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Carlos Dunlap was arrested last night on a charge of driving under the influence


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Carlos Dunlap

GAINESVILLE - Top-ranked Florida could be without one of its best pass rushers against No. 2 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap was arrested early Tuesday and charged with driving under the influence, just days before the biggest game of the season.

"We are aware of the incident and are currently gathering more information," Coach Urban Meyer said in a statement released by the school.

Meyer was expected to address the situation in more detail after practice Tuesday. He could suspend Dunlap for Saturday's game in Atlanta.

Dunlap, a 20-year-old junior from North Charleston, S.C., was arrested at 3:58 a.m. He was released on his own recognizance about six hours later during his initial appearance at the Alachua County Jail. Judge Mary Day Coker admonished Dunlap for underage drinking, and said he cannot possess alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs that are not prescribed for him.

He was told not to drive a motor vehicle without a license, and if caught driving without a license, he would violate the terms of his release. The judge released Dunlap without bail because he has no prior adjudications and no failures to appear in court. No court date was set for the DUI charge.

Wearing a jail-issued, green-and-white striped jumpsuit, Dunlap spoke softly when asked questions and always replied "Yes, ma'am," to the judge.

According to Gainesville police spokesman Keith Kameg, an officer was dispatched to check out reports of a reckless driver near campus. When the officer spotted the car stopped at an intersection, he noticed the red 2000 Chrysler was not moving through several green lights.

The officer found Dunlap slumped over and asleep at the wheel with car in gear. The officer woke up Dunlap through a cracked window, but he "would only open his eyes momentarily and then fall back asleep," Kameg said.

The officer unlocked the door, put the car in park and turned off the ignition. Dunlap got out and "was very groggy and had difficulty speaking and listening to instructions," Kameg said.

According to police, Dunlap had watery and bloodshot eyes, and there was a smell of alcohol. Dunlap failed a field sobriety test, refused a breath test and was booked.

Dunlap, the defensive most valuable player of the national title game in January, has started every game this season for the defending champs. He has 35 tackles and is tied for the team lead with seven sacks.

In the five years Meyer has been the coach, there has been more than two dozen players involved in legal issues, but none this season before today.

Florida meets No. 2 Alabama at 4 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC title. The winner will advance to the national championship game.

Florida has plenty of experienced backups to step in if Dunlap is suspended.

William Green, a sophomore from Hoover, Ala., has played in 12 games this fall with one start. Duke Lemmens, a junior from West Lake Village, Calif., has played in nine games with one start this season. Justin Trattou, a junior from West Orange, N.J., has two starts and played in 11 games despite having a torn biceps tendon. Trattou, however, also plays quite a bit at tackle.

It was Trattou who had a possible game-saving interception against South Carolina with the Gators clinging to a slim lead in the ninth game of the season, an eventual 24-14 win.

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