NOT Top 14 for 2014: Moments Gators can forget

At the conclusion of each year, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. For the second-straight year, which will go down as another difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 14 for 2014 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 14 for 2014 (COMING THURSDAY) to begin 2015 on a positive note!

14 » SEE YA NEVER

Over the final two months of 2014, the Gators football program saw three seniors decide – whether through purposeful actions or team rules violations – to end their careers early. Learning he would not be starting at Vanderbilt, redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr argued with then head coach Will Muschamp and was sent home on a bus before the game; he later tried to explain his side of the story. On the final day of the year, redshirt senior wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (mutual decision) and senior DT Darious Cummings (violation of team rules) were ruled out for the bowl game. Debose had an up-and-down hear overall, suffering a defenestration in the spring and barely playing on offense during the season; he was excellent as Florida’s all-purpose returner, however, and ends his career tied for the SEC record in kick return touchdowns (four).

13 » CHARACTER CONCERNS

Maurkice and Mike Pouncey kept their noses clean when they were with the Gators and continue to be fan favorite from their time at Florida. However, since becoming professional football players, some character questions have been raised – stemming in large part from the brothers wearing “Free Hernandez” hats last year – and those continued in 2014. Pouncey was one of the main players named in bullying allegations levied by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and both Pounceys were accused of serious assault during a night club incident in Miami. The brothers were not ultimately charged with assault from that evening’s incident but all of the allegations continued to paint UF in a bad light.

12 » UNEXPECTEDLY UNDRAFTED

It started in the 2014 NFL Draft when a pair of Gators junior cornerbacks that declared early – Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Robersonwere not selected. Purifoy had a drug incident in the offseason that contributed to him not being drafted – and both players dealt with character concerns – but it was nevertheless a surprise. (Purifoy and Roberson, respectively, signed undrafted free agent deals with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams. Both saw limited action this season with Purifoy getting cut by the Colts, dropped by the Seattle Seahawks after a waiver claim [failed a physical] and ultimately suspended four games by the NFL for an undisclosed reason.)

There was even more of an expectation that center Patric Young would be picked in the 2014 NBA Draft with many believing he could go as high as the lower portion of the first round. Instead, Young fell out of the first and did not even get picked in the second as many NBA teams chose to select international players that they could stash and not sign to contracts. Young ultimately signed with the New Orleans Pelicans but was later cut by the franchise and is now playing in Turkey. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather also went undrafted, and though Wilbekin performed well in NBA Summer League action, he did not get an opportunity in the league either.

11 » BAD OMENS

Though there was some positive momentum for the football program as the 2014 season approached, with the roster looking healthy and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper expected to turn things around for Florida, a number of bad omens cast doom over the Gators’ campaign. It started with the Orange & Blue Debut spring game, which ended in a tie. Though there was no reason to continue the game per se, fans in attendance hoped to see a little bit of extra Florida football action and left disappointed.

The ominous offseason continued with wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips resigning from his position in June after Miami staffers reported him for a recruiting violation. Muschamp named former Gators quarterback and team graduate assistant Chris Leak as the replacement receivers coach, giving UF four different coaches at that position in as many seasons. The last omen was even more obvious than the first two with lightning storms cancelling Florida’s season opener against Idaho. Though options were considered to play the game at a later date in the season, it was ultimately decided to take the contest off both teams’ schedules with the Gators and Vandals only playing 11 contests in 2014.

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Friday Final: Florida Gators prepare for emotional Senior Day in The Swamp

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (5-4) as they prepare to play their second-to-last game under head coach Will Muschamp against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-2) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday. The game will kick off at noon and air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Story: Will Muschamp earns praise, talks dismissal with class
Story: Dante Fowler Jr. declares for NFL Draft on Twitter
Story/Notebook: Gators lose two linebackers for season; two defensive backs return for Saturday’s game
Story: Florida coordinators talk Muschamp firing, EKU, future
The Silver Lining: Answering reader questions about the Gators’ future

SENIOR DAY IN THE SWAMP

Lost among the firing of a head coach and subsequent start of a search for a new one are two simple facts: the Gators are one victory away from bowl game eligibility, and Muschamp will not be the only one who spending his last Saturday on Florida Field.

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Florida DL Jonathan Bullard’s sacrifices, team-first mindset paying off for himself, Gators

For most teams, the sudden departure of a redshirt senior defensive lineman would prove to be a major blow, but the Florida Gators have been operating most of the season without Leon Orr in the starting lineup – and likely have been better because of it.

In fact, the 2014 Gators are head coach Will Muschamp’s best pass rushing team, due in large part to the pressure Florida is getting up the middle with junior Jonathan Bullard and senior Darious Cummings.

The Gators already have 12 more quarterback hurries through eight games in 2014* than they have in any full season under Muschamp. Florida is also averaging more sacks per game than ever before and is on pace to finish with 32.5, the most under Muschamp (assuming a bowl game, like UF played in 2012).

Cummings, the starting nose tackle, has made a major impact with two sacks and four hurries. However, it is Bullard, with just half a sack but seven total hurries, that has blossomed in the middle for the Gators.

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Snell’s Slant: Gators on the rise, will it last?

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

What a difference a few weeks can make. Will Muschamp was basically tied up on a serving platter with an apple in his mouth two weeks ago. Then suddenly, he took the heat emanating from his seat and somehow transferred it to the team, lighting a fire under his players’ asses that has Florida playing with noticeably more passion and enthusiasm – and success.

As beautiful as it was to see the Gators pound the Bulldogs into the ground with a punishing running game, I think the game plan against Vanderbilt was equally impressive. I admit, before Saturday, I hadn’t completely bought in to the Treon Harris revolution as most others had. The realistic part of me knows that Harris is still a freshman – unproven and untested.

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DT Leon Orr contrite about leaving Florida

Now-former Florida Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr did not play in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt after leaving the team on game day when Orr learned from head coach Will Muschamp that he would not be starting the game.

Florida announced before the game, and Muschamp explained after the Gators’ 34-10 win, that Orr would have seen the field for his normal allotment of plays, but he could not accept not starting the contest.

“Leon hasn’t started since the Alabama game. He hadn’t started all week in practice. Came to me [Saturday] and didn’t understand why he wasn’t starting, said he was going to go home. That was his decision. I said, ‘You go home, you’re done. You’re not a Florida Gator anymore,’” Muschamp said Saturday night.

As a result, Orr was kicked off the team for good, a fact Muschamp reiterated on Monday during his weekly press conference. “Nothing’s changed,” he said.

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Will Muschamp sends DT Leon Orr home on bus, says player is “not a Florida Gator anymore”

Minutes before the Florida Gators squared off against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday evening, Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced via a school release that redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr had been sent home from Nashville, Tennessee, on a bus. Later, he explained that Orr is now off the team after giving up on his coaches and teammates on game day.

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10/29: Florida focused on stopping Georgia rush

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday with just three days to go until his team links up with the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

GURLEY OR NOT, HERE COME THE GATORS

Florida’s players have spoken all week about preparing for Georgia running back Todd Gurley and doing whatever they can to limit his effectiveness in the game.

As well as the Gators might have defended Gurley, they are still no match for the NCAA, which ruled on Wednesday that Gurley will have to sit out two more contests (including UF-UGA) as he serves a four-game suspension after receiving more than $3,000 for signing memorabilia. He will also have to pay restitution and do community service.

With Gurley – a Heisman Trophy candidate averaging 8.2 yards per carry – out of action, the Bulldogs will rely on Nick Chubb to tote the rock, which he has been doing to the tune of 5.7 yards per rush this season.

For Durkin and the players, not much will change in Florida’s defensive preparation for Georgia’s run-heavy offensive attack.

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10/15: Muschamp updates injuries, quarterbacks

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp participated in the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday, looking to his team’s next game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) and junior wide receiver Latroy Pittman are both expected to be practicing with the team on Wednesday. Orr is expected to be available for Saturday’s game, while Pittman’s status is a bit more up in the air as he will only be taken limited practice repetitions.

QUARTERBACK DECISION

Outside of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper declaring Tuesday that redshirt junior Jeff Driskel would get the start, Muschamp said there has been no solid decision made about how the quarterback rotation will go on Saturday.

“We’re going to see who has the hot hand and see who’s helping move our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win. We’ll make that decision as we go through the game,” he said. “Both guys deserve and have earned the opportunity to play. We’re still kind of going through that through [Wednesday]’s practice into the game. Kurt and I will sit down Friday morning and make a decision on what we need to do.”

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