Update: Dunlap suspended for SEC title game


Published: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:04 p.m.

Standout Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been suspended from Saturday's SEC Championship Game after his DUI arrest early Tuesday morning, UF coach Urban Meyer announced after practice Tuesday.

There is no timetable for the junior's possible return.

"Carlos obviously made a very poor decision," Meyer said. "I have not spoken to him or his family yet. I know you're going to ask if he's going to play. He's not going to play (Saturday). But I want to visit with him and his family first, and go from there."

Meyer said Dunlap's arrest only a few days before UF's biggest game of the season was "stunning".

"Stunning is probably a good word," Meyer said. "Young guys make decisions all the time. This one is a serious one. Yeah, stunning."

Meyer would not comment on Dunlap's playing future at UF. A junior, Dunlap is considered a likely candidate to forgo his senior season because he projects as a first-round NFL Draft pick next spring.

"I haven't thought about anything other than, stunning," Meyer said. "I'm very close with him and his family. I need to visit with them tonight."

Dunlap, 20, was arrested at 3:25 a.m. Tuesday by Gainesville Police Officer Robert Rogers at the signal light at Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest 34th Street.

According to police, Rogers was dispatched to the area to check out reports of a reckless driver in a Chrysler. Rogers said when he found the car matching the description, it was stopped although the traffic light was green. Rogers said he watched the light cycle through several times but the car remained stopped.

When Rogers approached the car, he said he saw Dunlap alone in the car and apparently asleep while at the wheel.

"The front windows of the defendant's (Dunlap's) vehicle were cracked slightly and officers on the scene were unable to wake the defendant," Rogers wrote in the arrest report. "Loud repetitive commands were given to the defendant who would only open his eyes momentarily and nod back off."

Rogers said he reached in through the slightly opened window to unlock the car and noticed that it was still in gear. After shifting the car into park and turning off the ignition, Rogers and other officers said they noticed Dunlap's breath smelled of alcohol, his eyes were watery and bloodshot, that he had trouble maintaining his balance and did poorly on field sobriety tests.

Dunlap reportedly refused to submit to a breath test and told Rogers and other officers that he had been at "a gathering" and was headed home.

Dunlap was booked into the Alachua County jail on the DUI charge. Police spokesman Lt. Keith Kameg said officers were not investigating the gathering and that Dunlap was not charged with underage drinking because he was not in possession of alcohol at the time.

He was released on his own recognizance during his initial court appearance at the Alachua County Jail. Judge Mary Day Coker admonished Dunlap for underage drinking and said he cannot possess alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs that are not prescribed for him.

He was told not to drive a motor vehicle without a license and that if he was caught driving without a license he would violate the terms of his release. Florida law requires a license to be suspended when a driver refuses a Breathalyzer test.

The judge released Dunlap without bond because he has no prior adjudications and no failures to appear in court. His arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 23.

Wearing a jail-issued, green-and-white striped jumpsuit, Dunlap spoke softly when asked questions and always replied "Yes, ma'am," to the judge.

Meyer said Dunlap's arrest is obviously a distraction for the No. 1 Gators, who will face No. 2 Alabama in Saturday's SEC title game in Atlanta, with the winner advancing to the BCS Championship Game.

"We've had distraction after distraction (this season)," Meyer said. "This is a rather serious one, obviously. It is a distraction. Sometimes this team has found a way to get a little tighter in distractions. We've had a few of them this year."

In Dunlap's absence, junior Justin Trattou likely will start at defensive end. Meyer said defensive tackle Jaye Howard, a former defensive end, also will get some work at the position this week.

"Jaye Howard is a guy who is going to learn some defensive end as well because he's a big powerful body, and they're a powerful offensive football team," Meyer said. "We need some size in there.

"The good thing is we have a little depth in there."

Meyer said he was surprised Dunlap got into trouble the way he did Tuesday morning.

"He's a 2.9 GPA guy and he's never had an issue before," Meyer said. "He's a guy that comes from a good family and represents it fine. Yeah, it does (surprise me)."

Dunlap was named Defensive MVP of the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Game. He has 35 tackles and is tied for the team lead with seven sacks this season.

Dunlap led the SEC in sacks in 2008 with 9.5. Many NFL Draft analysts project that he will be a first-round pick if he decides to leave school early.

Staff writer Nathan Crabbe and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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