Defensive tackle Leon Orr, a starter entering the 2014 season, is no longer a member of the Florida football program.
The fifth-year senior was sent home from Nashville on a Greyhound bus after a spat with coach Will Muschamp over not being placed in the starting lineup for the fifth consecutive game.
The Gators didn’t miss a beat without the enigmatic, inconsistent veteran, shellacking Vanderbilt 34-10 behind an impressive start by quarterback Treon Harris and a stifling defense that had four takeaways.
UF avenged last season’s embarrassing loss to Vandy, and after the Gators’ second conference win in a row, Muschamp divulged the details of Orr’s dismissal.
“Leon hasn’t started since the Alabama game. He hasn’t started all week at practice,” Muschamp said. “He came to me [Saturday] and didn’t understand why he wasn’t starting. He said he was going to go home and that was his decision. I told him, ‘You go home. You’re done. You’re not a Florida Gator anymore.’ I appreciate his contributions to our football program. He felt like he should be starting. I thought we’ve been very productive with the four guys that’s been starting.”
Muschamp continued, saying bluntly, “He’s done. He left [Saturday]. He left our football team on game day.”
In 2014, Orr had recorded 16 tackles, including 21/2 for loss, but the former four-star prospect from New Port Richey never developed into a dominant interior presence. For his career, Orr had 10 starts, with 62 tackles, 41/2 sacks and two forced fumbles, last starting Sept. 20 in a 42-21 loss at Alabama.
With Orr sidelined for two games (Tennessee, LSU) with a knee injury, the Gators turned to hybrid defensive lineman Jon Bullard at tackle, and the unit has excelled ever since.
Since surrendering a program-worst 672 yards against the Crimson Tide — including 223 yards on the ground — the Gators’ defense has been dominant.
Florida is yielding just 285 yards over the past five games, with nine takeaways and 14 sacks.
“I explained the situation [to Orr] since the Alabama game of why we’ve made a move, we’re more athletic with Bullard inside,” Muschamp said. “I like the production of the guys we have inside. I told him, ‘You’re going to go in the second series of the game.’ He said he wanted to start and he was leaving if he wasn’t starting. That’s fine. I asked the four other guys, ‘Who’s better?’ They all thought they were better. That’s the way it goes. … Guys aren’t going to put themselves above the team. Not here.”
Bullard recorded six tackles against Vandy and is second among all UF defensive linemen with 31 stops. Redshirt freshman Caleb Brantley, a reserve tackle, has played well in a backup role, too, nearly replicating Orr’s production (15 tackles, three for loss, a forced fumble) on the season.
“I didn’t even know what really happened,” Bullard said on the situation. “We had to [tune out the distraction]. Just play. We wasn’t going to slack because we lost somebody. We got players who can step up and play. Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley had to do a little more than usual, but besides that we just stepped up and did what he had to do.”