Muschamp puts stamp on UF program by dismissing Jenkins

Before he even coached his first game as head coach at Florida, Will Muschamp made it known to his players that things will be done his way in Gainesville — no matter how unpopular the decision may or may not be in the locker room.

On Tuesday, the former Texas defensive coordinator dismissed cornerback Janoris Jenkins — the team’s best defender at a position lacking experience on the depth chart — following Jenkins' second drug-related arrest in three months.

Janoris JenkinsICONJanoris Jenkins' dismissal leaves the Florida secondary thinner than expected.

After numerous off-the-field transgressions for Gator players during the Urban Meyer era, Muschamp decided that accountability is still more important than production on the field, even in a sport where winning ultimately determines the fate of a head coach.

The three-year starter, who arguably could have had his name called in the first round on Thursday if he entered the NFL Draft, was a first-team All-SEC selection last season and has eight career interceptions. His dismissal leaves a major hole in UF’s secondary.

The Gators will now look to sophomore Cody Riggs and redshirt junior Jeremy Brown to carry the load. Riggs appeared in every game last season, including three starts, and had one interception. Brown started 10 games in 2010, notching three interceptions, after missing two seasons with a serious back injury. Fifth-year senior Moses Jenkins will also be in the mix after missing most of last year with an elbow injury.

While that trio saw extensive reps this spring, none of them have the extensive experience or immense talent as Janoris Jenkins.

Muschamp will also look to his Class of 2011 for help in the defensive backfield. De’Ante Saunders was an early enrollee who’s been listed as a backup at nickel corner. Marcus Roberson will arrive this summer but he could be in the mix at safety.

No matter who ends up getting significant playing time, the loss of Jenkins is huge. But cleaning up a program that featured more than 30 arrests during the Meyer era was Muschamp’s biggest priority, and Jenkins’ dismissal is a great start. Of course, Gator fans will feel a lot different if the defense is giving up big plays through the air on Saturday afternoons next fall.

But a move had to be made. And while the decision may not have been an easy one, it was the right one for the betterment of the program — one certain to be run much differently than in the previous regime.

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