Florida Gators sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard has decided to transfer, head coach Will Muschamp announced during a press conference Wednesday morning.
“Obviously he made a mistake there in the winter. He has decided to transfer. He and I talked yesterday,” Muschamp said. “He had a set of criteria that he needed to work his way back on our football team. He and I both sat down and decided it would be better off for him to transfer. I don’t know where he’s wanting to go. I’m going to talk to him further about it. It was a mutual decision. Just sometimes it doesn’t work, and it wasn’t working in this situation, so he needs to move on.”
Leonard, a prized four-star commitment out of Jacksonville, FL in 2011 and one of the standout members Muschamp’s first recruiting class at Florida, only caught eight passes for 99 yards last season but showed flashes of immense talent and was expected to be a playmaker for the Gators in 2012.
But that is certainly not to say his time at Florida has always been positive.
After initially verbally committing to the Gators on Nov. 29, 2009, Leonard decommitted on Oct. 13, 2010 and claimed that Florida no longer remained in contention for his services. He recommitted five days later on Oct. 18 and promised to enroll early, renewing his pledge and claiming that outside influences were pulling him in different directions and giving him bad advice about his future.
The next day Leonard was suspended for the remainder of his senior season by the Florida High School Athletic Association after, according to reports, he was involved in numerous altercations including taking a swing at an opponent during a game.
Following a solid spring with the Gators including an impressive performance at the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, Leonard tore his meniscus during spring practice and missed the first eight games of the season. He spoke about transferring and being home sick both during the summer and immediately after getting injured but remained with the program as he went through rehabilitation. His three-catch, 65-yard performance against Florida State on Nov. 26 was one of Florida’s few highlights that game.
That positive memory did not last in the coaches’ or fans’ minds long as Leonard was arrested on charges of first-degree misdemeanor domestic battery just two months later on Feb. 15. He was indefinitely suspended from team activities by Muschamp but returned to spring practice following a six-week absence on March 26.
Leonard pled no contest and received probation on April 4 but was not cleared by Muschamp to participate in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut. He was also set to be suspended for an unspecified number of games to begin his sophomore campaign regardless of the strides he made in the offseason.
During his annual Gator Gathering tour, Muschamp explained that Leonard had been doing everything asked of him since his arrest in order to earn his way back on the team. He reiterated this stance at the 2012 SEC Spring Meetings on May 30.
“He’s got some things he continues to do. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do up to this point,” Muschamp said. “He’s got to continue to make good choices and decisions with regard to our football team. If he continues to do that, we’ll handle it.”
Instead Leonard becomes the 13th player to transfer off the Gators football team since Muschamp was hired to take over the program in Dec. 2010.
Florida will rely on redshirt senior Jordan Reed, freshmen Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson and a contingent of other players including sophomores Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook at the position.