Gators defensive end Gerald Willis III has had some immature moments this season, but Saturday’s sideline shove upset his coaches.
The freshman — a former five-star recruit from New Orleans — was sent to the locker room by Florida coaches after picking up a personal-foul penalty while standing out of bounds, pushing Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in the face following a long run.
“If I was still the head coach, he’d be kicked off the team,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “Ridiculous.”
Willis wasn’t ejected, but UF’s staff opted to remove him from the game for the cheap shot.
The freshman, with just 10 tackles and two hurries this season, has now hit as many quarterbacks off the field as on the gridiron, infamously fighting Florida’s third-string quarterback Skyler Morhinweg outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Oct.7.
The teammates scuffled over a pair of missing cleats, forcing campus police to respond.
Earlier in the season, Willis didn’t dress out against Kentucky and Alabama for undisclosed reasons.
Earlier this week, UF offensive coordinator Kurt Roper called hybrid tailback/slot wideout Brandon Powell the team’s “second-best skill guy.”
In the final game of the regular season, the Gators finally utilized their talented freshman.
The former Deerfield Beach star, who has only seen the field sporadically this year, had a diving 42-yard reception in the first quarter and was heavily involved in the game plan early.
Late in the fourth quarter, Powell drew a critical pass-interference penalty on fourth-and-8 to extend Florida’s failed game-winning drive.
Junior nickelback Brian Poole (two), senior safety Jabari Gorman and freshman cornerback Quincy Wilson all tallied interceptions, Florida’s first game with four picks since 2013 against Tennessee.
But the Gators lost for the second time this season (at Alabama) despite winning the turnover battle with a plus-three margin. Florida is also the first team to get four interceptions this season and not win the game.
THIS AND THAT
▪ FSU tailback Karlos Williams left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. The senior, who was injured blocking on a kickoff return, finished with 38 yards on six carries.
▪ NFL scouts from the Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants were in attendance. Meanwhile, bowl representatives from the Tax Slayer Gator Bowl and Duck Commander Independence Bowl were in the house.
▪ Florida sophomore Alex Anzalone made his first-career start at outside linebacker.
▪ With three first-half interceptions, Winston has 13 picks before halftime this season.
▪ Gators senior tight end Clay Burton caught his first career touchdown, the team’s only red-zone score all night.