tampabay.com

Troubled lineman dismissed

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published November 5, 2006


NASHVILLE - One week after serving as a captain against Georgia, Florida dismissed senior defensive tackle Marcus Thomas for violating rules of his reinstatement, leaving it without a vital member of its front seven.

"Marcus did not meet his responsibilities and obligations to remain on the team," coach Urban Meyer said in a statement released during the 25-19 victory against Vanderbilt.

When asked for clarification after the game, Meyer said it was a "very emotional" thing for the team, but "young people have got their own life to live, so he's dismissed from the team."

Thomas said early Saturday evening he was dismissed because he failed to attend a mandatory drug treatment class and took a trip to his hometown of Jacksonville. His reinstatement rules dictated he attend classes and not leave town, he said.

Thomas, 21, was suspended for the season opener and again on Sept. 20 after failing a second test for marijuana, his mother, Sheila Mote, said at the time. Thomas appealed the suspension, was successful and reinstated Oct. 5.

In all, he was suspended for three games.

As part of his reinstatement, Thomas was undergoing treatment and being tested several times per week.

"In this situation, when you've got a problem, you've just got to try to get help," said senior defensive tackle Steven Harris, one of Thomas' best friends. "Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't work. We've been trying to work with him ... but I guess it wasn't enough."

Thomas played in 41 games in his career with 31 starts. He surpassed 150 tackles against Auburn on Oct. 14. In five games this season, he had 15 solo tackles, 11 assists and four sacks.

"You hate to lose any player," co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said. "You just feel bad because you look at the talent he has; and not just the talent, but you look at the relationship he had with the players. But I think they understand."

With Thomas out, sophomore Derrick Harvey started at end and junior Ray McDonald moved to tackle to play in the slot vacated by Thomas. The players said they are saddened but prepared to move on.

"It hurts for him not to be here," Harris said. "But we're just trying to focus on our season and keep moving."

SEC TITLE GAME TICKETS: Season-ticket holders can purchase immediately until 5 p.m. Nov. 15 with tickets costing $60. Student sales begin at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 with tickets costing $35. For details, call toll-free 1-877-428-6742.

INJURY UPDATE: Florida's offensive line is in peril. Center Steve Rissler injured his left knee early but returned. Right guard Drew Miller has an ankle and Achilles' injury and was in a boot after the game. Guard Jim Tartt also has an ankle injury.

Receiver Jemalle Cornelius injured his shoulder with 1:20 remaining in the third but isn't expected to miss any time.