Image Credit: ESPNI
The departures are coming fast and furious as top talent is deciding to leave the Florida Gators early for the 2017 NFL Draft. On Wednesday, redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone confirmed his decision to forego his final season of eligibility, joining junior cornerback Quincy Wilson, who announced his announced his choice late Tuesday.
“Four years ago, I had the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream and become a part of the Gator Nation,” wrote Anzalone in an essay published on the team’s website. “Looking back on my journey, I never would have imagined how much this school would impact me. The relationships I have built with my teammates, friends, coaches and support staff will not only last a lifetime, but truly show how special this university is.
“We’ve had our ups and downs these past four years, but the commitment and love that so many people have for this program is what makes the University of Florida great. I am beyond thankful for being a Gator. Each Saturday when I ran out the tunnel, I ran right to the other end zone and thanked God for giving me this special opportunity. I gave it my all every day and I have no regrets as I look back.”
Anzalone thanked the head coaches and defensive coordinators he’s had since joining the Gators, along with his teammates and fans. He also said the current staff has “brought our winning culture back on the field” and that “they have positively impacted all of my teammates’ lives, including mine.”
He concluded: “I will forever bleed Orange and Blue.”
Wilson announced his decision via an interview with Sports Illustrated. “I think Florida did the best job they could to prepare me for this moment,” he said. “I came to play with the best defensive backs and become a great defensive back. They’ve done everything they could to help build me into the football player I am today. … I’ll miss everything about Florida. My three years here have been unforgettable and great. I’m going to miss going out and seeing my teammates every single day.”
Anzalone has started all 10 games in which he’s played over the last two seasons (eight in 2016), though both ended early due to injury. He severely injured his shoulder in 2015 and broke his arm in the eighth game of the 2016 campaign, though he nearly returned to play in the Outback Bowl. Despite not playing the final five games of the year, Anzalone finished third on the team with 53 total tackles (22 solo, 17 for loss), first in quarterback hurries (six) and third in sacks (3.0)
Wilson was the only Florida defender to start all 13 games for the Gators this season. Though often overlooked while compared to fellow junior CB Jalen Tabor, Wilson often outplayed his teammate this season in coverage. He posted 33 tackles (3.5 for loss) with three interceptions and a team-high six pass defenses (tied with Tabor).
Anzalone and Wilson join junior left tackle David Sharpe in heading to the NFL. Tabor and redshirt junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley are also expected to leave, and redshirt junior punter Johnny Townsend is a candidate to depart early as well.