No NFL talk from Florida juniors yet

With four Florida defensive players and tight end Jordan Reed all eyeing a potential early departure for the NFL, it wouldn't be a surprise if it were constantly brought up in the locker room and meetings rooms of the football complex. It's a tough decision for the players to make, but the focus has remained on the Sugar Bowl. It hasn't always been that way in recent years at Florida.

"None," senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said about NFL talk from the juniors. "Whereas when I was a younger guy, I used to hear it all the time, ‘Oh man, I'm leaving. I don't want to be here anymore. I'm going to go get money.'

"This year — not one bit."

The reason, according to Hunter, is simple. The upperclassmen take pride in the 11-1 regular season record during 2012, and they're proud of bringing the program back to the elite level it was at when they first came to Gainesville.

For the senior that are heading out and the juniors that might go as well, the focus is on closing the season out with a win and a 12-1 record for the season.

"Guys are just locked in on the task we have to do now," Hunter said. "And that's winning this next bowl game. There hasn't been a lot of time to worry about the NFL or the next step or whatever."

That's even the case with the coaches. Florida head coach Will Muschamp has said since the end of the Florida State game that he has had preliminary conversations with the juniors about their decisions that will have to be made after the Sugar Bowl.

The defensive juniors haven't spoken with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as much. Quinn's ten-year career as an NFL coach would seem like a valuable asset for the defensive players trying to make a decision, but the conversations haven't happened yet.

"I was thinking (conversations happening) would be the case, but I've stayed back a little bit and waited for them to come and use me as a resource if they want my opinion on it," Quinn said. "I would certainly give it, but it hasn't really come up as much as maybe I would have thought that it would."

The conversations will come. If they haven't at this point, Quinn expects it to be after the Sugar Bowl. Underclassmen eligible for the NFL have until January 15 to declare their intentions.

It's an unfamiliar situation for the Florida coaching staff. They didn't have any players leave early last season, and there weren't many that heavily considered it. While Quinn has experience in the NFL, he doesn't want to get in the way of the decision each player has to make for himself.

"It's more of a personal decision for them," Quinn said. "I wouldn't feel comfortable with, ‘You should come back' or ‘You should stay.' Ultimately that's one they have to make. It would be hard for a guy to say, ‘You've gotta come back,' and then he got hurt or ‘You gotta go,' and he wasn't ready."

There are plenty of factors that go into the decisions for juniors looking at leaving for the NFL. There are times when a player doesn't have anything left to prove and is physically ready for the next level. Experience, graduation and potential can also play into the decision being made.

Above them all, the money plays a factor.

"I would say a lot … a lot," Hunter said when asked how much money plays into it. "Not being able to have money in school hurts guy a lot. I know guys struggle back home financially. To get out and make a living for themselves and their family, some guys just have to do it."

Whenever the juniors look at making their final decisions, Hunter's advice is to go to the coaches with the best view on the players' futures.

"Talk to Dan Quinn and Bryant Young," Hunter said. "That's the best advice I can give. Those guys know it. They wouldn't lie to us. They love us, they really do. I know they really care about us and won't let us make a bad decision. Ultimately the decision is ours, but those guys will give you the best advice they can."

Those conversations with assistants will start happening soon.

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