Auburn coach Harsin holds firm amid turnover and criticism

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Auburn coach Bryan Harsin says he is “not planning on going anywhere” as he tries to navigate a tumultuous offseason of turnover in his program.

“I’m the Auburn coach, and that’s how I’m operating every day,” Harsin told ESPN late Thursday. “I want this thing to work, and I’ve told our players and told everybody else there is no Plan B. I’m not planning on going anywhere. This was and is the job. That’s why I left the one I was in, to come here and make this place a championship program and leave it better than I found it.”

Auburn went 6-7 in its first season under Harsin, who was hired away from Boise State a little more than 13 months ago.

The Tigers have had 18 players enter the transfer portal and five assistant coaches leave the program since the end of the season. Earlier this week, recently hired offensive coordinator Austin Davis announced he was resigning for personal reasons. Last month, defensive coordinator Derek Mason left for Oklahoma State.

“I just want you know we’re trying to separate fact from fiction,” Auburn President Jay Gogue said at a board of trustees meeting Friday, according to AL.com. “We’ll keep you posted and make the appropriate decision at the right time.”

Among the players who left the program was Central Florida defensive tackle Lee Hunter, who criticized Harsin’s handling of players in a social media post Friday.

“Coach Harsin has the true mindset for a winner but has a terrible mindset as a person,” Hunter wrote on Instagram. “The reason I chose to leave auburn because we got treated like we wasn’t good enough and like dogs.”

Harsin forcefully pushed back on what he called an “attack on my character.”

“None of that is who I am,” he told ESPN.

Other players came to Harsin’s defense.

“We didn’t need a best friend we needed a coach . that’s what we had,” linebacker Chandler Wooten tweeted.

“He is the leader I want to have in my corner,” tight end John Samuel Shenker posted on Twitter. “If you have a problem with his Discipline, Toughness, and Conviction that he instills in his players than get your entitled, selfish, and soft tail out away (from) this program.”

Harsin’s contract runs through the 2026 season and averages $5.25 million per season. If he is fired without cause, Auburn would owe Harsin 70% of the remaining value of the deal.

Harsin replaced Gus Malzahn, who was fired after last season and received a buyout of $21.45 million.

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.”