A.C. Leonard To Transfer; Troubled Tight End To Leave Gators

Sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard has decided to transfer. Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp ended the speculation on Wednesday when he announced the troubled tight end would leave the program. Leonard played for the Gators for only one season.

Much was expected from Leonard when he came to Gainesville. One of the top tight ends in his recruiting class, Leonard was seen as a pass-catching TE first and someone that could stretch the field at the position. Unfortunately, almost immediately, the transfer talk began. That followed numerous rumors throughout his recruitment that he may have never truly been comfortable with Florida in the first place. To make matters worse, he was hurt before his freshman season of 2011.

When Leonard finally hit the field he was, honestly, underwhelming. The fault could lie more with the Gators’ offense than Leonard’s performance though, so it’s hard to blame the freshman that had missed the first half of the season. He ended his first, and now only, season at Florida with 8 catches for 99 yards. Leonard’s one “wow” outing came in the loss to Florida State when he led the Gators with 65 receiving yards. Based on that one game, we started to believe Leonard would live up to his potential and that performance was the start of something. Then this happened, which was followed by this.

Leonard leaves the Gators after trouble he couldn’t get away from. In the end, this is probably the best for both parties. Florida needs to move forward from the “arrest era” associated with the past few years and Leonard needs a fresh start without transfer rumors and domestic violence arrests.

A.C. Leonard Suspended Indefinitely

After being arrested for domestic battery on Wednesday, Florida Gators’ freshman tight end A.C. Leonard was suspended indefinitely from all team activities. Head coach Will Muschamp released a statement saying Leonard’s behavior is not condoned and will not be tolerated. Leonard will not be permitted to participate in team activities until the matter is resolved. Depending on the outcome of the case, that may be a short or long period of time.

Leonard came to Florida as a member of the 2011 recruiting class. According to Rivals.com, he was the nation’s fifth-best tight end and No. 57 overall recruit. Leonard wavered with his commitment to the Gators, but would end up in Gainesville. Expected to be an immediate weapon in the offense, Leonard was set back after injuring his knee. He was able to come back and see the field during the 2011 season – a somewhat remarkable feat – but had minimal impact and at times transfer rumors surfaced. At the moment, Leonard is still part of the Gators’ program, but his arrest may throw a wrench in the system. We’ll have to wait this one out and see how the entire situation unfolds.

Florida Gators Tight End A.C. Leonard Arrested

Florida Gators’ tight end A.C. Leonard was arrested on Wednesday on a charge of domestic battery. The freshman was reportedly involved in an altercation with his live-in girlfriend.

According to the report, Leonard shoved the woman to the ground and later drug her out of their apartment. Leonard denied ever hitting the woman, but did tell a Gainesville Police Department officer that he did want her out of the apartment.

Leonard spent Wednesday night in jail and was released after a brief court appearance on Thursday morning. He is not permitted to have any contact with the woman until formal charges are resolved.

The arrest is the 10th under head coach Will Muschamp, giving him a higher pace than his predecessor Urban Meyer. There are a number of statistics Florida would be happy to have Muschamp pass Meyer in; arrests isn’t one of them.

Injuries cut Leonard’s freshman season short. Depending on the outcome of this situation, an arrest may eliminate his sophomore season.

Offense: Florida Gators 48 – Kentucky Wildcats 10

Part one of a four-part series that has every intention to come in four parts, but usually comes in three parts, and occasionally comes in one-part.

405 yards rushing. That number means a couple of things. First of all – and not to take away from the collectively effort of the Florida running backs – that’s one less than the NCAA FBS record that LaDainian Tomlinson set in 1999 when he was at TCU. But we’re not here to talk about one running back; we’re here to talk about the Gators’ stable of running backs and there night for the ages. So on to the second thing that number means…

The last time Florida went over 400 yards rushing as a team most of the current members of the squad weren’t even born yet. Against New Mexico in 1989, a running back by the name of Emmitt Smith had a career day. Smith would set a Florida record that still stands with 316 yards on the day. The Gators would go over 400 yards on the ground in that game as well. It would be nearly 22 years before they would do it again.

How did it all happen? Kentucky’s defense never stood much of a chance in Florida’s 48-10 victory. The Gators ran the ball 46 times for 405 yards, a clip of 8.8 per carry. Amazingly, the Wildcats actually had the higher time of possession. Chris Rainey excelled again, but he wasn’t the brightest star Saturday night. That would be Jeff Demps. Demps finished with 157 yards on only 10 carries and two touchdowns, including an 84-yarder which would be a career-long for no. 28 (and no. 2 when he sported that digit on his jersey). On the play, Demps was aided by good blocking, but his speed would prove to be the difference. He saw daylight in the Kentucky secondary and literally ran right by everyone who even had a remote chance of tackling him. Rainey may be the shiftier of the two, but there’s no doubt who has better straight-line speed. Rainey would also go over 100 yards – he’s third time in the last three games – and dazzle fans on a 27 yard cross-field gain in which he covered somewhere around 100 yards. Even Mike Gillislee got into the action. After fumbling the ball after a collision with a referee, Gillislee exploded for a 60-yard score. He wouldn’t get to 100, but we’ll all take 84 yards on six carries. There was even a Trey Burton in the end zone sighting as the slash-back upped his career touchdown total against Kentucky to seven.

While the running game exploded, the passing game was stagnant. Not in an awful way, but not really used too much. John Brantley threw the ball eight times in the first quarter, but only six times the rest of the way. Part of that was due to the success of the run game and part was due to the scoreboard. It would have been nice to see Brantley sling the ball around more, but it just wasn’t needed. Add that to a slight injury and the Gators didn’t need him to pass much past the first quarter. Brantley appears to be fine though, so there’s nothing to worry about going forward.

What we did see was more involvement of the wide receivers and tight ends. The Gators only completed eight passes on the night – all by Brantley – but six went to WRs and TEs. By my count, 10 of the 18 attempts went to WRs and TEs as well. Those aren’t huge numbers, but not bad in the percentage department. This may be yet another example of Charlie Weis not showing his hand completely, but honestly why would he need to? The Gators took a 21-3 lead out of the first quarter and never needed to do much else than hand off the ball. Alabama’s defense will be a different animal, but we’ll get to that later. For now, it continues to look like Florida will do what it needs to do to win and little more, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. More passes to WRs and TEs and the emergence of Gerald Christian. With Jordan Reed banged up and A.C. Leonard still in returning from injury mode, Christian is taking hold of the tight end position and not looking back. A great route and catch by him and a near perfect throw from Brantley resulted in a 45-yard touchdown that lifted fans off their seats. Now if we can just see more similar plays to wide receivers, we’re good to go.

It’s hard to complain about the offensive line in a game in which the running game generated over 400 yards and nearly nine yards per carry, so I won’t go that route, but I will continue to harp on consistency. The line is struggling in that area. It’s not an issue that continues to come up. On Demps long run, everything worked as it was drawn up. On others, there were missed blocks that resulted in Kentucky getting into the backfield too quickly. The line is coming together, but needs to be a cohesive unit on every play. There will be hiccups in games, but they can’t happen as often. Against the big boys of the SEC, the line will need to open those holes for the running backs consistently and form a solid pocket around Brantley. Not something to worry too much about, but something that will surely be addressed during practice.

520 total yards and 41 points (seven came from the defense) is what you like to see. With the run game proving to be one of the better in the nation and the passing game coming along, the Gators will continue to put up points. The real tests come over the next two games. They’ll be tough matchups, but we all feel better about them than we did a month ago.

Next up: the defense.

Gators Lose A.C. Leonard For 6-8 Weeks

On August 2, I composed a piece on this very website comparing the Florida’s 2010 tight ends with this year’s group and made predictions as to how I thought the 2011 unit would fair. In the conclusion of my piece, I gave the unit as a whole a B grade for the upcoming season but noted that depth could become an issue. Well guess what…depth has become an issue!
The rumors that A.C. Leonard had suffered an injury that would sideline him for some time started to pop up earlier this week. That injury was confirmed by Will Muschamp this morning. Coach Muschamp stated that A.C. tore his meniscus in a non-contact drill earlier this week and will subsequently miss the next 6 to 8 weeks. If my math is correct, that would mean that A.C. will probably not be returning to action until the end of September.
Some may not view this as a very big injury considering that the best team we play in the month of September is Tennessee and besides them we play three teams that we should beat fairly easily (fingers crossed!). But I think this could be a bigger blow for a couple of reasons.
First, by all accounts, A.C. was becoming the #1B tight end to #1A Jordan Reed. And with new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis almost certainly going with several two tight end sets in his offense, having two formidable bookends for the offensive line would have been a great weapon. Also, being a true freshman, the more playing time that A.C. could have received in the first few games, the more prepared mentally and physically he would have been when we hit the meat of our schedule in October.
The ripple-down effect could hurt the Gators. It is believed now that Gerald Christian will move back over to the offensive side of the ball to take over some of the tight end responsibilities that A.C. leaves behind. That in itself is fine with me as I think Christian could be one hell of a tight end in his own right, but I never like it when guys are constantly switched from one position to the other (in this case, from linebacker to tight end). It seems to me like these guys start to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
In addition, Clay Burton will likely move from his defensive end position to a full-time tight end, at least at the start of the season. My biggest fear with this move is taking a freshman away from the position he will most likely be playing at going forward and therefore taking away his chances of increasing his skills at that position. There was a chance, albeit maybe a small one, that Clay would have redshirted this year. That chance probably goes out the window with A.C.’s injury.
Finally, there is also some thoughts that Omarius Hines could pick up some of the slack at tight end in A.C.’s absence. Again, on the surface this looks fine as Hines has the hands and the size (well, maybe he is a little small but that’s ok) to be a very serviceable tight end. But it’s not like the Gators have a closet full of good wide receivers right now that they can open up and pluck one out when need be. Our WR unit is one of the thinnest unit’s on the team and if Omarius is playing tight end that means one of our best WRs isn’t lining up at his normal position.
In the end, the old adage that injuries are part of the game is certainly true. I just hate to see one like this so early in fall practice and at a position which the Gators are already fairly thin. On the other side of the coin, I guess it’s better to happen now than in the third week of the season.

Florida Gators Tight Ends – 2010 vs. 2011

Part four in a series where The Bull Gator and I go over the Florida roster differences from this season to last and what to expect in 2011.Check out past installments: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers.

2010: Jordan Reed – RFR, Desmond Parks – RFR, Michael McFarland – FR, Gerald Christian – FR
Preseason Rating: C
Postseason Rating: F

Woohoo! Our first F grade for the 2010 season! Too bad grades don’t go to G or H as I would have had to given those serious consideration when it came to rating the Gators’ tight end performance in 2010.

I know what some of you are thinking…Jordan Reed had a pretty good year last year when you look at the contributions he made as quarterback. While that might be true, I am strictly focusing on the contributions of Reed and his cohorts while they lined up as tight ends. With that in mind, let’s look at the stats for the tight ends in 2010:

Jordan Reed – 12 games played, 6 catches, 79 yards, 1 TD
Desmond Parks – 0 games played
Michael McFarland – 0 games played
Gerald Christian – 0 games played

Some may say that it wasn’t the tight ends’ fault that their stats were so abysmal in 2010 – it was the style of offense we ran, our bone-headed offensive coordinator, and the lack of quarterback production. While I agree with you on the last part of that statement, let’s not forget that the Gators had that same style of offense and that same bone-headed offensive coordinator in 2009. And in that year, does anyone know who the leading receiver on the team was? I do! I do! It was our tight end, Aaron Hernandez, who accounted for 68 catches, 850 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sure glad that he decided to skip his senior year and go pro!

2011: Josh Postell – RJR, Jordan Reed – RSO, A.C. Leonard – FR
Preseason Rating: B

Woohoo! Our first non-C grade for the 2011 season!

It may be a huge leap going from rating a unit last year as an F to then thinking that they will be above-average the next year, but that’s just what I am doing. The major reason for this will be Jordan Reed’s commitment to the position. Unless things go horribly wrong in 2011 (yet again!), Reed should finally be able to focus on playing the position that he is best suited for. The only way that I can see him taking snaps as the QB again would be if we wanted to run some sort of wildcat formation, especially by the goal-line, and wanted to use his big body to get us a couple of important yards. Besides those rare occasions, look for Reed to be the go-to TE that John Brantley so desperately needs.

With Reed locking down one TE position, the Gators will turn to true freshman A.C. Leonard to hopefully lock down the other when we go to the infamous two tight end set. While I have never seen Leonard play in a real college football game, my expectation levels for him are sky high. I anticipate that Leonard and Reed will provide a valuable one-two punch that Charlie Weis will turn to again and again during the season.

And while Josh Postell is not a name that every fan of UF knows at this moment, he is a guy who has been around the team for three years now, was converted to TE from WR over the summer, and has been known to make a play or two when his number is called. Postell still needs to put on a little more weight for his new position, but regardless he should provide the back-up power that is needed to make this unit one the team’s strongest heading into the 2011 season.

One thing that deters me from giving the TEs even a higher grade is the unit’s lack of depth. Besides Postell, there really aren’t any guys that you can invision providing valuable reps at the tight end position this year. There was originally a thought that sophomore Gerald Christian would play both linebacker and tight end for the Gators in 2011, but that talk has died down over the past few months. However, should an injury to Reed or Leonard occur, look for Christian to possibly make the jump back over to the offensive side of the ball where he at least has some knowledge of the playbook and the position itself.

All in all, the 2011 tight ends have a ton of potential and the size, speed, and catching abilities to be great fits in the new Weis-led offense. If everyone can stay healthy and the quarterback has enough time and enough mental stability to get the ball in their general vicinity, don’t be surprised if a tight end once again leads the team in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns. And if that happens, we may all be saying, “who was that Aaron Hernandez guy you speak of?”

Michael McFarland To Transfer From Florida

Last Friday, it was linebacker/defensive end Chris Martin. This Friday, it’s tight end Michael McFarland.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp released a statement that he and McFarland came to the conclusion that it was best for the player to transfer. To say this is a surprise would be a lie. To say it isn’t frustrating would be as well.
McFarland went through the grey shirt/no don’t grey shirt saga when he was first attempting to come to Florida. He ended up enrolling in the standard manner and not playing during his first year with the Gators; however, his true place with the team was always a question. Not that he couldn’t have worked himself into the lineup (he was even listed high up in recent depth charts), but it appeared as if incoming freshman A.C. Leonard may have passed him on the depth chart.
It’s hard to determine what McFarland’s Florida career arc would have been, but he might be better served to find a new situation. Both he and Muschamp obviously came to that conclusion as well. Yet another case of “we hardly knew ye,” we wish McFarland the best and hope he resurfaces somewhere and can kick start his college career.

Recapping Florida’s Recruiting Class, Twitter Style

We live in a fast-paced world.  A technology-driven society we are, and one that is sure to be taken over by machines like some bad sci-fi movie from the last 30 years.  It will happen, so in the meantime we need to do our best to get information as quickly and efficiently as possible, you know, before we are all destroyed by the robot overlords.  This is where networks such as Facebook and Twitter come in (shameless plug: The Bull Gator is on both Facebook and Twitter; friend us, follow us, love us).  They provide us with information we never thought we’d have at our fingertips and never knew we needed.  We know when a friend’s child has thrown up, we know when you are going grocery stopping, we know how obsessed you are with Farmville, and most importantly we know the moment a recruit makes the decision of his life.

In honor of Jacoby Brissett committing to Florida last night – something most of us found out via Twitter – we give you a recap of the Gators’ 2011 recruiting class, each in 140 characters or less.  Because really, that’s life.  If you believe the way the world is going, you can live your life and biographize yourself in that small a space.  Sad really.  Moving on…
Mike Blakely, RB. Short, but stout. Fast and faster. Cuts are top-notch, adds surprising power. Compact back that can also catch. Man-crush.
Jacoby Brissett, QB. Tall, dominating passer. Can run, but prefers to pass. Good power, velocity, and touch. Competitor. Great addition.
Clay Burton, DE. Brother of Trey, switch positions he just may, lives by the bay, allergic to hay, solid addition okay. Sorry, we had to.
Kyle Christy, K. Rule 1: Have as many kickers/punters as possible on roster.  Rule 2: Sign one of nation’s best. Rule 3: Win special teams.
Jeff Driskel, QB. Nation’s top passer. Pro-style dream. Rocket arm and lightning quick release. Mobile, but doesn’t need to be. Future star.
Jabari Gorman, S. First Will Muschamp commit and hard pushed by the coach. Will look to add bulk and strength to his frame.
Chris Johnson, S. Big hitter. BIG HITTER. Always around the ball. Field intelligence and pursuit speed. And, big hitter.
Tommy Jordan, T. Tall, but needs to add weight. Agile lineman who plays through the whistle and blocks to the second level.
Hunter Joyer, FB. May be most pleased with the offensive change. Nation’s top fullback and absolute mauler. Instant TBG favorite.
A.C. Leonard, TE. Bringing back the tight end.  Wavered, but always came back around. Great size and hands. Can also play slot receiver.
Javares McCoy, WR. We like Lakeland. Speedster with great acceleration and agility. Has the ability to simply outrun the defense.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB. There’s on-the-field speed and then there’s Purifoy’s on-the-field speed. Great vision on both sides of the ball.
Marcus Roberson, CB. One of the nation’s top CBs. Uses height to his advantage. Ball hawk with great hands and take-it-to-the-house ability.
De’Ante Saunders, S. Pop goes the weasel cause the weasel say pop! Don’t believe the rankings. Saunders is more talented than that.
Valdez Showers, CB. We’re back to that fast thing again. SEC speed is had by many and Showers is one of them. Can stick with anyone.
Graham Stewart, LB. Renamed Steve Lattimer. Find a picture, you’ll see why. Great late addition. Plays much bigger than he actually is.
Ja’Juan Story, WR. Thank you Stan Drayton. Thank you Ohio State for hiring Stan Drayton. Story is a Gator. A tall, receiving Gator.
Trip Thurman, G. A big ‘un. Hard to get off his feet. Great at using his hands to block. Solid pass blocker, can improve run blocking.
Tevin Westbrook, DE. Explosive first step and quick to the ball. Great speed to the outside which he frequently uses to get by linemen.

Committed? A.C. Leonard, Yes; Jeoffrey Pagan, Um…

Keep up with the series of events surrounding A.C. Leonard.  The University Christian (Jacksonville, FL) tight end was one of the first to join Florida’s 2011 recruiting class.  As the recruiting cycle gained steam, Leonard became a well known star and sought after prospect.  While visiting Gainesville to watch the Gators face LSU, he supposedly said he was bored during the game.  Not long after, Leonard decommitted, but mentioned Florida was still in the race.  He then allegedly said the Gators were completely out of it and his list only included other schools.

The A.C. Leonard saga has now come full circle.  Leonard has recommitted to Florida and this time it’s final.
Or as final as it can be until national signing day, which is still a long four months away.  Nothing is certain until a recruit signs his letter of intent and sometimes not even after that point.  Whether Leonard ends up signing with the Gators is anyone’s guess, but he appears as solid as anyone can be in giving a verbal commitment.
Leonard has always believed Florida was the best place for him and that he wanted to become a Gator, but outside influences got to him which led to last week’s decommitment.  It happens all the time.  Coaches, players, or other recruits sway a recruit to go against his instincts, but sometimes they come back around.  It wasn’t long before the star tight end came back to the orange and blue and realized that he had made the right decision in the first place.
And now Leonard is done.  The recruiting process is rarely done for anyone until he signs on the line, but occasionally some prospects do end it early.  They make a “final” commitment and stop taking calls from other schools.  They don’t visit other campuses.  They are effectively done.  Leonard appears to be one of those, but after the last few days it’s easy to assume that anything could happen.  Until we see him on the field in a Gator uniform, we can all just keep our fingers crossed.  The same is true of anyone committed at the moment.
On the other side of the ball, fellow Rivals100 member Jeoffrey Pagan may not be as committed.  Not in that solid category, but instead in the soft one.  The Asheville (Asheville, NC) defensive end is still verbally committed to Florida, but likes a few other schools and isn’t afraid to name them.  Among those are Clemson, Georgia Tech, Oregon, and Tennessee.
While Pagan is still considered a Gator, he’ll be one to take his visits and heavily weigh all of his options.  In the end, distance may be a factor.  Don’t expect this one to be over until February.  Clemson is close enough to Pagan’s hometown to make the transition very smooth for the defensive end.  While Florida isn’t the other side of the country, it may be a little more of a trip than Pagan would want to make and could be a deciding factor.
The good news for Gator fans is that Pagan has not decommitted and continues to mention Florida favorably.  He feels he fits in and could definitely see himself spending his college years with the Gators.  If there’s one position that stands out for Florida this year, it may very well be defensive end.  But his recruitment remains wide open and that makes fans nervous.  Pagan is a talented pass rusher and run stopper who is only going to get stronger and possibly even faster.  Feel free to drool at the thought of him coming around the corner and taking down an unsuspecting quarterback.
By now, you’re scratching your head about Leonard’s commitment, decommitment, and recommitment and you’re wondering why Pagan is committed at all if it seems like he really may not be all that sure of his decision.  Here are a few words to ease your mind: this is recruiting.
This is nothing new and both situations are examples of what has been happening for years.  Recruits pull the trigger before they’re ready.  They use words like “soft” or “solid” when discussing their commitment status.  They say they’ve made the final choice just to change their mind a few days, weeks, or months later.  They spurn a school for a rival only to end up at the first school again.  They mention their “final” lists then have completely different “final” lists later.  Basically, they’re teenagers.
None of what recruits do should surprise any of us, but it does.  It does because we love the game.  Both college football as a whole and the recruiting game all by itself.  We develop crushes on certain players and get excited when they make their announcements.  We’re even to the point that we watch those announcements unfold on national cable networks.  We eat it up and are the reason why it has become the spectacle that it is.
There’s nothing wrong with that.  We thrive on the entertainment factor in it all.  We enjoy following a kid through his high school (and sometimes even middle school) years up until he runs out of the tunnel wearing our favorite team’s uniform.  We also secretly like it when our team goes up against a kid we coveted.  It’s part of the sport.  It’s all part of the passion.
There’s also nothing wrong with the way these kids handle the process.  It has become such a circus over the years that it’s hard to expect them to make a decision and stick with it.  When a recruit announces his choice it’s not like every other school immediately stops pursuing him.  In most cases they actually get more persistent.
Get as frustrated as you want, but be reminded that others that we supposedly revere do the same thing (Billy Donovan anyone?).  Urban Meyer even had us all thinking the Gators would have a new head coach in 2010.  Each and every one of us has flip-flopped on a decision, and not just minor ones.
Shake an angry fist at a kid who decommits or curse under your breath at a recruit who picks a rival – that’s your right as a passionate fan – but just remember it’s their decision, not yours.  Leonard may sign elsewhere or he may truly be done with recruiting.  Pagan may stay pledged to Florida or he may decide to stay closer to home.  Just enjoy the ride.

Did Offensive Uncertainty Lead to A.C. Leonard’s Decommitment?

By now you’ve heard the news.  University Christian (Jacksonville, FL) tight end A.C. Leonard has decommitted from Florida.  Leonard had been long rumored to be the least “solid” of those recruits committed to the Gators, but he has now cut the cord.

Leonard is the #46 player listed on the Rivals100 and is putting together a solid senior season.  He has 26 receptions and six touchdowns in only five games.  Impressive for a high school tight end.  And something making him even more desired by big schools everywhere.  Because of the interest from other programs, Leonard has the chance to go wherever he wants, but is it because of them or Florida that he has chosen to open up his recruitment?
According to Rivals.com, Leonard described his visit to Florida this past weekend as “boring.”  He also declined comment when asked what caused him to decommit.  You have to wonder if the offense has anything to do with it.
Florida’s offensive output has been criticized by many this season, but the Gators continued to blaze the recruiting trail.  Despite a relatively quiet few weeks, Florida remained in good shape with a number of top prospects.  But now that has all changed with Leonard’s decision and rumors another highly-touted prospect may have left at halftime because he too was bored.
Leonard says he’s still considering Florida and hasn’t made a final list.  With three official visits left, he could still return to Gainesville (his trip for the LSU game was unofficial), but things don’t currently look good for the Gators.  Players have decommitted in the past to only recommit in the future, but this situation seems different.  Is this something many will blame on the offense?  Or just a teenager unsure of his decision?