FOUR BITS: Harris, Beisel, Zunino, Parsons, Hill

1 » Florida Gators junior center Damontre Harris was arrested early Wednesday morning after he failed to appear at an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 16, 2012. Harris, who was cited by a member of the University Police Department on July 16 for driving without a valid in-state license, was supposed to take care of the necessary paperwork and pay the fines associated with his infraction but never did as instructed. He was served a delinquency notice after failing to pay his original fine within 30 days and assessed an additional $32 in fines between Aug. 21 and Sept. 28.

2 » Florida announced Wednesday that junior swimmer Elizabeth Beisel (swimming) and former catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named winners of the 2012 Ben Hill Griffin Award. The honor, given to the top male and female student-athletes each season, “is based primarily on athletic achievement” with “academic achievement and extra-curricular involvement” also a consideration, according to UF. Zunino, who received the award for the second-straight year, won every major collegiate baseball award at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Beisel, the 2012 SEC Female Swimmer of the Year, also earned an individual national title in the 200-meter backstroke.

3 » NBA Hall of Fame C Hakeem Olajuwon taped an Egraph message to current Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons recently. Listen to it here.

4 » Stemming from the NCAA’s investigation of the Miami Hurricanes and his time as wide receivers coach with the team, former Gators assistant Aubrey Hill has been hit with an ethical-conduct charge (NCAA Rule 10.1). According to the Associated Press, which obtained information regarding the notice of allegations sent to Miami, Hill and at least one other assistant “provided meals, transportation and lodging to either recruits, current players, or both in either 2008 or 2009. Both were interviewed by the NCAA during the course of its probe and allegedly denied providing those extra benefits, statements the NCAA said were contradicted in each case by what players told them separately.” Though forthcoming punishments have not yet been levied against Hill, it can be expected that he will be out of coaching for the foreseeable future. He resigned from his post with Florida before the beginning of the 2012 season.

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TWO BITS: soccer shocked, Spurrier featured

1 » No. 21 Florida Gators soccer (0-1) was thrashed in their season opener on Friday, dropping the match 4-1 to the visiting Miami Hurricanes (1-0) at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Miami was fast and furious in the first half, taking an early 3-0 advantage thanks to goals at 12’ (header off a corner kick), 17’ (inside the box) and 31’ (rebound off a saved corner kick). Senior midfielder Erika Tymrak got a goal back for Florida at 57’, but UM regained its three-goal lead by knocking in a rebound at 67’ to ice the match for the Hurricanes. The Gators now must play three-straight road games over the next two weeks against top 10 opponents including No. 8 North Carolina and No. 2 Duke in Chapel Hill, NC as well as No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee, FL.

2 » In an ESPN The Magazine feature former Florida quarterback/head coach Steve Spurrier discusses his entire career including what initially drew him to UF as a high school football player. Check out the rest of the feature including Spurrier’s thoughts on coaching the Gators and how he draws parallels with South Carolina.

“The last visit I made was to Gainesville, where Ray Graves had started in 1960. He was an East Tennessee guy like me. He played at Tennessee for General Neyland, but he wasn’t satisfied just to let places like Alabama and Tennessee do their thing while everyone else laid down because they were supposed to. He was attracted to the Florida Gators program because it had never done much, and he wanted to shake things up. He also wanted to throw the ball and see what happened. It’s not that he didn’t want to run it all the time and play defense like everyone else. He just knew Florida couldn’t. He wanted to do something different. I liked the sound of that.” [...]

“Most of the SEC had beaten up on Florida over the years, so maybe they took us lightly. But we’d come in there throwing it around the field, and you could see them thinking, What is this? Everyone had been running the single wing for 100 years, so we looked radical. Whenever another team beats you with something new, it’s natural to take that back to the office and say, Do you think we might could do some of that? I’m not saying the SEC suddenly became a place where people started passing all the time. But it got them thinking.”

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Florida Gators, WR coach Aubrey Hill part ways

Florida Gators wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill has resigned from his position with the team, the school announced on Friday.

Hill, who has been twice named by Yahoo! Sports in connection with major recruiting violations in his former position with the Miami Hurricanes (Aug. 16, 2011 | July 20, 2012), resigned for “personal reasons” according to head coach Will Muschamp.

“I have too much love and respect for this program to become a distraction as I deal with some personal issues,” Hill said in statement released by the school. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Coach Muschamp, a tremendous staff and great group of players. The future is very bright here and the University of Florida will always have a special place in my heart. Go Gators.”

Muschamp said in a release that he appreciated Hill’s decision to move on.

“Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida,” he said. “Aubrey didn’t want to be a distraction to our team and our football program and he thought it was best for him to move on. I appreciate Aubrey’s efforts and wish him the best moving forward. He will always remain a Gator.”

A Miami, FL native, Hill is a Gators alum who played for head coach Steve Spurrier from 1991-94 when Florida won their first three SEC titles. He served as a graduate assistant under Spurrier from 1996-98 and coached wide receivers at four stops over 12 years before being hired by Florida. He also served as the Hurricanes recruiting coordinator only for the 2010 season, his last year with the team.

Filling in for Hill at least temporarily will be offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also coaches the Gators’ quarterbacks, and offensive graduate assistant Bush Hamdan. Pease previously coached wide receivers at Boise State from 2006-10, and Hamdan was a backup quarterback in his offensive system.

Muschamp will likely hire a new coach after the season.

Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is an early candidate to take over Hill’s recruiting coordinator duties; Florida already has 21 players verbally committed for the 2013 cycle as of press time and has an early jump on its 2014 class.

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Hill again named in Yahoo! report on potential recruiting violations occurring at Miami

For the second time in as many years, a report released Friday by Yahoo! Sports concerning potential recruiting violations occurring within the Miami Hurricanes football program includes the name of current Florida Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill.

Writes Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson:

Less than one week after the University of Miami hired Al Golden as coach, members of Golden’s coaching staff began using Sean “Pee Wee” Allen – a then-equipment manager and onetime right-hand man of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro – to circumvent NCAA rules in the recruiting of multiple Miami-area players.

He adds that Golden “had direct knowledge of Allen’s improper involvement with Miami recruits” and that “Allen has become a focal point into the [NCAA’s] probe into Miami athletics” with a focus on how he provided “impermissible benefits to Hurricanes players, as well as his contract with Miami recruits.”

One of those so-called “recruiting infractions” took place with the assistance of Hill, according to Robinson’s report.

On Dec. 17, 2010, five days after Golden was hired as Miami’s coach, Allen testified that he was summoned to the restaurant Dan Marino’s in South Miami to pick up Miami Northwestern High school quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. [...] Allen testified that Bridgewater, Golden and other Miami coaches were at the restaurant during an unofficial visit and that a member of the coaching staff asked Allen to pick Bridgewater up. [...] Allen’s phone records show eight calls exchanged with Bridgewater that afternoon and early evening, as well as four calls exchanged with Hill. The former Miami staffer told Yahoo! Sports that Hill, a then-Miami assistant, was present at the restaurant and arranged for Allen to pick Bridgewater up and transport him home – a violation of NCAA rules.

Hill was one of seven coaches specifically named in Robinson’s 2011 report on the Miami football program being infiltrated by booster Nevin Shapiro. He was accused of ushering recruits (including eventual Gators commitments wide receiver Andre Debose and offensive lineman Matt Patchan) to “Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them.”

Hill coached the Hurricanes wide receivers from 2008-10 and added the role of recruiting coordinator in his final season. He was hired away from Miami by Florida head coach Will Muschamp just three weeks after Golden took the job in South Florida.

Neither Hill, Debose nor Patchan suffered any penalties or punishments after being named in the 2011 report. Hill, through the University of Florida, declined comment prior to the publication of both the 2011 and 2012 reports.

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No. 1 Florida shines in sweep of No. 8 Miami

In their second three-game series against a top 25-ranked opponent this season, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball swept the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, FL thanks to a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s finale. Florida (10-1), extending their winning streak to eight games with the three victories, has now won 11-straight contests over Miami (8-3) dating back to 2010.

The Gators defeated the Hurricanes 7-5 in the season opener, scoring in five of nine innings and never falling behind once in the game. Florida rallied for single runs in the top of the first, second, third and fifth and used a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino to spark a three-run fourth inning. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (2-0) earned the victory in 5.1 innings, striking out six while allowing four earned runs on seven hits and one walk.

Zunino (4-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-3, 2 RBI) each knocked in a pair of runs, while junior first baseman/closer Austin Maddox (3-3, RBi, R) was dynamite from the plate and on the mound, notching his third save of the season with seven strikeouts in 3.1 innings.

Miami took the early advantage in Saturday’s contest, hitting a two-run homer off of left-hander Brian Johnson in the bottom of the first and taking a 3-0 lead through three innings. Johnson got a measure of revenge in the top of the fourth, smacking a two-run bomb to right; UF first baseman Taylor Gushue immediately followed with a solo shot, knotting the game at 3-3.

The Hurricanes regained the lead in the bottom of the inning by hitting another two-run dinger of Johnson, who was quickly pulled for senior RHP Greg Larson. The Gators turned up the intensity from there, rallying for five runs in the top of the fifth and crossing the plate at least once in every remaining inning.

Gushue (3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) homered for a second time in the fifth and was matched hit-for-hit by Johnson (4-5, 5 RBI, 2 R). Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-5) crossed the plate three times, and Pigott (4-5) and Zunino (1-6) each scored two runs as well. Larson (1-0) picked up the win in the 13-5 victory by striking out four Miami batters on 51 pitches in 4.2 no-hit innings.

Having already clinched the series with consecutive victories, Florida found themselves in danger of floundering in the finale on Sunday afternoon. Though the Gators got on the board first by plating a run in the top of the second, the Hurricanes bested them with three runs in the bottom of inning, tagging sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford for four hits in the frame. Crawford, starting the first game of his career, regrouped and struck out eight in 4.2 innings but also gave up another earned run (four total) on seven hits with a walk in his appearance.

A solo homer by Fontana reduced Florida’s deficit to a single run in the top of the fifth, but Miami rallied for a matching run in the bottom frame. The Hurricanes repeated that process in the seventh, negating another Gators’ run with one of their own to maintain a two-run advantage heading into the top of the ninth.

With starter Bryan Radziewski already out of the game for UM, E.J. Encinosa entered in the eighth to close out the final 1.2 innings. UF left two on base in the eighth, seemingly putting a major dent in their chances of making a comeback as only three outs remained.

Fontana walked on five pitches to lead off the inning, and Pigott (1-4, RBI, R) soon joined him on base after being hit by Encinosa. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-5) grounded out and advanced the runners, who were both sent home to tie the game when Zunino cleared the bases by doubling to center. Encinosa then imploded even further, advancing Zunino to third on a wild pitch, hitting Gushue on a 3-2 count, allowing Gushue (1-3, R, BB) to move to second and Zunino to score the game-winning run on another wild pitch, and finally walking Maddox (0-4, BB) before being pulled.

Florida crossed the plate twice more before the frame ended, scoring five runs to take an 8-5 lead. Freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi (1-0) earned the victory in 1.0 inning of work after coming on in the seventh with two outs, and sophomore LHP Daniel Gibson picked up his first save by striking out the final batter of the game. Zunino (1-4, 2 RBI, BB) and Fontana (2-5, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) led the way for the Gators at the plate on Sunday, concluding an impressive three-game performance for each player.

Florida will begin a 10-game homestand spanning two weeks by hosting Florida Atlantic on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. The Gators will face six non-conference opponents (including Florida State in the first of three scattered games and the Ontario Blue Jays in an exhibition contest) before beginning their SEC slate against Vanderbilt on March 16.

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Did implicated players receive NCAA immunity?

When Yahoo! Sports released its extensive report on the illegal benefits scandal surrounding the Miami Hurricanes, seven players who were neither current nor former members of the team were also implicated. Among them were Florida Gators redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan.

On Thursday the University of Florida, after receiving approval from the NCAA, announced that both players were eligible for the 2011 season even though they were named in the report and may have received some form of improper benefits.

“We have been in communication with the NCAA and there are no eligibility issues with Andre Debose and Matt Patchan as it relates to recent reports. Andre, Matt nor the University of Florida will have any additional comments regarding this matter.”

According to CBSSports.com, the NCAA’s decision to approve the eligibility of Debose, Patchan and a number of other players named in the report may have been due to the organization using it’s “limited immunity” clause.

“Limited immunity” is a little-known procedure granted to NCAA investigators to get information from a player “when such an individual otherwise might be declared ineligible for intercollegiate competition,” according to the NCAA Manual.

The NCAA’s vice president of enforcement Roe Lach, without being overly specific, told CBSSports.com‘ Dennis Dodd that her organization did take a special step in order to move forward with its investigation.

“The enforcement staff has been given, by the membership, a pretty important investigative tool,” Lach said. She added that they are able to use said tool “when we think that’s really our only shot of getting that information.”

While no one at the NCAA will confirm that limited immunity has been used in this case, one source close to the investigation told CBSSports.com that “apparently they chose to give these guys limited immunity … which means they’re all eligible.”

It is unknown whether or not the NCAA specifically used this concept with Debose and Patchan or if the organization simply determined that neither was involved to an extent that was worth pursuing considering the extreme breadth and depth of its investigation.

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Florida soccer starts 2-0 with two wins in Miami

With the triumphs of last year now in the rear-view mirror, it was up to No. 9 Florida Gators soccer to get the 2011-12 athletic season off with a bang. Florida (2-0) accomplished this feat over the weekend, defeating the Miami Hurricanes (0-1) and Florida International Golden Panthers (0-2) with a pair of 2-0 victories in Miami, FL.

The Gators opened the season on Friday against the Hurricanes and took it to their in-state rivals right from the get go. Sophomore forward Taylor Travis scored Florida’s first goal of the season at 37’, and freshman midfielder Havana Solaun tacked on another at 51’ to lead the Gators to victory.

Junior MF/F Erika Tymrak got the assist on both goals, setting up a cross for the first score and passing it from the top of the box to the left side for the second.

Before returning to Gainesville, FL for a week of practice, Florida stayed in town, took a day off and faced FIU on Sunday. Like their first match of the season, the Gators scored once in each half and came away with a 2-0 win.

Freshman F Tessa Andujar placed the first one in the net, converting a cross from senior defender Jazmyne Avant in the 40th minute. Joining her on the scoreboard was senior MF/F Tahnai Annis, who corralled a through pass from freshman MF Annie Speese and struck it in from 12 yards out at 63’.

Florida split up the goalkeeping duties over the weekend with senior Brooke Chancey (five saves) and freshman Taylor Burke (three saves) each registering a shutout while playing the full 90 minutes.

The Gators will continue their road trip with a pair of contests next weekend in Knoxville, TN. Florida will take on Texas A&M on Friday and UCLA on Sunday before returning to the University of Florida for a three-game homestand.

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8/20: Muschamp discusses injuries, names position leaders, rewards walk-ons

With the Florida Gators now having completed training camp and headed into fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media early Saturday to provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic.

STATEMENT ON COACH HILL

As allegations from a Yahoo! Sports report suggesting he could have been involved in the illegal and illicit recruiting of players while with the Miami Hurricanes, Florida wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill received a vote of confidence from Muschamp on Saturday. “I’ve talked to Aubrey after the article came out. I feel very comfortable with he and I’s conversation,” he said. “I support Aubrey 100 percent. I’m glad he’s here at Florida, and that’s all I’m really going to comment on.”

BROWN INJURED, BACK SOON; BRANTLEY AND REED RESTING

Confirming a report from the Independent Florida Alligator, Muschamp noted that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has indeed been out with a knee injury but is respected to return to practice next week. “I expect him probably next Wednesday or Thursday of next week,” Muschamp said.

He also said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley got the day off to rest his sore back and will return to action for the team’s scrimmage on Wednesday, while redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed returned to practice Saturday after missing 3-4 days for a sore hamstring. “[Brantley] has had a very productive camp,” he said. “We felt like Wednesday’s scrimmage was much more important as far as progressing our offense further to get ready for game plan than this one and if we needed to take a day off, [Saturday] was the best day to do it.”

LEADING FOR STARTING JOBS

Plenty of positions are up for grabs this fall due to graduations, players leaving early and the new coaching staff implementing difference schemes than a year ago. On Saturday, Muschamp explained that a few more starting jobs have been coming into focus over the last week of camp.

Senior punter David Lerner is currently set to start over freshman Kyle Christy. Lerner, a walk-on who learned in late July that he has Chron’s disease, has been practicing through the health issue and was put on scholarship by Muschamp this week. “Kyle Christy has done some really good things, has got a tremendous leg,” he said, “but David has punted consistently better.”

Redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan, who had been competing with redshirt freshman Chaz Green for the starting gig, has currently taken the lead and the chance to solidify the right side of the line.

With junior Xavier Nixon holding down the starting left tackle job, redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne (who was backing him up) has been moved to left guard and quickly jumped ahead of redshirt freshman Ian Silberman and redshirt senior James Wilson, both of whom were competing for the position.

Florida’s starting offensive line (for now) consists of: LT Nixon, LG Koehne, C redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, RG redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio, RT Patchan.

WALK-ONS REWARDED

Three other Gators walk-ons in addition to Lerner earned scholarships from Muschamp this week. The coach informed redshirt sophomore safety Tim Clark, redshirt junior linebacker Scott Peek and senior OT/TE William Steinmann that they had all received the honor after performing well during the spring and summer. Muschamp, a former walk-on himself, described them as, “Four guys that have all been in our program for a number of years, have both demonstrated themselves well on-and-off-the-field, academically they’ve done an outstanding job.” Muschamp said they made the announcement in front of the team and it was very emotional for all involved.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On practices being closed: “It was hot out there today. Ya’ll glad it was closed today?”

» Muschamp said the team got in a lot of good work in Saturday including stuff in the red zone, on third down and with all four special teams units. He said the band was at practice (so it was not totally closed) and the team worked an end-of-game scenario with 5:18 left on the clock. The Gators were in “full game day operation,” which Muschamp said resulted in a “very productive day.”

» The team will take pictures on Sunday and have its next scrimmage on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are when the Gators will start preparations for the Florida Atlantic game on Sept. 3.

» Muschamp said sophomore safety Matt Elam had an interception on Saturday and is easily the most consistent player at his position. Everyone else has “shown flashes” but is still competing and trying to earn a spot.

» On the defensive line: “I really like our guys, but we don’t’ have any depth. [...] I feel very good about our talent level; we just don’t have any depth.”

» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose’s recent improvement: “Andre made a nice catch on a deep ball today. Andre, really the last couple of days, has taken a step forward. [...] I was very pleased with Andre today. He made a nice play on the side – well-covered, well-thrown ball. He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased.”

» On the AP Top 25 preseason poll: “I could care less about the poll.” When told the phrase is “couldn’t” care less: “I was never very good in English, I’ll be honest with ya.”

» On offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: “Charlie’s experience speaks for itself, and his track record – you all know that. From the standpoint of him working with the players is probably his strongest point. You really talk to people that played for him – whether it was at Notre Dame, New England or Kansas City – the players have a great respect for him because he’s all about the players. He’s hard on them, he’s tough on them, it’s tough love, but they have a great respect because he has answers when things don’t go right.”

» On closing practices to hide details: “That’s why we’ve closed everything. I do think it is an advantage for us this season. [...] We put a wild rumor out there about Wildcat. [...] That’s why we’ve closed things.”

» On redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar’s improvement this offseason: “The hardest thing for a young player is to consistently perform every day. You try to explain to them it’s your consistency in your performance [that’s important]. We’ve really challenged Quinton as far as, ‘OK, you want to be a starting receiver, I’m good with that. But to add your value as a player to this football team, you need to be on special teams.’ So when we have scout-look teams as far as our special teams, Quinton Dunbar’s the first guy that jumps in there if he’s not already on the special team. That to me shows tremendous strides and commitment to help our football team. He’s willing to go in there and give our guys a good look.”

» On comparisons between freshman QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett: “Well, I think they are very similar. They’re both athletic, big, strong, big arms, good decision makers. They both have a certain command about themselves as quarterbacks. Jeff’s probably a little more of a scrambler and a runner, as opposed to Jacoby. But they are very similar quarterbacks. Their skill set is very similar. Talking to Charlie about our plan as we move forward is – will be a very similar plan as far as gaming for them and putting them in situations to be successful.”

» On his demeanor at practice: “I’m just myself. There is a key to every young man and you have to find that key. I’m going to be who I am, and I don’t plan anything. I just kind of do what I do.”

» On freshmen playing early: “I always feel like the further your position is away from the ball, the better chance you got to play because your athleticism takes over quicker as opposed to you being close. I think it’s hard for offensive and defensive linemen – I’m not saying it’s impossible because I’ve had guys do it – to come in and play because the bodies are bigger, it’s a faster game, it’s a more complicated game than they’re used to.”

» On if he thinks the team is coming together: “I do. I’m cautiously optimistic when I say that form the standpoint of, what real adversity have we faced? I do think that we’ve battled through some tough practices heat, exhaustion, fatigue; I think we’ve managed that. I wouldn’t say we’ve passed with flying colors, but we’ve managed that. What’s going to happen when we get down 14-0? How are we going to respond to that? That’s when you find out a lot about your team.”

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