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July 18, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. -There's more transfer news in Gainesville. While speaking in front of Wednesday's 2012 SEC Media Days gathering, Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard has decided to transfer from the University of Florida. Leonard's short time in Gainesville was filled with controversy and trouble. Inside the Gators takes a look at what this means going forward for Florida.
FLORIDA OVERVIEW: A four-star prospect and member of the Rivals100 out of high school, Leonard committed to Florida over Alabama, Miami and Nebraska. Immediately there were rumors stemming from his Twitter account that he was interested in transferring to UCF. He advanced past that and became the only UF freshman to catch a pass in 2011. He played in nine games and caught eight passes for 99 yards. He enrolled early at Florida.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Leonard was at his best in Florida's most personal rivalry game. Against Florida State, the then-freshman caught three passes for 65 yards, including one 24-yard reception.
WHY HE'S LEAVING: Leonard made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in February. He was addressed with misdemeanor battery charges after he allegedly pushed his girlfriend and dragged her by her hair before throwing her out of his Gainesville apartment. He was immediately suspended by the team indefinitely and Muschamp said there were conditions he would have to meet before he could return. Leonard took part in spring practice but was not allowed to play in the spring game and was expected to serve a suspension before returning to the field in 2012. But Muschamp said he met with Leonard Tuesday and the two had mutual disagreements and felt it would be best for him to move on to another program. "He needs to move on," Muschamp said.
DEPTH CHART IMPACT: Muschamp brushed aside claims that Leonard's departure would damage his depth chart too much when asked Wednesday. He said the Gators still have five scholarship tight ends. The problem is two of them are true freshmen, and the other three have bounced around from position to position since arriving at Florida. Omarius Hines will get reps at tight end but is also listed as a running back. Tevin Westbrook's UF career has been forgettable to this point, and he moved to tight end from defensive end this off-season as a result. Jordan Reed is the most prominent name but is still learning the position after starting at quarterback.
WHAT IT MEANS GOING FORWARD: This is likely crucial news for four-star freshman tight end Kent Taylor. Muschamp does not like to comment on freshmen before he sees them in camp, but Taylor would be a natural fit given the fact he is known as a pass-catching tight end who could have played outside this season regardless. Reed's development as a true tight end moves from important to a necessity. Leonard was likely in place to be one of Florida's leading receivers after he returned from his suspension. The loss is no doubt a major hit for a UF offense already trying to find its identity. However, Muschamp has made a point of leaving his discipline footprint on Florida during his short time in Gainesville. This is a decision that likely needed to happen for that to continue.
(Deal ends July 20, 2012)