GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., the team's best NFL prospect, says he is leaving with coach Will Muschamp.
Muschamp was fired Sunday, less than 24 hours after the team's sixth home loss in its last eight games. A 6-foot-3 junior from St. Petersburg, Fowler posted on his Twitter page Tuesday night that ''I came in with champ. I'm leaving with Him. Simple as that.''
The decision wasn't a surprise. Not only is Fowler considered one of the top defensive ends in college football, but he struggled Tuesday to find a scenario in which he would return to Florida next season.
Asked what it would take for him to stay, he paused for a few seconds before cobbling together an answer.
''Um, just if anything probably develops or if they were to say I was too young or something like that,'' he said.
Fowler leads the Gators with 4 1/2 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries. He also has two forced fumbles and ranks third on the team with 49 tackles.
Several other juniors could join Fowler in leaving early. Linebacker Antonio Morrison, defensive tackle Jon Bullard and running back Matt Jones are among those expected to at least check with the NFL to see where they might get drafted in May 2015.
Fowler should be the first Florida player drafted.
He has been one of the team's best defenders for three seasons, totaling 129 tackles and 10 1/2 sacks.
He offered a little insight into what was going on behind the seasons in recent weeks, saying Muschamp's job security became a distraction.
''There was just a lot of drama going on, you know, just through Champ there and things like that,'' he said. ''I feel like everybody wanting him to leave so bad that it kind of turned into a distraction. As you can see, I mean, we had the (South Carolina) game in our hands. Whenever you let the game fall out of your hands like that, there's going to be some commotion and things like that, so I understand that.''