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De'Ante "Pop" Saunders granted release to transfer from Florida

One of Florida's best defensive playmakers has been granted his release from Florida, according to reports.

Al Messerschmidt

Florida's glut of secondary talent has made attrition in the defensive backfield more likely than any other type of attrition for the Gators, and, after Willie Bailey's decision to transfer earlier this month, Wednesday brought reports from Gator Country's Mike Capshaw and Andrew Spivey and another from The Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi that sophomore defensive back De'Ante "Pop" Saunders has been granted his release to transfer from Florida.

Saunders told Abolverdi that his transfer has "been a long time coming" and that "I just needed a fresh start."

It has been widely rumored but never publicly reported that Saunders struggled to stay on the right side of Florida's drug-testing policy, and a pair of unspecified injuries in 2012 that resulted in Saunders missing games were often assumed to be cover for drug-related suspensions. Saunders missed Florida's first two games against Bowling Green and Texas A&M, then later missed games against Jacksonville State and Florida State, but started in seven of the eight games he played in in 2012. Saunders also made nine starts in 2011 as a true freshman.

Saunders also had a knack for making big plays that recalled Florida great Ahmad Black, snagging three interceptions, recovering two fumbles, and forcing another fumble in 20 games as a Gator. He returned an interception for a touchdown in 2011 against Furman, and scooped a ball from inches above the grass at The Swamp against Kentucky for his only interception of 2012.

Gator Country's report and a previous report had Saunders headed to Louisville as a transfer, and he told Abolverdi that's his primary target at the moment. Saunders would join both former Florida teammates Gerald Christian and Robert Clark and former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong in Louisville if he makes that his destination. Saunders will have three years to play two seasons if he transfers to an FBS school, having not taken a redshirt year.

We wish Saunders the best of luck as he begins his post-Florida life. Hopefully, he realizes that maximizing his time on earth will be easier if he focuses on maximizing his talent on the field.