GAINESVILLE — We still don’t know the details of why Florida defensive back John Huggins hasn’t been with the Gators during preseason camp.
We also don’t know when he’ll return from what UF has called a family issue.
But we do know that his recent past includes the fifth accusation of violence (or a threat of violence) against a woman in coach Dan Mullen’s year-and-a-half tenure.
In October, a 19-year-old student accused Huggins of choking her during a tutoring session, according to a police report obtained this week by the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets. Huggins was upset, the report alleges, because the tutor took his phone to make sure he would stay for the entire session (which she said Huggins often failed to do).
The woman had previously been made uncomfortable because Huggins pulled her hair in an earlier tutoring session, according to the report. She did not pursue a criminal case, and no charges were filed from the battery complaint.
The case went unreported at the time but not unpunished internally. Huggins missed five games soon after the incident.
Mullen said Tuesday that Huggins’ current absence has nothing to do with whatever happened in October.
“That’s all been handled,” Mullen said.
Mullen has a timetable for Huggins’ return but isn’t sharing it publicly. He said he has “great clarity” on Huggins’ status, but he isn’t sharing that, either. There are no public records from the Gainesville Police Department, University of Florida Police Department or the state attorney’s office about other serious crimes involving Huggins.
Huggins —who had a breakout spring and was expected to be a valuable contributor in a thin secondary —was among a handful of players who didn’t participate in Monday’s scrimmage for various reasons.
“There are about 3-4 guys that are in that position, but I know all of them,” Mullen said.
The difference is that Huggins has an ugly accusation against him — one that increases a negative spotlight on Mullen and his program.
In April, blue-chip early enrollee quarterback Jalon Jones was accused of sexual battery by two different women on the same evening. Neither woman pursued a criminal case, and UF suspended him after the spring game. Jones has since transferred to Jackson State.
That same month, then-assistant director of player personnel Otis Yelverton was arrested on a complaint of cyberstalking his girlfriend and threatening to blow up her car. The case was dropped in June because of “insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.”
In May, defensive back Brian Edwards was arrested on a complaint that he grabbed his girlfriend by the neck during a fight. Edwards was kept away from team activities until that case was also dropped because of insufficient evidence. He has since transferred to Central Michigan and former UF coach Jim McElwain.
That’s four accusations against members of Mullen’s program in a seven-month stretch. That doesn’t even include a case from last summer when four-star freshman Justin Watkins was accused of striking and choking his girlfriend. All of that despite the many ways Mullen said his program tries to educate players about making good decisions.
“We do a lot, you know,” Mullen said. “I mean, how many of them are actually charged?”
Three were arrested, if you’re keeping track.
“Obviously I’m a big anti-violence against women person,” Mullen said. “I’m also a person that I really want to have all of the information as I make decisions and what happens in different situations and that’s one of the toughest deals….
“My job as a head coach is not to go in and investigate all that. I hear, here’s one report. Here’s the other report. They don’t match up. And it’s not my job to really make that decision on campus with how that works….
“I have to manage the situation, manage my players on those types of things and let the university process play or the legal process play its course.”
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.