, as while they may not have been a top team last year they do have an exciting squad to watch. Additionally, the Bucs bye week comes extremely early in the season (during Week 5) which means they’ll have a long stretch of football every Sunday to close out the year.

Of course, with injuries and trades and draft picks still to come it is impossible to determine exactly how difficult the Bucs schedule is going to be when the season starts. Still, by using last year’s records we can get a semi-accurate gauge of the road ahead. According to For The Win (a blog on USA Today) the Bucs have the 4th toughest schedule in all of football
. Only the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, and Green Bay Packers are projected to have a more difficult slew of opponents.

As excitement builds and we grow closer to things like the draft and training camps, Bucs fans are rightfully beginning to feel the excitement build. While the schedule release may be merely a tiny morsel in the long NFL offseason — at least it is something to hold us over!

Lightning’s Kucherov Avoids Suspension – Will Skate in Game Five Saturday in Tampa

The Tampa Bay Lightning pushed within one game of advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday. They took down the New Jersey Devils 3 to 1 to take a matching advantage in their seven-game Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Lightning’s leading point producer, slammed Devil defenseman Sami Vatanen into the boards, knocking him out of the game.

After finishing off New Jersey in game five, Tampa Bay awaited a ruling from the NHL league office on the status of the NHL’s third leading point producer. Nikita Kucherov actually left the ice to level a violent hit on Vatanen, so there was some sense he could be punished with a one game suspension.

While the hit didn’t generate a penalty, the team still worried it could earn their star a lost game, or even more. It took less than 24 hours for league officials to render a decision. Kucherov will not receive any punishment for the hit that has Vatanen questionable to skate in game five.

However, as the Devils fly south to take on the Lightning in game five at Amalie Arena, their season is also day-to-day. As immediately pressing as game five is for New Jersey, Tampa Bay seriously wants to end this series now. A thought of game six back inside the raucous Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey is something Lightning boss Jon Cooper wants to avoid.

The NHL playoffs can be an arduous grind. Avoiding unnecessary cross-country trips and extra games helps the team maintain a sense of freshness as they navigate their way deeper into the playoff abyss. Case and point was made during the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Championship season.

Tampa Bay sailed through the opening rounds, needing only nine games to reach the Eastern Conference against the Philadelphia Flyers. This freshness proved invaluable as it was clear the Lightning were the more energetic team. That hard-fought seven game series was followed up by the donnybrook, 2 to 1 seventh game against Calgary to win The Cup.

So, while Devil fans wait the news on the status of Sami Vatanen for game five, the Lightning are now focused on more pressing matters. Their leading scorer will play. Ending this series in Florida on Saturday afternoon is will give Tampa Bay a short breather before they welcome their second round opponent to a sellout crowd at Amalie Arena.

Tampa Comes From Behind in Big Win

The 2017-18 NHL season has been a very competitive one. There have been several different teams in the league that have shown that they are quite dominant and could do very well when the playoffs start. One team that has continued to be extremely competitive in the NHL is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The first 70 games of the season, the Lightning have won 50 games and have the best record in the Eastern Conference. They also look like a favorite to lock up home ice advantage through the playoffs.

This past week, the team continued to impress people with a very impressive come-from-behind victory that they had. On Wednesday, after falling behind the Toronto Maple Leafs by score of 3-0, Tampa Bay made a courageous come back and ended up winning the game by a score of four goals to three (http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/bruins/2018/03/nhl_roundup_lightning_erase_3_goal_deficit_rally_past_maple_leafs_4_3).

During the game, the Lightning struggled at first to gain the cohesion that they had all year long. While they fell behind early, the team did not give up. Towards the end of the second period, Victor Hedman scored his 13th goal of the year to bring the game closer. While they were still down by 2 goals heading into the third period, the team looked very dominant despite the disadvantage. Within the first four minutes of the period, the team was able to tie the game after Ryan McDonagh and Nikita Kucherov were able to score goals. Then, with about 9 minutes to go in the game, Alex Killorn was able to score the game winning goals.

While the Lightning were able to hold on to the advantage, the end of the game was very exciting. In fact, the Maple Leafs were able to get a power play advantage late in the game, but the defense and goal keeping of Tampa Bay was able to keep Toronto out of the goal.

This ended up being a very big win for Tampa Bay. Not only did they build on their first place lead, but they were able to look tough against a formidable opponent. At this point, Toronto looks as if they will easily make the playoffs and could be seeing Tampa Bay again in the near future if the two get matched up.

The Willie Taggart Era Officially Begins at FSU

At just 41 years of age Willie Taggart has been given the reins to one of the blue-chip programs of college football, Florida State University, and March 21st marks the first time that Taggart can take the field with his players and get out there for a practice. It has been a meteoric rise for Taggart, a native of Bradenton, Florida, spent the previous season at the University of Oregon but was lured back home to coach the Seminoles due to the opening left by Jimbo Fisher bolting for a massive contract at Texas A&M. Previously to that, Taggart helped build the University of South Florida into a respected program and in his last season with the Bulls led the team to a 10-2 record including a conference title. This season will be the largest spotlight Taggart has ever coached under but he is known as a fierce competitor and the roster he was bequeathed is still one of the more talented in the country. Florida State fans are known for their high expectations, and Willie Taggart and this Seminoles team will need to come out to a hot start today at practice if they want to live up to those expectations.

While we won’t likely learn too much from the team’s first practice it is still going to be a welcome sight for FSU fans to see Taggart conducting drills in the Seminoles gold & garnet colors. Last year FSU underperformed, in large part due to injuries at key positions such as Quarterback, but perhaps hearing a new voice leading the team will begin to motivate the team to bounce back in the 2018 season. Every practice will need to count for the Seminoles as they actually open up next season with a matchup against familiar ACC foe Virginia Tech. While the game against Virginia Tech will be at home, FSU will take to the road to take on Syracuse and then Louisville, both respectable programs that could pull off an upset if FSU is not prepared.

The opening practice surely won’t make or break the Florida State football program, but it is the symbolic opening of the Wille Taggart era. And while Taggart’s experienced success at USF and is heralded as an elite recruiter the simple fact remains that he has never been in charge of such a large program before, so the first day of practice will also be a chance for Taggart to shake the nerves off a bit.

Tampa Bay’s New Direction for Day Five Starter:

Jake Odorizzi is with Minnesota and Alex Cobb is still unsigned as a free agent. That’s two of Tampa Bay’s starting pitchers from 2017 no longer with the club. Compounding things is one of the Rays top relievers from last year, Tommy Hunter, is now with the Phillies. Manager Kevin Cash has a lot of work to do this spring getting his pitching staff in order in time for March 29th, when Tampa Bay opens the 2018 season against the defending American League Champion Boston Red Sox.

One possible bright spot for the rotation could have been righty Jose De Leon. A top prospect in the Rays organization, he suffered a serious injury to his right elbow and could be gone for an extended period. Another top prospect who may have helped Tampa Bay later in the year, Brent Honeywell, is also gone for the year. The MVP of last year’s All-Star Futures Game, Honeywell underwent Tommy John surgery in February.

This has led Cash to try a different approach for the 2018 season. Instead of the typical five-man rotation, the Rays will have four regular starting pitchers, then on the fifth day, call it the multi-headed starter. Cash stated the fifth turn through the rotation would be reserved for three or four pitchers coming out of the bullpen, pitching to each batter in the opposing line-up once.

One of those relievers who’ll likely get a lot of fifth day action is the newest Ray, Daniel Hudson. Acquired from Pittsburgh in the Corey Dickerson trade, Hudson is an eight-year Major League veteran, the bulk of those years in Arizona, where he was a 16-game winner in 2011. Another key veteran to come out of the bullpen for the Rays on the fifth day is Sergio Romo. Acquired last year from the Dodgers, Romo was an integral part of the Giants bullpen in their world championship years of 2010, 2012, and 2014. Your text to link…

The biggest concern with Cash’s plan has to be what happens should he have to use a lot of relievers for the third or fourth man in the rotation?

USF Women’s Basketball Eagerly Awaiting Seeding

With just four days until the unveiling of the Women’s March Madness bracket the University of South Florida Bulls are ready to celebrate the culmination of a successful regular season and move on to the high-pressure stakes of the postseason. It’s been a heck of a year for the Bulls, finishing with an impressive 26-7 overall record and notching a 13-3 record within the American Conference, good for second in the conference behind perennial women’s power UConn. Indeed, it was the Huskies of UConn who beat USF in the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship to cap off their undefeated regular season. The Huskies have had USF’s number all season long, as they were responsible for 3 of the 7 losses the Bulls suffered this year. Bulls fans everywhere will be hoping that whatever part of the bracket the team ends up on, that it will be far away from UConn.

Speculation abounds over what seed the Bulls will garner themselves, with the common belief being that it will fall somewhere in the 3-5 seed range. Their strength of schedule is not all that impressive, finishing with the 74th most difficult schedule in D1 Women’s hoops, but they are currently ranked #19 in the country and are led by Senior forward Maria Jespersen who has picked up her play significantly down the stretch. This season has been another impressive notch on the belt of Coach who has now been at the helm for 18 seasons, turning the program into a perennial contender. After the tournament selections becomes official on Tuesday, Fernandez will have led his team to March Madness for a school-record 4 seasons in a row.

While the skill necessary to routinely make the tournament can’t be understated, it goes without saying that Fernandez and his team will be wanting to make a deeper run than they have in previous seasons. Despite his rock-solid consistency, Coach Fernandez has yet to lead the Bulls past the second round of the tourney. However, many analysts seem to believe that this USF team is poised to break into the Sweet 16, and maybe even beyond.

As the selections draw nearer and nearer USF’s players, coaches, and fans will be waiting in anticipation to see when and where they will be slotted — and once that’s figured out, the real fun begins!

Rays Pitcher Jose De Leon Out for Season

In another setback in what has been a frustrating offseason for Tampa Bay Rays fans, highly regarded pitching prospect Jose De Leon went down with an injury to his UCL in spring training — an injury which will require him to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entirety of the 2018 MLB season.

De Leon, a 25 year old righty from Puerto Rico, was widely regarded as a potential bright spot on an otherwise depleted Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff. Acquired from the Dodgers in a 2017 trade that sent second baseman Logan Forsythe to Los Angeles, De Leon was expected to crack the opening day lineup and provide valuable innings out of the bullpen for Tampa Bay. Unfortunately this injury is just one in a string of many for De Leon, who missed a large chunk of last season due to elbow tendinitis. Of course, injuries to a pitcher’s arm are considered especially tricky and not so long ago a UCL injury and Tommy John surgery would mark essentially the end of a pitcher’s career. Luckily with advancements in medical technology and more experienced doctors, nowadays a pitcher can return within roughly a year after receiving the surgery and perform at a high level. Another cause for optimism amongst the Rays faithful is that De Leon will be seeking out a second medical opinion from widely regarded doctor James Andrews who has performed surgeries on high-profile pitchers such as: John Smoltz, Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood and Yu Darvish amongst others. If Andrews can once again work his magic then there is no reason to doubt that De Leon will be rested up and ready for spring training this time next year.

While this is surely a disappointment for Rays fans and De Leon, what’s most important now is that the pitcher focuses on his physical rehab so that he can be ready to attack the 2019 season. What has been made clear is that when healthy, Jose De Leon is a formidable hurler and the type of young talent the Rays will need during their rebuild; his minor league 25-15 Win/Loss record and 3.32 ERA are proof that if De Leon can stay on the field he can be a major contributor against top-level talent.