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UF expects injuries to heal for title game

Receiver Percy Harvin and safety Tony Joiner did not practice for Florida on Thursday because of injuries, but coach Urban Meyer said both are expected to play in the national championship game.

The only injured player Meyer isn't sure about yet is defensive tackle Ray McDonald, who hurt his elbow in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday. Meyer said McDonald is probable for the game against No. 1 Ohio State on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

The No. 2 Gators practiced Thursday for the first time since receiving a bid to the championship game on Sunday. Harvin has a neck injury, and Joiner has a sprained right ankle.

The Gators practiced without pads and didn't do much. They had a team meeting before practice, Meyer said.

"We had a great meeting," Meyer said. "We talked about the game, we talked about the status of the country, and it was great to talk about that it's down to two. We had an excellent practice; we didn't do much. It's just exciting. Exciting for the University of Florida and exciting for our players."

The Gators also started working on a design for their SEC champions ring. Meyer said he has put together a committee of players to work on it, but he has the final say.

Since it was announced that Florida was going to play for a national championship, Meyer's cell phone has been ringing off the hook.

"I think we've gotten 760 ticket requests so far, my wife says," Meyer said. "I think every person I've ever played kickball with in second grade called and asked for tickets. That's been the most of it, a lot of congratulations though and a lot of former players."

USF: welcome work

TAMPA - Coach Jim Leavitt wanted his players to work this week. He also wanted to get plenty of work for younger players.

"We're working on our young guys," Leavitt said. "We're working them pretty hard. That's what this week was all about. It's like spring practice, but with a whole lot less hitting."

Leavitt said the Bulls aren't ready for the Dec. 23 Papajohns.com Bowl. "We will be though," he said.

JULMISTE RETURNING: Defensive end Josh Julmiste has missed practice all week but will practice today, Leavitt said. He has been sidelined with his left foot in a boot after injuring his toe stepping in a hole.

BULLS BITS: Leavitt canceled practice Wednesday and went to Birmingham, Ala. for a bowl ceremony with East Carolina coach Skip Holtz. ... Kyle Dampier, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive tackle from Merritt Island, made an oral commitment to USF on Thursday, according to USFbullseye.com.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith won the Walter Camp player of the year award, joining Archie Griffin (1974, 1975) and Eddie George (1995) as Buckeyes to earn the honor. The winner is voted on by Division I-A coaches and sports information directors. Other finalists: quarterbacks Brady Quinn of Notre Dame and Colt Brennan of Hawaii and running backs Steve Slaton of West Virginia and Darren McFadden of Arkansas.

NAVY: Coach Paul Johnson, who was a candidate for the N.C. State opening, is due a raise that could increase his compensation to nearly $1.8-million per year, the Baltimore Sun reported. Johnson's six-year contract, which includes an annual, incentive-based rollover clause, currently is worth about $1.3-million per year. Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to Navy in a written statement, but did not rule out exploring other opportunities that could arise.

SAN JOSE: Coach Dick Tomey had two years added to his contract and is signed through 2010.

Times staff writer Greg Auman and correspondent Mike Camunas contributed to this report.

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