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Florida Gators dismiss defensive back John Huggins from team

The sophomore, accused of battery in October, hasn’t been with UF during fall camp because of what the Gators have called a family issue.
Florida defensive back John Huggins (26) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Charleston Southern Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida won 53-6. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Published Aug. 10
Updated Aug. 11

Florida dismissed defensive back John Huggins from the team Saturday after a week of facing questions about the talented sophomore’s past and future.

Huggins hasn’t been with the Gators during preseason camp because of what Florida has called a family issue.

His absence led to questions from reporters, which led to the release of an October police report in which a 19-year-old female tutor accused Huggins of putting his hands on her neck to try to strangle her during one of their sessions. The woman chose not to pursue a criminal case, and Huggins was never arrested or charged with a crime.

RELATED: Why I resurfaced October allegations against the Florida Gators’ John Huggins

UF didn’t give a reason for Huggins’ dismissal.

Coach Dan Mullen said punishment for the October allegation was handled at the time. Huggins missed five games last season after the police report was filed before returning to the field.

RELATED: Five Florida Gators have now been accused of violence against women under Dan Mullen

Huggins is one of five people involved in the football program — four players and one support staff member — who were accused of either violence against women or threatening violence against women in a 10-month span. None of them remain with the team.

In April, blue-chip early enrollee quarterback Jalon Jones was accused of sexual battery by two women. Neither woman pursued a criminal case, and Jones transferred to Jackson State.

That month, 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, and Yelverton was fired.

In May, defensive back Brian Edwards was arrested on a complaint that he grabbed his girlfriend by the neck during a fight. The case was dropped, and Edwards transferred to Central Michigan.

Last summer, four-star freshman Justin Watkins was accused of striking his girlfriend and wrapping his hands around her throat. Watkins was placed on probation and left the program, but his case was reopened recently after he violated the terms of his probation.

Huggins, a three-star recruit in high school, made a minimal impact last season as a true freshman. He appeared in eight games as a backup and special teams contributor, finishing with three tackles.

But the 6-foot-1, 206-pound Deltona native had a breakout spring, highlighted by an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown in the spring game.

“It’s big for me,” Huggins said after that exhibition, “just letting the coaches know I can play, that I can solidify myself here at the University of Florida.”

Huggins’ departure further weakens a thin but talented secondary. Though Huggins wasn’t expected to start, he had been pegged as a contributor at STAR nickelback behind Trey Dean.

With Huggins gone, Calvary Christian alumnus Amari Burney could see more time in the secondary, despite the sophomore working heavily at linebacker in the offseason.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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