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Cincinnati Bearcat standout receiver Mardy Gilyard is a Florida native

NEW ORLEANS — When the Gators line up to play against Cincinnati on Friday night, they'll have to watch for a guy who grew up a Florida fan.

Senior WR Mardy Gilyard, a former Flagler Palm Coast star, is the Bearcats' leading receiver with 1,150 yards and 11 touchdowns and is a threat on special teams. He's the leading punt and kickoff return specialist — he has two kick returns for touchdowns this season and one punt return for a touchdown.

"He's a top-quality, SEC-type receiver, the kind we see on a weekly basis with good teams," UF safeties coach Chuck Heater said. "That's who he is, a very good player, and they can find a lot of ways to get the football to him. We have very high regard for him."

Gilyard said the chance to play Florida is an opportunity to prove how good Cincinnati is — a message he shared with the team before arriving in New Orleans.

"I told them, 'We're going against the defending national champs,' " Gilyard said. "Everybody in here, including myself, is a fan of the Florida Gators. … They've been an excellent program for years. So you guys have to make sure everything you do now is reflecting our goal, and our goal is we want to win. We don't want to get caught up in the atmosphere; we want to win.' "

Rumors denied: UF quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler said Tuesday that he has not been in contact with athletic officials from Central Michigan, despite reports he's among the candidates for the head-coaching job, vacated when Butch Jones was hired as Cincinnati's coach.

Loeffler, 35, was the quarterbacks coach at Central Michigan in 2000-01 and is a graduate of Michigan.

Dunlap returns: Junior DE Carlos Dunlap has been reinstated after his suspension after DUI charges this month, and his coaches and teammates said he has adapted quickly to being back with the team. Dunlap was arrested the week of the SEC title game and did not play.

"He knows he let himself down, let his teammates down, let his coaches down," defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. "He hasn't had one issue since the day he got here, until that one problem. I don't know anybody that goes unblemished without a problem in their lives. It was a serious one, a major one, and he paid a heck of a price, but he's ready to go."

Dunlap's teammates said there are no ill feelings.

"Everybody messes up," S Ahmad Black said. "We didn't fault him at all. Everybody just rallied up and stuck behind him."

Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said a decision has not been made on whether Dunlap will start, but he will play.

He said it: Junior CB Joe Haden, expected to forgo his senior season for the NFL, said the two teams he most favors playing for are the Falcons and Bucs. Why the Falcons? "Because 50 percent of my games are going to be indoors," Haden said.

Fast facts

Sugar Bowl

Who: Florida (12-1) vs. Cincinnati (12-0)

When/where: 8:30 p.m. Friday; Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

TV: Ch. 13

Line: UF by 13

Cincinnati Bearcat standout receiver Mardy Gilyard is a Florida native 12/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 8:49pm]

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