FOUR BITS: Cunningham, Gilbert, volley, Quinn

1 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. The substance Cunningham used was not disclosed and it is currently unknown if he already filed or plans to file an appeal. Cunningham is the fourth former Florida Gators defender to receive a four-game suspension for PEDs since 2010. New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010), Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (2012) and New York Giants safety Will Hill (2012) have missed four games each. All three claimed their positive tests resulted from an ingredient contained in ADHD medication like Adderall. Cunningham would be eligible to return in the playoffs.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is one of four former Gators on his team and one of three Florida offensive linemen that got injured this season. Unfortunately for Gilbert, while center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Max Starks were able to return to action, he has been sidelined since Week 6 with an ankle injury and was officially placed on the team’s injured reserve on Monday. He is the third former Gators player to be knocked out for the season with an injury, joining Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (ACL) and Patriots running back Jeff Demps (leg).

3 » Following in the footsteps of the soccer program, which cleaned up at the Southeastern Conference‘s annual awards announcement, Florida volleyball matched the program with three major awards and a number of placement on the All-SEC teams. Junior middle back Chloe Mann captured SEC Player of the Year honors, outside hitter Ziva Recek brought home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Mary Wise was named SEC Coach of the Year for the 13th time. The Gators note that “this is the first time since 2000 and second time in program history for Florida” to win all three awards. Mann is the 17th player in team history to win Player of the Year, and Recek is the fourth UF freshman to be honored by the league in that capacity. Also honored Monday were junior setter Taylor Brauneis and senior right-side Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Mann and Recek on the All-SEC first team; senior MB Betsey Smith on the All-SEC second team; and Recek again on the All-Freshman team.

4 » Three members of the Gators football team have been named finalists for yearly national awards. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of three finalists (Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Tulane’s Cairo Santos) for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and sophomore punter Kyle Christy is one of three finalists (Louisiana Tech’s Ray Allen, Ball State’s Scott Kovanda) for the Ray Guy Award, both of which will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN.

Joining them is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is one of five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant college football coach in the nation. The other finalists are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco, Texas A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Quinn has UF’s defense ranked top-15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (No. 1), scoring defense (No. 3), yards per play (No. 3), yards per attempt (No. 4), third-down defense (No. 5), rush defense (No. 6), interceptions (No. 6), yards per rush (No. 7), red zone touchdowns (No. 13) and red zone defense (No. 15).

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Smart mulling Florida defensive coordinator offer

If you asked experts a few days ago who the top defensive coordinators in college football were, two of the first names you would hear are the Texas LonghornsWill Muschamp and Alabama Crimson Tide‘s Kirby Smart. Should things go as planned for athletic director Jeremy Foley, both may be wearing orange and blue next year.

According to numerous reports, Smart has been offered the Florida Gators defensive coordinator position under Muschamp, Florida’s new head coach and Smart’s former teammate at Georgia. The Tuscaloosa News reports that Muschamp and Smart have been “in discussions about the position in recent days.”

Additionally, a source close to UF told OGGOA on Monday afternoon that “things look really good for Smart to be at UF” though nothing is official as of press time.

Smart, who currently makes $750,000 a year while working for head coach Nick Saban at Alabama, won the 2009 Broyles Award for assistant coach of the year.

The story broke Monday when one of ESPN‘s Twitter accounts, @ESPN_MobileCFB, said Smart had “reportedly” already agreed to the job.

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

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FOUR BITS: Strong & Tebow award finalists, basketball vs. A&M, bid on a Pro Combat locker

1 » Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been named as one of the five finalists for the 2009 Broyles Award, which is given to the top assistant coach in college football each season. Nominated along with Strong are defensive coordinators Kirby Smart (Alabama) and Dick Bumpas (TCU) and offensive coordinators Jeff Quinn (Cincinnati) and Bryan Harsin (Boise State). Strong has never won the award before, though he is a three-time finalist (2000, 2007, 2008).

2 » Also being honored as an award finalist on Tuesday is senior quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow, one of 10 named to the 2009 Manning Award‘s short list, could become the first two-time winner in its history. It is his third consecutive nomination. The Manning is the only quarterback award in college football that takes into account the candidates’ bowl performances. Colt McCoy (Texas), Tony Pike (Cincinnati), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), Kellen Moore (Boise State), Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), Case Keenum (Houston), Max Hall (BYU) and Andy Dalton (TCU) are the other nine finalists.

3 » Having secured their first Top 25 ranking since Jan. 19, No. 13/17 Florida basketball is back in action tonight against the Florida A&M Rattlers at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game is the second part of a doubleheader that also features the schools’ women’s teams. The first game tips off at 4:30 p.m.

4 » Did you like the special Nike Pro Combat uniforms the Gators wore Saturday against the Florida State Seminoles? The Oregon-based shoe and clothing company is now letting fans bid on a complete uniform locker including a helmet, jersey, shoes and cleats. Bidding starts at $1,200 and all proceeds will benefit Gator Boosters, Inc. I will take this time to note that OGGOA does accept gifts and donations.

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Charlie Strong nominated for Broyles Award

Florida Gators associate head coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been named as a nominee for the 2009 Broyles Award. One of five finalists, Strong is a 26-year college coaching veteran who has continues to produce a dominating defense for the Gators year-in and year-out. Given annually to the best assistant coach in college football, the Broyles Award will be presented on Dec. 8 in Little Rock, AR.

“It would be a challenge to find someone more respected and well-liked in the college football world than Charlie Strong,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s passionate and hard working, but he takes the job of molding men very seriously. Charlie is the type of man who can walk into any situation and be well-liked, well-received and represent the University of Florida to the highest degree.”

Going into the voting, Florida’s defense under Strong is No. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 points) and pass defense (139.3 yards); No. 2 in pass efficiency (86.1 percent), total defense (229.8 yards) and third down percentage (26.8 percent); and No. 3 in yards allowed per play (3.90). The Gators have only given up 10 touchdowns (including two interception returns) in 2009, two less than any other team in the nation, and held opponents to six red zone touchdowns, the fewest in the nation.

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