Florida QB Emory Jones transferring after 2 spring practices

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Quarterback Emory Jones is leaving Florida after just two days of spring practice.

Jones announced he is entering the NCAA transfer portal, an about-face for a fifth-year senior who said earlier this week he wanted to give new coach Billy Napier and his staff a chance.

“After many conversations with my family and after putting a lot of thought into my future, I have decided to enter the transfer portal,” Jones said in a social media post. “I am proud to say that I will continue my education at the University of Florida with the goal of becoming a Gator Graduate at the end of the spring semester.”

Jones started 12 games for Florida in 2021, completing 64.7% of his passes for 2,734 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Jones will have two years of eligibility remaining wherever he lands.

“Emory has conducted himself with nothing but class and selflessness,” coach Billy Napier said in a statement. “It is not surprising that he has earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and this entire organization.

“I am proud of him for everything he’s accomplished and for his commitment to complete his degree this spring. He is a young man with a bright future, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Jones must have felt like he didn’t have much of a shot at starting for the Gators this fall. He entered spring football vying for the No. 1 job with front-runner Anthony Richardson, who is recovering from offseason surgery to repair cartilage damage in a knee.

Florida has three other QBs in the mix: Ohio State backup Jack Miller transferred to Gainesville in December and joined redshirt freshmen Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna.

Jones was always considered a wild card, especially since he had one foot out the door before Florida played UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl. That game, a 29-17 loss in Tampa, seemed to seal his fate. Jones completed 14 of 36 passes for 171 yards and no touchdowns in one of his worst performances of the season.

But Napier and his staff convinced Jones to stick around and see what happens.

“I honestly went in telling them I didn’t want to be here,” Jones said. “They watched the film, went over everything and said that I am very talented, and they can do a lot to change how I played in the past. And I watched film on their quarterback last year. He’s very talented, and he did a lot of great things. That definitely sold me.”

But not for long.

Transferring could qualify as the latest setback for Jones, who tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in interceptions (13) with Kentucky’s Will Levis last season. His 19 TD passes landed him ninth in the league.

Former Florida coach Dan Mullen benched Jones during a loss at LSU last October and finally turned to Richardson, who looked dynamic in a backup role early in the season. Richardson played well against the Tigers and started the following week against top-ranked and eventual national champion Georgia. But he threw two interceptions and fumbled before leaving the game with a concussion in the lopsided loss.

Richardson sprained a knee the following week dancing in the hotel the night before playing at South Carolina. Richardson, who dealt with injuries in high school, also missed two games earlier in the season following a strained right hamstring.

Jones started against the Gamecocks despite dealing with flu-like symptoms all week and played with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand. He got the nod again during the final four games of the season.

He thanked teammates, coaches and fans in his announcement.

“We have shed blood, sweat and tears together,” he said. “We have had ups and downs together. We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel together. And through it all, you have had my back and have been by my side. All I can say is thank you.

“The memories that we formed will never be forgotten.”

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”