Florida rebuilds D-line by adding transfers Newkirk, Shelton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida is rebuilding its defensive line with help from the transfer portal.

The Gators officially welcomed former Auburn defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk to the program, a little more than a week after landing ex-Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton.

The duo should help replace two-year starters Kyree Campbell and Tedarrell Slaton, both seniors who opted to move on to the NFL.

Newkirk entered the NCAA transfer portal Monday after spending three years with the Tigers. The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Orlando native started every regular-season game for Auburn in 2020. He skipped the team’s bowl game.

Newkirk notched 28 tackles, including 1 + sacks, last season. He will be a graduate transfer for the Gators in 2021 after playing sparingly in 2018 and ’19.

Shelton enrolled at Florida last week for his sixth year of eligibility. He’s continuing his collegiate career thanks to an NCAA blanket waiver that gives athletes an extra year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shelton started 20 games at Penn State. The 6-foot-2, 327-pound Columbus, Ohio native finished the 2020 season with 14 tackles, including 3 + sacks, one forced fumble and one pass defended. He was honorable mention on the All-Big Ten teams.

Florida is revamping its defense after the team’s worst season on that side of the ball in more than a hundred years. Coach Dan Mullen fired secondary coaches Ron English and Torrian Gray earlier this month and replaced them with former Auburn assistant Wesley McGriff, who surely helped land Newkirk.

The Gators (8-4), who ended the season ranked No. 13, allowed 30.8 points a game in 2020. It was their most since giving up an average of 41.2 points over six games in 1917.

Florida’s line was one of the defense’s few strengths, though. The Gators led the Southeastern Conference in sacks, averaging nearly three a game.

Outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon and defensive end Zach Carter, who led the team with five sacks, already announced plans to stay in school and play another season. Between them, the two transfers and another year of development for Brenton Cox and Gervon Dexter, Florida should have another formidable front in 2021.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”