GAINESVILLE — The number of players leaving Florida early for the NFL is up to four today, with potentially more before it's over.
Junior C Maurkice Pouncey and DE Carlos Dunlap said Monday that they will bypass their senior season and declare for the NFL draft. CB Joe Haden and TE Aaron Hernandez announced their departures last week.
Maurkice Pouncey's twin, Mike, decided to remain in school for his senior season. Dunlap, who was the defensive MVP of the 2008 BCS title game, is projected to be a first-round draft choice. He led the Gators with nine sacks in 2009 and finishes his collegiate career tied for No. 10 on Florida's all-time sack list with 191/2. He had 38 tackles in 13 games this season, 101/2 tackles for loss and six pass breakups. He was suspended for the SEC Championship Game after he was arrested early Dec. 1 and charged with DUI. The status of the case is pending.
"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.
Maurkice Pouncey is the No. 2 center in the draft, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. For most of the season, the twins said there was no way one would leave the other behind. But Maurkice's draft status is higher, and by season's end, the players said it was a strong possibility Mike would remain. The Pounceys started every game last season. Mike, who played right guard last season, is expected to move to center next season.
Sinclair out: Former gymnast Melanie Sinclair will not return to the team. Sinclair, a nine-time All-American, was arrested in October on charges of storing firearms, televisions and computers, which police say were taken in a series of burglaries by her then-boyfriend. She was suspended indefinitely, and coach Rhonda Faehn said Monday that the dismissal was in Sinclair's best interest.
"I made the decision that it's best that she focus on her academics," Faehn said. "She is continuing to go to school here, and she's promised me she's going to get her degree from here. I think that's best. She really needs to focus on making positive choices in her life and getting her life back on track. And I believe that's what she's doing.
"Obviously we miss her, and we miss her spunk, but at the same time, she has to do what she needs to do."
The No. 8 Gators open their home season against No. 7 Arkansas at 7 p.m. Friday.
Visiting Vols: The women's basketball team will host Tennessee at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Gators opened the SEC season with a split last week — an overtime win over Auburn then a loss Sunday at Georgia.
Florida coach Amanda Butler said that even in the loss, the Gators showed a toughness that has developed lately that will be vital as the season progresses.
"That's going to be key for this team is to play 40 minutes of tough basketball," Butler said. "Not 25 or 32 or even 35; it's got to be 40 minutes, especially when you go on the road and you're trying to get SEC road wins, which is one of the toughest things that we do."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.