Dunlap, Maurkice Pouncey opt for the NFL Draft
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 1:02 p.m.
The expected mass exodus of Florida's top juniors is now fully under way.
Two more underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft on Monday — center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Carlos Dunlap - and a third, safety Major Wright, is expected to do so. Pouncey and Dunlap join cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez as early departures.
None of Monday's announcements came as a surprise, even though there was some thought Dunlap might return for his senior season after his DUI arrest the Tuesday morning before the Dec. 5 SEC Championship Game.
Despite the arrest, and a reputation for having an inconsistent work ethic, Dunlap, who led the Gators with nine sacks last season, still projects to be a late first-round or early second-round selection.
"This took a lot of thought and prayer between me and my family, and we decided that this was the best direction for me to take," Dunlap said. "I've loved having the chance to play at Florida for coach (Urban) Meyer, and playing for coach Charlie Strong. I wouldn't be the person or the player I am today without them and the other coaches who have helped me along the way."
While one of the Pouncey twins is leaving early for the NFL, the other is not.
Maurkice is forgoing his senior year at Florida to enter the NFL Draft, while Mike is staying with the Gators for his senior season.
"This is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my life," Maurkice said Monday in a UF release. "I am glad that my brother and I made the decision to be Gators. God gave us the knowledge, strength and ability to be great players, but it is now time for my brother and me to part ways."
Maurkice, a center, projects to be a second-round draft pick. Mike, a guard who will play center his senior season, was slotted to go later in the draft.
"I'm very excited to come back and wear the orange and blue for the 2010 season," Mike Pouncey said. "I'm looking forward to being a leader on this team, having the opportunity to play center and continuing to learn from Coach Steve Addazio. It has been an honor to play here, so I can't wait to run out into The Swamp for another year."
Maurkice started 40 games at UF at guard and center. This past season, he won the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation's top center. He is the first Gator to win the award.
Side by side, the Pounceys started every game this past season.
"These are two guys who we've been able to build our program around for the last several years," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "They have provided an unbelievable amount of leadership and energy to our team. These guys embody the toughness and physical style of play that we want Florida to be known for.
"We wish Maurkice the best of luck, and we're looking forward to having Mike continue to be a leader on the team and anchor our offensive line."
Addazio, the offensive coordinator and interim head coach, said he's expecting big things out of Mike Pouncey in 2010.
"I believe he will be the top returning offensive lineman in America," Addazio said. "Coming back just gives him another opportunity to grow as a player and as a leader and will help him increase his potential versatility. Without question, Mike's future is very bright."
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