Less than two years after signing on to be a Florida Gator, De’Ante Saunders is now an ex-Florida Gator.
While UF has yet to confirm the move, Saunders told the Gainesville Sun that he was granted a release from his scholarship a couple of days ago. “It’s been a long time coming,” Saunders told the paper.
The safety was a member of Will Muschamp‘s first Gators recruiting class.
Said Saunders, “Nothing against Florida or coach Muschamp, but I just needed a fresh start.”
Saunders started 16 games in his two seasons in Gainesville, including nine as a true freshman last season and seven this season. He was suspended for unspecified violations of team rules in November of this year, sending him to the sidelines for the final two games of the regular season. The sophomore had previously been ruled out of the Gators’ Sugar Bowl matchup with Louisville as well.
Oddly enough, Saunders also confirmed to the Sun that Louisville is “[t]he top school I’m considering right now” as a transfer destination. The Cardinals’ head coach, Charlie Strong, was UF’s defensive coordinator during a sizable portion of Saunders’ recruitment.
Coming out of high school in Deland, Fla., Saunders was a three-star member of UF’s 2011 recruiting class. He was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 27 safety in the country.
Nebraska will be first in line to accept a bowl invitation when it arrives in the mail, despite going 5-7 this season. The Huskers, who are first in line among 5-7 candidates based on APR scores, will reportedly accept a bowl invitation to fill the first vacancy left to fill once all bowl-eligible teams are slotted into the postseason mix.
Missouri released a statement earlier today saying it will not accept a bowl invitation following a 5-7 season. The Tigers would have been the second team among 5-7 teams to receive a bowl invitation based on APR scores. According to a report by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Kansas State would be next in line, followed by Minnesota, San Jose State, Illinois and Rice.
Missouri and Nebraska would appear to have different agendas of course. Nebraska is coming off the first season under new head coach Mike Riley, while Missouri is in the midst of a full coaching search. The decision not to go to a bowl game allows Missouri’s coaching staff in place under the now retired Gary Pinkel to pursue new opportunities without having bowl preparations get in the way.
Maryland will have a new head coach in 2016. Whoever that head coach ends up being will have to find a way to replace one of Maryland’s best players. Defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue says he will skip his final year of eligibility with the Terrapins and declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Ngakoue was the second in the Big Ten with 13.0 sacks this season, trailing only Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib. Ngakoue’s sack total is a Maryland school record and was one of the few reasons for optimism for Maryland’s dreadful football season, which ended with just three wins.
A 5-7 team is going to go bowling this season, but Missouri will not be one of them. Missouri athletics director Mack Rhoades released a statement Monday evening confirming the Tigers will not accept any bowl invitation.
“Following this weekend’s football games, there have been significant discussions nationally concerning 5-7 teams participating in bowl games,” the statement read. “After careful consideration, we have decided it is not in the best interest of our football program to seek permission from the NCAA to participate in a bowl game. Our focus remains on identifying the right leader for our program and moving forward with the transition process.”
Missouri would have been among the first of the 5-7 schools to receive an invitation to whatever bowl is left needing to fill a bowl spot this season after it became mathematically impossible to fill all available bowl spots with bowl-eligible teams. Based on APR scores, Missouri was expected to be one of the first 5-7 schools to fill an empty spot. Nebraska would be the first school in line base don APR scores, followed by the Tigers. Not anymore.
The decision also means Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel has coached his final game for the Tigers. After announcing his retirement earlier in the month, effective at the end of the season, Pinkel was prepared to coach until the end of the season even if that mean going to a bowl game. As noted in the statement, Missouri is focused on hiring a successor to Pinkel, and that search continues to develop.
Now, what other schools are going to forfeit a bowl trip?
It was a long season for fans of the UCF Knights, but at least one bar may have been the biggest loser of all. Orlando bar The Basement committed to giving away free beer during UCF football games after starting the season with four losses. The free beer promotion would continue until the Knights won a game, which of course never happened. USF demolished UCF on Thanksgiving night to bring an end to a dreadful 0-12 season in Orlando. So, what was the final tab?
An estimated total of 15,000 free beers were given away to patrons during UCF games this season, and the promotion is expected to continue into the 2016 season.
“We thought the next two games after we came up with the offer were our most winnable games of the season,” Jake Whitacre, marketing director for The Basement, said in a local TV interview. “Once we lost those two we realized we had really gotten ourselves into a hole.”
Whitacre said the bar still ended up making money thanks to customers buying other beverages in addition to receiving free beer.
If you were curious, UCF opens the 2016 season at Michigan unless they fill a scheduling vacancy on September 3.