Florida has dismissed talented true freshman Gerald Willis, as first reported by Inside the Gators publisher Mark Wheeler and the Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi. Wheeler notes that this dismissal came after "yet another altercation with a teammate."
Willis's father denied the report to 247Sports's Thomas Goldkamp, and Goldkamp was declined for comment by Florida. But Willis's mother confirmed his dismissal to Gator Country's Andrew Spivey, and then Florida confirmed it from its official Twitter account.
Statement from UAA: Gerald Willis will be transferring from the football program.— GatorZone Football (@GatorZoneFB) January 6, 2015
No matter the truth of why Willis was dismissed, the "yet another altercation" makes plenty of sense.
Whispers around the program had Willis as a candidate to depart from or be dismissed by Florida as long ago as the summer of 2014. And Willis's problems with a hot temper and bad decision-making stretch back to his high school days, and a Twitter interaction with then-fellow Florida commit Khairi Clark. Goldkamp's report notes that Willis missed two games early this season (Willis recorded DNPs against Kentucky and Alabama) for undisclosed discipline issues.
Then, Willis had a well-publicized altercation with Florida quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg back in October. In that incident, a dispute over cleats turned into a fight between Mornhinweg and Willis that resulted in police being called to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and filing an incident report. A source told the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune then that Willis would play against LSU, and he did.
Will Muschamp downplayed that situation, explaining it as a misunderstanding gone wrong. But Willis wasn't done misbehaving.
In Florida's game against Florida State, Willis shoved Jameis Winston while standing out of bounds as the FSU quarterback stepped out across Florida's sideline, drawing a personal foul penalty. Willis was sent to the locker room after that, and Muschamp told reporters in his post-game press conference that he would have dismissed Willis from the team had he remained as coach.
Instead, Willis played for the Gators in the Birmingham Bowl, forcing a crucial fumble on a goal line series.
Three days later, he is no longer a Gator.
Florida coach Jim McElwain sent this tweet last night, after his first full team meeting with players and assistant coaches:
1 rule. Pretty simple. Do What's Right.— Jim McElwain (@CoachMcElwain) January 6, 2015
That's been interpreted — correctly, I believe — as what McElwain told his team about his standards for behavior. By dismissing Willis, who has comported himself as a churlish, childish menace on and off the field, I believe he's done the right thing for Florida.
And, for Willis's sake, I hope it's the right thing for a talented athlete who needs to learn many hard lessons about how to live life.