Haden, several Florida juniors weigh NFL options

Updated: January 2, 2010, 1:52 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Florida cornerback Joe Haden already has made a decision about his senior season.

Haden declined to reveal his intentions after his team's 51-24 victory over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl on Friday night, saying he plans to make an announcement next week.

"I know what I'm going to do," Haden said.

It probably won't be good news for the fifth-ranked Gators.

Haden is widely considered college football's top cornerback and played all season with the most disability insurance he could get from the NCAA. Haden could be part of a mass exodus at Florida that would leave the program's depth chart as unsettled as its coaching staff.

"That's all part of a great program," said offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who will fill in for coach Urban Meyer during his indefinite leave of absence. "With a great program, there's going to be some change."

Florida's changes could be significant.

The Gators are losing several seniors, including quarterback Tim Tebow, receiver Riley Cooper, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, kick returner Brandon James and linebackers Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper and Dustin Doe. The departure of some underclassmen could be even more devastating.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez, running back Chris Rainey, safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, and offensive linemen Mike Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert submitted paperwork to see where they project in the NFL draft.

Haden, Dunlap, Hernandez and the Pouncey twins are considered the most likely to turn pro.

"We'll wait until after the game, maybe a couple days," Maurkice Pouncey said.

Guard Carl Johnson made his intentions known after the game.

"I love this place," Johnson said. "I need one more. My fingers are getting lonely. These two fingers have no friends yet."

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BANGED-UP GATORS: Florida running back Jeff Demps dislocated his left elbow in the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl.

Demps was injured on a 3-yard loss around the left end deep in Cincinnati territory. The sophomore came into the Sugar Bowl as Florida's second-leading rusher with 738 yards and seven touchdowns on 96 carries. He had 7 yards on three carries against Cincinnati on Friday night.

In the second quarter, Florida left guard Carl Johnson went out with a right shoulder injury.

Gators defensive tackle Terron Sanders, who started eight games this season, missed the game because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. It was unclear when Sanders was injured. He started against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game.

Meyer and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said earlier this week that the team had no significant injuries.

Justin Trattou started in place of Sanders.

The Gators also were without two backups -- safety Dee Finley (sports hernia) and defensive tackle Brandon Antwine (knee).

Kick returner Brandon James, who had surgery on his right ankle in mid-December, did not travel with the team to New Orleans.

Meanwhile, right guard Maurkice Pouncey started despite spending more than five hours at Tulane Hospital because of kidney stones.

Team officials said Pouncey had a CT scan that showed no kidney obstruction. He received four bags of intravenous fluids and was cleared to play by team physician Dr. Jay Clugston.

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CINCY'S WHITE-OUT: Cincinnati wore white helmets for the first time since 1966. The helmets were a bowl gift to players, who decided to break them out for the most important game in school history. The new helmets meant the Bearcats, who entered 12-0, were in an all-white look, with white pants and jerseys.

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BEARCAT BOON: Bourbon Street, the French Quarter and other parts of The Big Easy have been overrun by Cincinnati Bearcats fans. Florida's faithful? Well, they were outnumbered considerably.

It shouldn't be a huge surprise that the Gators failed to sell 6,500 of their 17,500 tickets to the New Year's Day game. After all, players and fans talked all season about perfection, getting to Pasadena, Calif., for the Bowl Championship Series title game and repeating. Losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game was a huge letdown for the program.

It was reflected in and around the Louisiana Superdome.

"I didn't know that about the tickets," Meyer said Thursday. "If I could get the phone and start calling season-ticket holders and say, 'Go buy these tickets,' I'd probably do it. Believe it or not, I've done that at some other places I've coached.

"I remember getting up at 4:30 in the morning because I had to drive an hour to get on a train, a tram in Salt Lake City. Unbelievable. And to ride the tram back and forth selling tickets to people to come to the Utah football games. So I'm all in it for doing it the right way. So if I could help, I'd help. But I think we're beyond that right now."

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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