UPDATED STORY (8:00 p.m.): Jonotthan Harrison clarifies comments, defends Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp
Story below updated on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.
According to former Florida Gators center Jonotthan Harrison, a fifth-year senior in 2013 who was starting in the middle of the offensive line for his third-straight year, Florida’s continuously declining play and subsequent 4-8 record had as much to do with the team’s off-field issues as it did on-field performance.
Discussing the situation with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Harrison provided insight into locker room incidents, pre-game distractions and significant infighting that derailed the Gators as they dealt with mounting injuries, a growing number of losses and increasing fan unrest.
Dunne begins by relating Harrison’s view of an incident that occurred following Florida’s embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern in its second-to-last game of the season.
Pads were still on. Tempers were flaring. Head coach Will Muschamp ordered a player to talk to the team. Anyone. So, being a fifth-year senior, center Jonotthan Harrison stepped into the middle of the circle.
And then one defensive lineman — Harrison won’t use names — yanked him out and shoved a freshman linebacker to the center. The two shouted at each other with coaches grabbing Harrison and pulling him out of the locker room before punches were thrown.
“We were falling apart,” Harrison said, “crumbling as a team.”
Dunne then explains, in his own words, that Harrison painted a picture of “complete chaos top to bottom” within the locker room with “players point[ing] fingers” at each other and the coaching staff for the team’s problems.
“We had a lot of individuals on the team,” Harrison said. “Having individuals on your team kind of kills your team. We had people who thought they were entitled because of the school that they went to. … There was always someone to blame. No one wanted to take it on themselves.”
There was also a lack of focus on football before games, according to Harrison, who claims he tried to lead and set a positive example for the underclassmen.
Instead, Florida’s players were, as Dunne wrote, “sneaking girls into the team hotel or sneaking out themselves” the night or two before games.
“How serious can you take this game,” Harrison asked, “if that’s what you’re focused on 24-48 hours before the game?”
UF’s eight-game losing streak and sub-.500 record were firsts for the program in more than three decades, dating back to a winless season in 1979.
Comments from Muschamp in early April, with the Gators in the middle of spring practice, appear to corroborate Harrison’s overall perspective on the season.
“I think our attitude is much better and much more positive, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I think our guys have a lot of confidence in what we’re doing. They have a belief and trust in what we’re doing. I think we lost that late in the year,” he explained.
“That’s changed automatically without having to do anything. I think in fall camp we’re going to create some adversity like we normally do; our guys need to learn to battle through that. I think they will. I think at the end of the day, when you lose confidence in what you’re doing, that creates the ‘woe is me’ mentality and that’s what we need to battle through and I think certainly we’ve made some strides there.”
Muschamp claims that Florida spent the entire offseason focused on leadership and teamwork with the team making significant gains in those areas.
Updated at 12:30 p.m.: In the aftermath of Harrison’s comments, two Gators defensive linemen have taken to Twitter to discuss their frustrations with the story.
“you a thot for that bra,” wrote redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr to Harrison on the social media service, using a slang term for a female to address his ex-teammate.
Added senior DT Damien Jacobs in a public message to Harrison: “dam brah that was cold and uncalled for we all suppose to be bros.”