ST. PETERSBURG — Illinois coach Ron Zook will have an eye on Tuesday's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl at Tropicana Field, knowing that for the first time, two of his former assistants will go head-to-head with teams of their own.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong and Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora were on Zook's staff at Florida in 2003-04, working as his coordinators in their second season together.
"Both of them are great people, great coaches with great families. It'll be exciting to watch," Zook said as his team prepares for the Texas Bowl against Baylor. "They know each other well. They understand X's and O's and motivation and all that. They're good recruiters, they're good with people, and I'm sure their teams will be well-coached."
Both coaches, like Zook, continue to recruit the state of Florida heavily, and he said the exposure of playing an extra game in St. Petersburg will help.
Zook said the two coaches were competitive as Gator assistants, enough so that in his last spring at Florida, he took a day off from practice to let the coaches get a break from drills.
"It got so heated the last spring we were there that we all went paintballing," Zook said. "The offensive and defensive staff had a lot of fun the one morning to try to relieve the tension. That's why they're so successful, because they're competitive."
Asked who was the better shooter that day, Zook said he barely had time to notice. "I was fending for myself," he said.
top kicker: Southern Miss K Danny Hrapmann has already made one trip to Florida this month — he was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, the honor given to the nation's top kicker by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
Hrapmann, a junior from New Orleans, is tied for the national lead with 26 field goals in 30 attempts, resetting school records for scoring, field goals and extra points. He's been a regular on All-America lists, making the Walter Camp Foundation first team.
His long this season was a 54-yarder against UAB, and it wouldn't take much to have the longest field goal in the short history of the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. The longest in the previous two games is a 43-yarder by Rutgers' San San Te in a victory against UCF last year.
UM assistants back
CORAL GABLES — New Miami coach Al Golden will retain assistant coaches Micheal Barrow (linebackers), Aubrey Hill (receivers/recruiting coordinator) and Jeff Stoutland (offensive line), the school said.
Golden has six coaches on staff for next season. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and defensive backs coach Paul Williams — all of whom were with Golden at Temple — were hired last week.
Stoutland will remain the interim head coach for Miami's Sun Bowl game against Notre Dame on Dec. 31.
Golden has been impressed with Stoutland as a recruiter since they competed against each other for prospects while Golden was an assistant coach at Penn State, Boston College and Virginia and Stoutland was at Syracuse and Michigan State.
The fate of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, running backs coach Mike Cassano and tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Joe Pannunzio is up in the air.
penn state in clearwater: The Nittany Lions had their first practice in Clearwater on Sunday in preparation for the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Florida. Penn State will continue practicing at the Carpenter Complex, spring home of the Phillies, through Friday, then depart for Tampa on Friday afternoon.
fsu battles wet fields: The Seminoles have practiced three straight days inside Doak Campbell Stadium. The usual practice fields have been wet. FSU will practice today and Tuesday, then reconvene Saturday to travel to Atlanta for the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl against South Carolina.
leach to maryland? The Terrapins are expected to try to hire former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach once the school announces Ralph Friedgen's departure after a 10-year coaching tenure. Leach is reportedly very interested. Friedgen has not agreed to the school's request to accept a buyout of about $2 million. The ACC coach of the year told players on Sunday to expect him to lead the team in the Dec. 29 Military Bowl against East Carolina.
coach hires: Kent State scheduled a news conference today to announce a new coach, reportedly Ohio State associate head coach/receivers coach Darrell Hazell. He did not confirm the hire, saying he would be with the Buckeyes for the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. … Pete Lembo left Elon to take over as Ball State coach. He was 35-22 in five seasons with the Phoenix, 24-14 in the Southern Conference.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.