When trying to uncover the plans of an individual making a major decision, there’s almost always drama — especially in sports.
Media and fans cling to any possible hint to try to figure what the decision will be before it’s announced.
It happens pretty much daily in recruiting with recruitniks hanging heavily on every word in an effort to get a read on where a prospect is going. Perhaps they mentioned School A before School B in an interview, so that definitely means they’re inking with School A.
It happens once players arrive on campus, too. For instance, Florida Gators football fans and media members look for any evidence they can about whether back-up quarterback Jacoby Brissett will stay at UF or transfer after the season.
It continues to happen in regards to Florida’s talented crop of five juniors. “Will they stay or will they go?” has been the question on the minds of many all season long and even more so since the regular season ended with a 37-26 win at Florida State on Nov. 24.
That said, it happened Saturday in New Orleans where the No. 3 Gators (11-1) are preparing to play Louisville in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30 ET on Wednesday. UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had what some may have considered a slip of the tongue while looking ahead to next season’s linebacker corps.
“So I feel like those three moving forward, and Jelani coming back would be the four guys,” Quinn said.
Wait, what? Did Quinn just say junior linebacker Jalani Jenkins was coming back?
Taken out of context, it sure sounds like it Quinn accidently made mention of something that everyone involved were not supposed to mention until after the bowl game.
However, if given the opportunity to clarify his statement, Quinn likely would have added a big “IF” in there somewhere, or explain how he simply was hopeful his starting linebacker would be back for a senior season.
In fact, Quinn did exactly that with this follow-up three questions later:
“When you were talking about 2013, you mentioned Jelani. Are you planning on having him back or has he told you he’ll be back?” asked a reporter.
Quinn’s response ended the short-lived speculation. Certainly his intentions were not meant to expose Jenkins’ plans.
“I hope so,” he said. “We’ll kind of visit those guys after the game as far as who will go, who won’t. He’s certainly someone who will be eligible to (enter the draft). To those guys’ credit, they’ve done a good job of staying locked in on the ballgame.”
Jenkins is one of five Florida juniors with major decisions to make about whether to cut their college careers a year short. Defensive end Dominique Easley, safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and tight end Jordan Reed are the others.
Quinn often is asked about juniors entering the draft, and for good reason. He coached in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks during a 10-year career from 2001-10. He certainly knows more than most as far as what teams will be looking at in evaluating each of these juniors.
It’s also important to note this was not the first time Quinn’s been quoted about being hopeful juniors return for their senior seasons. In other words, there’s likely nothing more to Quinn’s quote on Jenkins than what he explained in his follow-up answer.
“There hasn’t been a lot of talk, at least with me, where or when or what or how,” Quinn said in regards to the juniors with upcoming draft decisions. “So that way we’re going to do all of the stuff and get into the game and anybody that needs to address that kind of stuff we’re going to address it after the ballgame.”
Often people try to find out if juniors have “submitted paperwork” in an effort to test the waters before entering the draft. That’s not an positive indication of their plans as most of the draft-eligible juniors with any chance of being drafted already have submitted that paperwork through the University of Florida to the NFL College Advisory Committee. In turn, the committee offers feedback to those hopefuls about where they’re likely to be drafted if they were to declare early.
Rumors have and will continue to fly around for at least another week. None of those players, and none of their teammates or coaches, plan to speak out publicly about their plans.
Quinn’s quote certainly is not the first quote taken out of context, nor will it be the last, when there’s a major decision by an individual that can impact a team so greatly.
Perhaps the best answer is not to answer much at all, which did the trick for Easley when he was asked about his “future plans” on Friday.
“I’d rather not talk about that right now,” Easley said. “It’s difficult. It’s my future. It’s a difficult process.”
After Wednesday’s game, fans and media may not immediately learn what the five juniors will do. They will have nearly two more weeks, until a Jan. 15 deadline, to declare for the draft. Even then, it may not be their final answer as they have until Jan. 18 to withdraw their name from draft consideration while still retaining their college eligibility.