GAINESVILLE — Carlos Dunlap, Florida's sacks leader and a key member of the defense, was suspended for Saturday's SEC Championship Game after his arrest early Tuesday on a DUI charge after he was found asleep in his car at a traffic light.
"Carlos obviously made a very poor decision," UF coach Urban Meyer said after Tuesday's practice. "I have not talked to him or his family yet. He's not going to play, but I want to visit with him and his family first and go from there."
Dunlap, 20, appeared before Alachua County Judge Mary Day Coker on Tuesday morning and was released on his own recognizance at 9:10 a.m. The judge admonished Dunlap for underage drinking then ordered him to refrain from alcohol and illegal drugs. When asked if he understood the charges and the conditions of his release, the 6-foot-6 Dunlap leaned toward the microphone and replied, "Yes, ma'am."
The junior defensive end was the defensive MVP of last year's BCS title game. No. 1 Florida will play No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. The winner plays in the BCS title game in January.
"He's one of the best players in college football," said CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who will call Saturday's game. "He is a type of player where Alabama's offense must identify where he is, they must help whoever's blocking him with tight ends and running backs, and his absence will change the strategy of the football game."
Meyer acknowledged that Dunlap's arrest and subsequent absence from the team was a distraction but said it's nothing new for this team.
"We've had distraction after distraction; this is a rather serious one, obviously," Meyer said. "Sometimes this team has found ways to get a little tighter in distraction. We've had a few of them this year."
According to an arrest report, Officer Robert Rogers was in the area where Dunlap's 2008 red Chrysler was sitting at a complete stop at a traffic light when he observed the car remain stationary through multiple cycles of the traffic light.
When the officer approached the car, he saw Dunlap "slumped over in the driver's seat" and noticed he appeared to be asleep. The report said officers were unable to wake Dunlap, even with loud verbal commands. They reached through a slightly cracked window to unlock the car, which was still in gear.
The officers put the car in park and reported that Dunlap's breath smelled of alcohol, his eyes were bloodshot and he "performed field sobriety exercises with poor results."
Dunlap told officers he had been at a gathering and was headed home. He refused to have his breath tested and was booked into the Alachua County Jail at 5:57 a.m.
Dunlap is tied for the team lead with seven sacks and has six pass breakups and 35 tackles.
"Stunning's probably a good word," Meyer said of Dunlap's arrest. "It's also young guys make decisions all the time, and this one's a serious one. … He's a 2.9 GPA; he's never had an issue. He comes from a good family."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3389. Follow her blog at blogs.tampabay.com/gators.