Keanu Neal will not return to Florida for his senior season.
The safety announced via his Instagram account Wednesday afternoon that he is leaving school early for the NFL Draft. Neal is expected to be drafted in the first three rounds and received a top-60 projection from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, according to draft analyst Tony Pauline.
"This was honestly the hardest decision I ever made," Neal wrote, "but prayer and family support helped a lot. … It’s time to take the next step in my life and attain my dream."
Neal made a name for himself for his hard hits from the defensive backfield. The Bushnell, Florida, native finished third on the team with 96 tackles — including a team-best 51 solo tackles — despite missing the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury. He capped his UF career with an 11-tackle outing in Florida’s 41-7 Citrus Bowl loss to Michigan.
Over his three years at UF, Neal played in 34 games, recording 146 total tackles, four interceptions and nine pass breakups.
Neal is the fifth UF underclassman to declare for the NFL Draft, joining cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, running back Kelvin Taylor, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive end Alex McCalister to leave school early in an attempt to go pro.
"First day I stepped foot on campus, I knew I made the right decision," Neal wrote. "Nothing will ever take away the memories and bonds I have gained."
With Neal’s decision, Florida is waiting on two more juniors — safety Marcus Maye and linebacker Jarrad Davis — to finalize their plans for next season.
Maye, who had a breakout season (82 tackles, two interceptions, five forced fumbles), has not indicated whether he is returning for his senior season or leaving early. Davis said he was returning next season following the Southeastern Conference Championship Game but "could have a change of heart," according to the school’s website.
With Florida losing at least three starters from its secondary in Neal, Hargreaves and senior Brian Poole, sophomore Duke Dawson and redshirt sophomore Marcell Harris will likely receive more playing time in 2016 at safety and nickel cornerback.
Rising juniors Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, who combined for 69 tackles, six interceptions and 19 pass breakups, are expected to hold down the outside cornerback spots next season.
Follow Jordan McPherson on Twitter @J_McPherson1126