Transfer News: Matt Patchan and De’Ante Saunders To Leave Florida Gators

We’re back from the holidays, but two (now former) Florida Gators won’t be. Redshirt junior offensive lineman Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders are leaving the program.

Matt Patchan - Florida Gators

Patchan came to the Gators out of Tampa, FL (Armwood) in 2008. After being one of the nation’s most sought after recruits, he saw immediate playing time as a freshman. After spending time on the defensive line as a freshman, he moved to the offensive side of the ball. The future looked promising for Patchan, but then injuries took their toll. In 2009, he appeared in only four games and then missed the entire 2010 season. Patchan was able to appear in 12 games in 2011, but wasn’t healthy enough to play in 2012. He recently graduated and will look to move to a graduate program elsewhere so he can play immediately. Likely destinations are Boston College–where former Florida offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio is now the head coach–or Ohio State–where Urban Meyer will begin his second season as head coach in 2013.

Saunders was a bit of a fly-under-the-radar recruit coming out of Deland (Deland, FL). He was only considered a three-star recruit, but there was plenty of talk of his potential to become a big-time player. Saunders came on strong out of the gate as a true freshman, showing vast improvement over the course of his first season with the Gators. He played in 12 games in 2011 and started eight. Saunders was expected to be an important part of the Gators’ defense in 2012, but he only appeared in eight games after missing the first two and last two. There was talk of injury problems, but discipline also came into the discussions. Saunders has now been released from his scholarship. He has already mentioned Louisville as a possible destination.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp has yet to comment on either player’s departure.

De’Ante Saunders Out Florida Gators First 2 Games

Rumors have circulated for quite some time that Florida Gators safety De’Ante Saunders could be suspended for the first two games of the 2012 season. We have now learned that Saunders will indeed miss Florida’s contests against Bowling Green and Texas A&M*, but suspension hasn’t been given as a reason.

Saunders would have missed Saturday’s season opener regardless due to injury, but the addition of another game makes many think there may be something to the suspension rumors. To add fuel to the fire, Saunders wasn’t on the two-deep depth chart released on Monday. That wasn’t much of a surprise though because of his injury.

Saunders started nine games in 2011, but may have already lost some time in 2012 due to competition at the position. He’ll face a much harder climb up the depth chart now, having to watch the first two games with no chance of participating.

*Team-high two interceptions…ugh, ugh, UGH!

Chaz Green, De’Ante Saunders Named All-SEC Freshmen

On Thursday, Florida Gators’ offensive tackle Chaz Green and safety De’Ante Saunders were named Freshman All-SEC performers. Two of the bright spots of Florida’s hard-to-stomach 2011 season, Green and Saunders are definitely worthy of the honor.

Green was limited during the season, but managed to start eight games for the Gators. During his time on the field, Green proved he was ready for the rigors of the typical opponents Florida faces. One of the lone consistent performers on the offensive line, Green appeared to live up to his massive potential and gives the Gators at least one member of the line they can pencil in as a starter in 2012.

Saunders surprised many when he was named a starter early in the season. An underrated recruit, “Pop” played in 11 games, starting nine times. Early in the season, the safety went through growing pains as many members of the secondary struggled to find their footing. Saunders was a pleasant surprise as the season progressed and locked down one of the defensive backfield positions. His experience in 2011 will prove valuable throughout the rest of his career.

Florida Gators 54 – Furman Paladins 32: When A Win Isn’t A Win

A win should make you happy. Not content or relieved, but happy. Actually, we’d take content or relieved at this point. Those are acceptable emotions after the roller coaster the Florida Gators have been on during the 2011 season. What isn’t acceptable is a feeling of “what just happened?”

After one quarter of what many might try to define as football, although it was hard to call it that, the Gators found themselves down 22-7 to the Furman Paladins and Florida fans found themselves looking frantically for the basketball schedule (and resume templates for head coach Will Muschamp so he could update his). A 20-point second quarter eased the pain for only a moment until we all realized the Gators were up by only five. Another quarter and 10 more points for each team found Florida up 37-32 with one frame to go. Any other season and we’d need to be talked off the ledge, but this one brought nothing more the a sigh. A familiar sigh that has replaced any anger or discomfort in wondering what could possibly happen next. But then there would be the fourth and final quarter. Far from perfect, a close contest became a 22-point game. The Gators would win for only the second time since September while we would begrudgingly move forward to the FSU Seminoles.

Before we move on though, we look at the victory over the Paladins. We look because we are determined to learn. Our curiosity is what overwhelms our ability to go quietly ahead into the night. We can’t do it because it’s not within our nature. Instead our nature says we must evaluate and over-analyze everything that has happened from every different angle. It’s sadistic in a way, but it’s what we do. We praise the good and attack the bad. And here we go…

Games such as those against Furman aren’t winnable for Florida. Beat the Paladins and you were supposed to. Lose to them, or play like the Gators did for much of the game, and there are far more headaches than worth the warm-up for a matchup with a rival. It’s better to avoid games like these all together, and one day a nine-game SEC schedule may solve the problem for us, but until them we stomach what was supposed to go down without the need for an antacid.

No one told the Paladins that they were supposed to roll over and die and for their effort, we have to give applause. Good for Furman for staying in the game. Kudos for taking advantage of a situation and disrupting an afternoon. In the end, it wasn’t enough, but in some strange way it was. By gaining 446 yards, the Paladins exposed the Gators’ defense. In recent weeks, we’ve labeled the defense the rock of the Florida squad. It was the unit we saw marked improvement in. We looked forward to 2012 and the further progression of the defense. After Saturday, we wonder if another step, or leap, was taken back. You don’t give up 446 yards to an FCS team. Maybe you do, but you shouldn’t. Not in game 11, and not in The Swamp, and not with a defensive head coach even if he is in his first year. But if you are weathering through a record of 9-10 over the last 19 games you’ve played as a team, maybe you do. Pick sixes by De’Ante “Pop” Saunders and Jelani Jenkins were highlights, but little else was. Taking a step back in game 11 is like taking a step back for 2012 and, yes, that has us worried.

We find bright spots on the offensive side of the ball because in any 22-point win, you have to find them somewhere. There was John Brantley’s career day; we’ll start there. If the Gators’ 2011 season has been a roller coaster, Brantley’s career has been the fastest, scariest one there is. Brantley’s 329 passing yards? A career high. His four touchdown passes? Another one. We try not to celebrate the FCS wins as much, but we can celebrate Brantley. If this is what the offense was supposed to look like when Muschamp hired offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, then it came too late. Too late to make an impact on the season and realistically too late to change the fortunes of Brantley’s career. But just in time to allow us to enjoy what the quarterback was expected to be able to do. A 64-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose in the third quarter was only overshadowed by an 80-yarder one quarter earlier. Years from now, when we look back at the career of John Brantley, we may do so with mixed emotions. A game we’ll have to recall was this one. One game where it looked like it was supposed to. One game that gave us hope for the regular season finale.

We can go ahead and classify this as a win; for Brantley, for Debose, and if only because the standings dictate it. Although we’re still not sure to think of what happened (Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army may have summed it up best with words like “worst” and “weirdest”), it’s technically a victory. A victory that is only the Gators’ sixth of the season and one that keeps the hopes of eight alive. It’s not often you dream of an eight-win season, but it has come to that. There are 120 minutes of football left for Florida and two outcomes to be discovered. Confidence in what those two outcomes may be isn’t high, but now the Gators play for something. Maybe state pride, maybe to go out on a winning note, maybe just to shut the door on 2011.

Florida Gators Defensive Backs – 2010 vs. 2011

The Bull Gator and I finish up the defense. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers.
2010: Ahmad Black – SR, Moses Jenkins – RJR, Will Hill – JR, Janoris Jenkins – JR, Jeremy Brown – RSO, Josh Evans – SO, Matt Elam – FR, Cody Riggs – FR, Josh Shaw – FR, Jaylen Watkins – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: C
Although I believe that the potential was there for them to be an above-average group, when looking back on the defensive backfield for the Gators in 2010, I decided to give the unit an overall grade of C. But really you could look at this unit as a tale of two stories with one half of the unit being outstanding and the other half being downright pitiful.
First, let’s start with the good, namely safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. To say that these two guys deserve a grade of A would be an understatement as to how good they really were. Black had the most tackles on the team (108), the most interceptions (5), the most forced fumbles (3) and the most fumble recoveries (2). He also had twice as many unassisted tackles (73) than all but one other Gator (Jelani Jenkins – 41). Not to mention the leadership that he provided both on the field and in the locker room truly was immeasurable.
In 2008, the Gators won the national championship thanks in part to a freshman CB who found his way into the starting lineup on day 1 of the season and never looked back. By doing so, Janoris Jenkins became just the second true freshman in school history to start at CB on opening day. The stats for Janoris in 2010 may not be that overwhelming: 44 tackles, 8 pass breakups, 3 interceptions and 1 sack, but his presence on the field made the entire defense better. Opposing quarterbacks were hesitant to go to his side of the field, and more often than not, when they did he was there to make a big play.
Then you have the other guys. The combination of Will Hill and Josh Evans at the other safety position left much to be desired. I could go on-and-on about just how disappointing of a season/career Hill had, but I think we have all been down that road before. And the revolving door of Moses Jenkins, Jeremy Brown and Cody Riggs at the cornerback position opposite of Janoris (for the most part) was, to be nice, less than stellar.
With that said, we did see glimpses of hope in 2010, including Brown, Riggs and Matt Elam showing that they have the potential to be stars for the Gators somewhere down the line, but for the most part, when one half of your defensive backfield fails to live up to the hype while the other half struggles to make up for their teammates’ mistakes, you know you are in for a rough year.
2011: Moses Jenkins – RSR, Jeremy Brown – RJR, Josh Evans – JR, Matt Elam – SO, Cody Riggs – SO, Jaylen Watkins – SO, Josh Shaw – RFR, Jabari Gorman – FR, Chris Johnson – FR, Loucheiz Purifoy – FR, Marcus Roberson – FR, De’Ante Saunders – FR, Valdez Showers – FR
Preseason Rating: C
If you would of told me a few months/years ago that starting in 2011, the defensive backfield of UF would be Janoris Jenkins, Will Hill, Matt Elam and a second cornerback of your choosing, I probably would have said, “sign me up!” Unfortunately that won’t be the case for two major reasons. First, Hill thought he was going to get drafted into the NFL. Well, he didn’t. But this actually might be a positive for the Gators given Hill’s lack of production on the field. And second, Jenkins really liked to smoke pot. I mean really liked to! Therefore, he will have to finish his college career in the beautiful city of Florence. No, not that Florence, but the one in northern Alabama.
So what are we left with? Well, if you ask me (which you didn’t), I say we are left with a group of guys who have yet to prove themselves on the collegiate level, but who have all the talent in the world to be great players.
At the safety position, Elam is the only guy at this point that I can say is definitely a starter. I think Elam will have a great season, but I am really basing that more on hearsay and hopes than on actual on-the-field production. The other safety position is up for grabs right now. Some think that it’s Evans’ spot to lose. Others believe that Josh Shaw or Jaylen Watkins may sneak up and take the position. And recently, there have been discussions of De’Ante “Pop” Saunders moving from cornerback to safety in order to lock down that spot. Unfortunately all of these guys have fairly limited (or no) playing time at the college level and therefore the second safety spot could be a significant point of weakness for the Gators’ defense in 2011.
As far as cornerback is concerned, I have been shouting from the rooftops one name these past couple of months and I’m not going to stop now: Marcus Roberson!!! Look for Roberson to join Joe Haden and the aforementioned Janoris Jenkins as freshmen starters at the cornerback position for the Gators. Roberson may struggle in the beginning, but he will be very good, very soon. The second CB position has the chance to be reminiscent of last year in which there are a couple of guys rotating in and out at that position. Guys like Brown, Riggs, Moses Jenkins and freshman Loucheiz Puriofy all have a chance to play at that spot and could be called on periodically throughout the season to step up.
To grade the defensive backfield going into this season is almost impossible to do. There are too many variables, too many open spots still, and too many guys with talent but no experience. I truly think that we could look back a few months from now and easily give this unit an A and just as easily give this unit a F. But with the former defensive back Will Muschamp at the helm teaching these guys on a day-in and day-out basis, I think we might all be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

OEO: Florida Gators Arrests, Lerentee McCray The "Adult," And The Starting Running Back

One Eyed Observations of the Florida Gators. TBG asking; OEW answering.
The Bull Gator: Seriously? The Gators still have a problem with arrests?
One Eyed Willy: We all know the statistics by now: under Urban Meyer’s leadership, there were 30 (or so) arrests of Florida players for one reason or another. Rival fans had a field day with that stat and would point to it to show Meyer’s lack of discipline and a thug-like mentality of our football team. Even UF fans realized that this number seemed rather high and many believed the Gators had unfortunately taken a win-at-all-costs approach to the game.
With the hiring of Will Muschamp, most believed that he would turn the program around and no longer allow these types of situations to occur – at least not on such a regular basis. So, how has Muschamp done in his first eight months on the job? Well, maybe not as well as one would initially think:
Janoris Jenkins – Arrested in January 2011 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana; arrested again in April 2011 for misdemeanor possession of Mary Jane; dismissed from team shortly thereafter.
De’Ante “Pop” Saunders – Arrested in May 2011 for misdemeanor possession of the sticky-icky; punishment unknown at this time.
Chris Martin – Arrested in June 2011 for misdemeanor possession of the herb; transferred from team shortly thereafter.
Kedric Johnson – Arrested in June 2011 for misdemeanor possession of the wacky tabacky; punishment unknown at this time.
Matt Elam – Arrested in July 2011 for misdemeanor possession of cannabis; no wait…he wasn’t arrested for that? My bad. Arrested in July 2011 for possession of alcohol by a minor (for the second year in a row); punishment unknown at this time.
Let me first say that I was no choir boy when I was at the University of Florida. But I was smart. I didn’t do stuff in public that I wasn’t supposed to do. If I was drinking underage, I tried to hide it the best I could and certainly never drove afterwards. If I was taking part in Mother Nature’s medicine for glaucoma, I would only do so in the confines of my fraternity house and/or home. That doesn’t make what I did right, but it does make me like 95% of the people who attended the University of Florida.
So I am not going to sit here and bash these guys for smoking a little ganja or drinking while underage. But what I am going to bash them for being ignorant enough to do it in a place where they could easily be caught. They have to realize that they are under a microscope. Gone are the days when players could get away with anything and only have to run some stadium steps as punishment. In today’s world, the public knows EVERYTHING. Mess up and we will certainly find out. So go ahead and be kids, have fun in college and do the things that all of us did at one time or another. Just be smart about it!
TBG: In an interview, Lerentee McCray said one difference between Muschamp and Meyer was that Muschamp treated the players like adults. Thoughts?
OEW: WHACK! That sound you just heard was Lerentee McCray slapping Coach Meyer across the cheek and then pointing at him like the guy hanging out of the helicopter points at the dude trapped under the rock in that Wheat Thins commercial. (Side note: In writing this response, I went to YouTube to watch that commercial and someone wrote the following three comments: 1. If you have a dog named Lucky then you’re ironically screwed anyway; 2. Ginger people can’t hike; 3. People that hang from helicopters are jerks. No truer statements have ever been written in the history of mankind.)
But I digress. I think first you have to realize that McCray is probably a little bit bitter (or maybe sour) about the Meyer-led regime considering he did not get a ton of significant playing time over the last three years. But he is also probably stating a fact in that it seemed to me like Coach Meyer wanted to be friends with the players BEFORE he wanted to be their coach – especially over the last few seasons. I am all for coaches becoming friendly with their players, but that cannot come at the expensive of the players knowing that the coach’s #1 job is to teach them how to be better football players and to put the best product on the field. It seems to me like somewhere along the way, Coach Meyer may have forgotten this a little bit and tried to be friends with all the players rather than more of a father-like figure.
TBG: We play a game every year where we guess who the running back on the field for the first snap of the season will be. It’s not always who you might think it would be. Who it is this season and why?
OEW: Given the new offense we are running this year, I think one of two things can happen on the first play against that stingy FAU defense. (Actually about a million things can happen on the first play, but I am so smart I have limited it down to only two distinct possibilities.) First, we could have John Brantley line up under center and hand it off to one of the running backs and show the world that we are a running team first. Or second, we could have Brantley line up under center, fake the run, and throw it deep to show that we have confidence in our quarterback.
Either way, I think you will see one of the senior running backs line up in the backfield this year on the first play. Out of the two – Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps – my money is on Rainey being the “starter” at the tailback position. I think Rainey will be rewarded for what everyone is calling a terrific offseason and because he has been learning the offense nonstop for the past eight months while Demps has been focused on his duties with Florida’s track and field team.
As you and I both know TBG, being the “starter” in college football really means nothing. I think it was you who pointed out that last year Brantley actually started at wide receiver in one game. But what does mean something is a big fat Newberry bar-b-que sandweeech (spelled like it’s pronounced!). And since that is the going wager that we have year-after-year on this bet, I take this very seriously. So therefore, I have officially made my selection of Chris Rainey for the 2011 season! And hopefully when I win this year (again) you losers will actually pay up for once!

Welcoming the Florida Gators’ Class of 2011

Quick recap of the last few weeks for the Florida basketball program: overtime win, overtime loss, season over, assistants leave, assistants come, players arrested, players suspended, former player arrested.  There you go.  That’s what you need to know, even if you don’t want to know some of it.  So how do we rebound from the negative news?  We talk about the future of course.  More specifically, the incoming Gators:

Brad Beal – SG – 6’4”, 195 – Rivals Ranking: 5 Stars, #2 SG, #7 Overall – The star of the class and the highest ranked player to sign with Florida since, well, since Rivals started ranking players.  Yes, that includes Patric Young, Kenny Boynton, Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, and the 04s.  A lot is expected of Beal, but he has the talent and potential to live up to all of the hype.  The Gatorade National Player of the Year excels at both ends of the court as evidenced during the McDonald’s All-American Game where he scored 17 points, pulled down five rebounds, dished out four assists, and played outstanding defense on other star players.  He will be expected to play significant minutes for the Gators from day one and shouldn’t disappoint in his overall understanding of the game.  Florida has a legitimate star in Beal and one that Billy Donovan will want to hold on to for more than one season.  Beal’s arrival should lead to a shift in play with such a turnover of big men from last season.  The Gators may go small more than usual in 2011-2012 and Beal will be one of the keys to making it work.
Jacoby Brissett – SG – 6’5”, 225 – Rivals Ranking: 3 Stars – Brissett is a hard read.  Watching tape and reading about his basketball exploits, you get the feeling he could be a star if he dedicated himself to the sport.  The same could be said about football though.  We may not really know what we can expect from Brissett for another year or two when he decides which sport to focus on.  Unfortunately for the basketball program, he’ll be in the middle of a quarterback battle for the 2012 season (and maybe even the 2011 season).  Fortunately for the basketball program, there are plenty of minutes to go around and he could be given more than past two-sporters.  Brissett’s biggest asset on the court may be his strength.  Only an inch taller than Beal, he outweighs him by 30 pounds.  Brissett can play outside, but also hold his own down low.
Walter Pitchford – C – 6’9”, 205 – Rivals Ranking: 3 Stars – Actually a year ahead of the others, Pitchford spent a year in prep school after deciding not to fulfill his letter of intent at DePaul.  Florida just received Pitchford’s letter of intent on Wednesday and it was an important one.  With the loss of Parsons, Vernon Macklin, and Alex Tyus, and Cody Larson and Erik Murphy on thin ice, the Gators need big men desperately.  Pitchford may get significant minutes during his first year at Florida by default.  Of course, that’s not a bad thing for his future.  Early experience tends to speed up growth.  Despite not being highly ranked, he could turn into a valuable part of the Gators’ future.
De’Ante Saunders – PG – 6’0”, 180 – Rivals Ranking: 3 Stars – There’s not a lot out there regarding Saunders’s basketball skills.  Like Brissett, he’s a football signee first.  Unlike Brissett, very few mention Saunders as a star in both sports.  He could end up seeing the field and the court, but good money would be on him taking up football full-time in the future.
No list would be complete without mentioning another player who will see the court as a Gator for the first time during the 2011-2012 season:
Mike Rosario – SG – 6’3”, 180 – Rivals Ranking: 4 Stars, #8 SG, #55 Overall (2008) – Rosario has been part of the program for a full year now, but sat out the 2010-2011 season due to NCAA transfer rules.  Rosario led Rutgers in scoring at over 16 points per game in each of his two seasons there.  He enjoyed Rutgers and the atmosphere, but ultimately transferred to be part of a winning program.  A proven college player, Rosario will be expected to step in be a scorer right away after spending the last year practicing with the team.

The Long Snapper (2/6/10)

The other Florida commit that didn’t end up signing with the Gators has gotten himself into some trouble as well.  Victor Hampton – who Florida backed away from early in the recruiting process – was arrested and charged with possession of alcohol.  You’re probably thinking “just a kid making a stupid mistake.”  Well, yes, but Hampton was caught because he brought the alcohol to school.  That’s beyond just a stupid mistake.  That’s taking stupid to a different level.  It’s yet to be known whether South Carolina – where Hampton ended up signing – will do anything about it.  Odds are they won’t.
Get a head start on the 2011 recruiting class.  Max Preps ranks it’s very, very, very, very, very early top 10 in terms of teams for 2011.  Florida ranks in at #10 with commitments from De’Ante Saunders and A.C. Leonard.  There’s been a lot of buzz about Saunders and the possibility that he could end up as one of the higher ranked prospects in the nation.  Both he and Leonard are listed as athletes and could make an impact on either side of the ball.  Saunders is one of those that seems ready to play immediately.
The nation’s top kicker – according to the Kornblue Kicking School (no, I didn’t just make that up) – still hasn’t made a decision on where he’ll kick in college.  Marvin Kloss did make an official visit to USF, but the Bulls didn’t offer the kicker a scholarship.  It appears as if he still may want to attend USF as a walk-on though, but those pesky Gators could get in the way.  Kloss has also mentioned possibly walking on at Florida, but won’t make a decision until he gets a chance to visit the school.  Before you get too excited over a top-flight kicking prospect Bulls’ fans, check around.  Kloss may be #1 according to Kornblue, but he doesn’t even come up in the Scout.com and Rivals.com databases.
“[SCHOOL] takes NCAA rules very seriously,” [NAME], the university faculty athletic representative to the NCAA, said in the release.  “We continually conduct monitoring and internal reviews.  The end result of the current review is that we found violations and are treating them with the seriousness they deserve.”  You could fill in any school and name into that quote because you’ve probably heard that exact statement thousands of times.  This time it belong so Brian Shannon of Texas Tech.  Back during the Mike Leach days, the Red Raiders violated the NCAA rules by sending text messages to recruits.  The illegal texts where found during a review of cell phone records.  Being a compliance worker at a school must be a blast!
Everett Golson could end up being one of the highest-ranked quarterbacks of the 2011 recruiting class, but he’s already off the market.  Golson made his decision on Friday when he committed to UNC.  He wanted to get the process over because he described playing for the Tar Heels as his dream.  The strong-armed Golson threw for 44 touchdowns as a sophomore and another 47 as a junior.  He’ll also be given the opportunity to attempt to walk on to the UNC basketball team.  With roughly a year left in the recruiting process, we’ll see if he sticks with his commitment when the bigger programs start pushing harder.

De’Ante Saunders Becomes Florida’s First 2011 Commitment

6’0”, 180 lb. athlete De’Ante “Pop” Saunders has become the first member of Florida’s 2011 recruiting class.  Saunders – from Deland (Deland, FL) – will join high school teammate and childhood friend Mike Gillislee in Gainesville and could join the Gator freshman in the offensive backfield one day.
The Orlando Sentinel ranks Saunders as the state’s 20th-best high school junior regardless of position and although he plays on both sides of the ball, Pop seems most comfortable at running back.  He currently leads the Central region of Florida with 1,000 rushing yards and, in addition, could be one of the better punt returners in the state.
Upon receiving a written offer from Florida, Saunders almost immediately committed saying it’s always where he wanted to go.  That’s what we like to hear!