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Two Gators leaving program before Sugar Bowl

Sophomore safety De'Ante "Pop" Saunders and fifth-year junior offensive lineman Matt Patchan will transfer from Florida, coach Will Muschamp announced Thursday after his team landed in New Orleans to continue preparations for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

Saunders, a three-star recruit from DeLand who has made 17 starts in two seasons in Gainesville, was set to miss the bowl game with what Muschamp said was an injury sustained against Lousiana on Nov. 10, a game in which Saunders played until the final whistle.

"Matt Patchan and [De'Ante] Pop Saunders are both transferring. I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” Muschamp said. "I think they just needed a fresh start — both guys and both situations. That’s all I’ve got to say about it."

Saunders likely would have played even more at Florida had it not been for disciplinary issues. In May of 2011, Saunders was cited on a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana, but he was not suspended for the incident and started the season opener as a true freshman. Saunders later missed the Alabama and Auburn games in 2011 for seperate issues. He also missed the first two games of the 2012 season with what Muschamp called a "hamstring injury."

A productive player when he could find his way onto the field, Saunders recorded 44 tackles and three interceptions playing mostly free safety in nickel formations for the Gators. With senior Josh Evans and junior Matt Elam both likely gone following the 2012 season, it appeared the door was wide open for Saunders to claim a starting role at safety in 2013. Instead, he will be playing elsewhere.

"He’s one of our brothers, so obviously we don’t want him leaving the program," linebacker Jon Bostic said. "But that may be what’s best for him."

According to the Gainesville Sun, Saunders is leaning toward Louisville, which is Florida's opponent on Jan. 2 in New Orleans. He would have to sit out the 2014 season and could play as a redshirt junior in 2015.

Patchan's departure seems to be more about playing time or lack thereof. After missing two whole seasons (2010, 2012) with injuries, Patchan still has one year of eligibility remaining and will not have to sit out because he has already graduated. According to the Sun, Patchan is considering joining former Florida head coach Urban Meyer at Ohio State or former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio at Boston College.

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