Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

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S Shaw, DE Trail to transfer from Florida Gators

Two more Florida Gators football players – redshirt freshmen safety Joshua Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail have decided to leave the program, The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley confirmed Tuesday.

Both four-star recruits from Florida’s heralded 2010 recruiting class, Shaw and Trail are the 10th and 11 players to depart since head coach Will Muschamp took over.

“We wish Lynden and Josh the best of luck in the future and we certainly appreciate their contributions to the football program,” Muschamp said in a school release.

Shaw registered 22 tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup in 10 games this year, while Trail never saw the field and did not even dress for the vast majority of contests.

“I have enjoyed my time at Florida but I feel like I need to be closer to my family right now,” Shaw said in the same school release. “This is not a football decision, this is a family decision. I need to be with my family.”

Each player came into the program with a previous relationship. Shaw (Palmdale, CA) was close to and from the same state as sophomore defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA), and Trail attended the same high school as redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (Booker T. Washington).

“I have decided that I would like to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Trail said. “I want to thank the fans and Gator Nation for their support. I’ll always be a Gator at heart.”

Trail also wrote about his decision on his Twitter account Tuesday.

GATORNATION I LOVE YALL AND LOVED ALL YALL SUPPORT I LOVED THE COACHES MY TEAMMATES AND THE STUDENTS HERE ONCE A GATOR ALWAYS A GATOR <3

[and]

I have nothing negative to say about UF I LOVE THE PROGRAM THE STUDENTS THE FRIENDS I MADE AND OVERALL THE FANS #GATORNATION

The duo join DE Chris Martin, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely, tight end Michael McFarland, linebacker Dee Finely, TE Gerald Christian and WR Robert Clark as players who transferred this season. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days.

Additionally, redshirt junior offensive lineman Daivd Young announced that he plans to graduate and will not participate in his final year of eligibility. Young saw action in all 12 games so far this season.

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Update: Gators LB Dee Finley will transfer

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley has decided to transfer to another school, the University of Florida officially announced on Wednesday.

“Dee has decided that he would like to pursue other opportunities,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a release. “We wish him the best of luck and we appreciate his time at Florida.”

A four-star defensive back coming out of high school who transferred to the Milford Academy for a year in order to improve his grades and qualify to enroll at UF, Finley was moved to linebacker upon joining the team in 2009.

He appeared in 14 games in his first two seasons, playing in 10 as a freshman but only four as a sophomore. Finley fractured his collarbone against LSU in 2010 and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Muschamp praised Finley as a “solid” linebacker and “outstanding” special teamer in the spring, but he has not played much in 2011, slotted as the reserve Will linebacker behind redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins

Finley had played in five of the Gators’ six games this year but has only registered four tackles. He missed one game while serving a suspension after being arrested for driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence.

“Although I’ve enjoyed my time here at Florida, I think it’s best for me to move on and get a fresh start somewhere else,” Finley said in the same release. “I plan on finishing the semester here and concentrating on my academics.”

Finley is the seventh player to leave Florida since Muschamp took over the team. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed following two marijuana rests in less than 90 days. Defensive end Chris Martin, wide receiver Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely and tight end Michael McFarland transferred.

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Gators TE Michael McFarland will transfer

Florida Gators redshirt freshman tight end Michael McFarland has decided to transfer out of the program, the University of Florida confirmed in a statement.

McFarland, a three-star recruit in Florida’s much-heralded 2010 signing class, becomes the sixth player to transfer away from the Gators since Will Muschamp was hired to replace Urban Meyer as head coach.

Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days. Redshirt freshmen defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin and wide receiver Chris Dunkley as well as freshmen WR Javares McRoy and running back Mike Blakely all decided to transfer for various reasons.

“Michael and I have come to the conclusion that it is in his best interest to transfer from the University of Florida,” Muschamp said in release from the school. “We wish him the best as he continues his career somewhere else.”

Like Martin just one week ago, McFarland never had the opportunity to step on the field for the Gators and will leave the program without making any notable mark.

He was listed at the F-12 position in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s spring depth chart, meaning he would play only in two tight end sets. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed, redshirt freshman Gerald Christian and freshman A.C. Leonard were all listed ahead of him at the position. Florida already has four-star TE Colin Thompson (Warminster, PA) committed for the 2012 season.

McFarland’s decision to transfer was first reported by InsideTheGators.com.

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DE/LB Chris Martin to transfer out of Florida

Redshirt freshman defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin played what he termed an “early April Fools” joke back in March, claiming that he had been dismissed from the Florida Gators. The University of Florida was not joking Friday evening when it announced that Martin, a former five-star recruit who transferred to Florida from California a year ago, has decided to transfer once again.

“Chris and his family have indicated that it might be best for him to be closer to home,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We wish him nothing but the best of luck.”

Having never suited up for the Gators, Martin will leave the program without making any notable mark other than having been arrested on Jan. 29 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The Gainesville Police Department cited Martin for possession of less than two grams after detecting “the scent of the drug coming from [his] vehicle.” He was offered and accepted deferred prosecution by the state.

Martin, who was the best defender in practice last season according to his UF teammates, will be forced to sit out yet another season due to NCAA transfer rules unless he moves to a Division-II program. He was expected to see ample time on the field in 2011.

ESPN.com reports that Martin “had multiple off-the-field issues that played a part in his decision,” according to a source close to the situation.

He will be the fifth Florida player to leave the program since Muschamp arrived. Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days and redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Dunkley, freshman WR Javares McRoy and freshman running back Mike Blakely all decided to transfer for various reasons.

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Freshman RB Blakely transferring from Florida

Florida Gators freshman running back Mike Blakely has decided to transfer, becoming the third offensive player to do so under new head coach Will Muschamp.

“Mike has come to the conclusion that the University of Florida is not where he wants to play football,” Muschamp said in a school release. “We wish him the best of luck.”

Blakely, who graduated from high school early and enrolled in January, did not practice in the spring after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

“Everyone at Florida has been very supportive of me in my time here and I’m thankful for the experience that I had, but I’ve made a decision to continue my college football career somewhere else,’’ Blakely said in the same release.

His departure leaves the Gators with five scholarship running backs for next season including senior Jeff Demps, redshirt senior Chris Rainey, junior Mike Gillislee and sophomores Mack Brown and Trey Burton, according to the team roster.

UF initially beat out Auburn for Blakely’s commitment in October 2010.

“In my heart, I felt like I made the best decision,” he said after making his announcement.

Four Florida players have now left the program since Muschamp’s arrival.

Wide receivers redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley and freshman Javares McRoy both decided to transfer in April. Dunkley appears headed to South Florida, while McRoy will join his brother at Texas Tech.

Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team on April 26 after being arrested for possession of marijuana for the second time in 90 days. He is considering a transfer as well but a destination is currently unknown.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bender/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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4/20 SEC: Muschamp on roster and leadership

With the Florida Gators first year of spring practice under head coach Will Muschamp now in the books after a lackluster 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, he spoke with the media during the first Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference of the young season to provide some insight about where his team is at going into the summer.

ROSTER UPDATES

The story of the spring game was how banged up Florida was as a team – especially on the offensive line. Muschamp said Wednesday that he expects all of the team’s injured players to be ready to go by June 1 with the exception of sophomore running back Mack Brown, who has been given a June 22 return date.

Overall, the team should be completely healthy by the time fall practice begins. “We should be full-bore going into August,” he said. Speaking about redshirt junior left tackle Matt Patchan in particular, Muschamp said he has been cleared for lifting for a while but sat out of practice to avoid contact on his wrist.

He also spoke about the recent wide receiver transfers, nothing that freshman Javares McRoy simply wanted to play with his brother and redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley did not think UF was the place for him. “Chris felt like sometimes things don’t fit,” Muschamp said. “He and I had a long conversation. We wish him all the luck in the world and are trying to help him get in a situation where he’ll be better off.”

PLEASED WITH BRANTLEY

Though fans may be up in arms after seeing his performance in the spring game, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley continues to have the confidence of Muschamp, the coaching staff and (according to the head coach) the players as well. “[I’m] really pleased with his poise, leadership and habits off the field studying what we need to do to be successful,” he said. “He’s got the ability and we’re very pleased.”

Muschamp said Brantley proved he has talent, had a really good spring overall and needs to have a great offseason in order to become a true team leader. As for his performance in the game, he said the outstanding play of the defensive line and “moving parts” of the offensive line made it nearly impossible for Brantley to succeed. “I don’t think in the spring game John had much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “I was behind him and saw it coming pretty fast, too.”

LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT OVER SUMMER

With the coaching staff mostly barred from contact with the team over the summer, the players are in the hands of strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti. Often called the offseason head coach, Marotti will be working the players hard while also trying to build character and leadership throughout the group.

Muschamp said that leadership is “still something we’re sort of trying to identify” but that it should be worked out over the summer. He pointed out Brantley as well as linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins as guys who do things right both on and off the field. When discussing others who impressed him throughout the spring, he made it a point to name redshirt senior wide receiver Denote Thompson; redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey; sophomore athlete Trey Burton; redshirt sophomore offensive linemen Jon Halapio and Jonotthan Harrison; defensive ends senior William Green and redshirt junior Lerentee McCray; and sophomore defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley.

NOTES & QUOTES

» On how the spring went overall: “[I’m] pleased with the progress we made as far as the installation, identifying the playmakers on both sides of the ball.”

» Muschamp said the thinness on the lines was “frustrating” for him toward the end of spring and that the team needs to vastly improve depth on both sides of the ball.

» On greyshirting: “At Florida we don’t greyshirt. That’s not something we do. That’s not a policy of ours.”

» Muschamp said the coaching staff is “working very well” together. He was enthusiastic about what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis brings to the table both offensively and as an experienced head coach. He also praised defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and how well they mesh when discussing defensive philosophy and strategy.

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TWO BITS: Haden sponsors team; scholarships

1 » It wasn’t an April Fools joke when Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden agreed to sponsor a baseball team on April 1. The rookie responded to a Twitter request from the manager of a youth team who asked him if he would be interested in fronting the money after the team’s sponsor dropped out. Haden responded immediately and, $325 later, Haden’s Nation in the Plain Local Baseball and Softball Association was born. “The boys seem pretty excited,” team manager Mike Clapper told the Canton Repository. “Joe said he hopes to come down to a couple of games.” Now Haden has something else to keep him busy during the lockout.

2 » With wide receivers Chris Dunkley and Javares McRoy deciding to transfer away from the Florida Gators, the football team has been left with 10 available scholarships under the NCAA maximum of 85, according to numbers crunched by InsideTheGators.com. Because 10 seniors on scholarship will be moving on after the 2011 season, Florida will have at least 20 scholarships (likely more) to hand out to recruits for 2012. Nine verbal commitments have already been made for 2012, leaving approximately a dozen (give or take a few) spots left to be filled.

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