November 19, 2017

Florida feeling confident following win

Brandon Powell is the face of Florida's pending showdown with Florida State. 

The senior from Deerfield Beach has never beaten the Seminoles during his time at UF, and this Saturday will be his last chance to do so. It seems like he's let his teammates know it. 

After their 36-7 win over UAB on Saturday, two teammates brought him up unprompted. 

First was running back Lamical Perine, who said he was just discussing the FSU game with Powell. Then there was center Tyler Jordan, who said basically the same thing. 

"We were just talking about that in the locker room," he said. "[Powell's] 0-3 against Florida State. We want to send him out with a win.”

But for Jordan, it's more than just wanting to send him out with a win. He said he's sure of it. 

"Beating Florida State’s going to be something we’re going to do," he said. 

Defensive tackle Taven Bryan is also sure of it. 

"I’m expecting honestly that we’re going to win the next game very solidly," he said. "We’ve just been taking steps and getting better and better. Next week we should have a good solid week and play way better than we did this week.”

Bryan is right. The Gators took steps forward against UAB. They rushed for a season-best 257 yards. They avoided any turnovers. They scored their second-most points of the season. But all of that matters little when the Conference USA opponent was overmatched, despite its winning record. Florida has a chance to take a real step forward this weekend against the Seminoles. 

That step forward will probably get them across the finish line, because win or lose, Florida will finish with a losing record. That makes a bowl game unlikely. So it's up to the Gators whether they want to cross in stride or limp on through. 

"We just need a couple of more fans in there," Bryan said, "and we’ll get thing loud and we’ll win a game for them."

The official attendance against UAB was 84,649, though there seemed to be far fewer fans in the stands than that number suggests. The team is hoping more fans come out against FSU despite both team having down years. 

"That's always going to be one of the pivotal games in college football," Florida coach Randy Shannon said. 

His players are hoping that brings fans back for one last game in a season that many of them would like to forget. 

It’s really big," Jordan said. "Our biggest in-state rival. Big game at The Swamp. It’s going to be a fun one. It’s something we’re going to work on all week, because we’re going to be busting our ass all week to get ready for this team.”

November 02, 2017

Zaire to start for Gators at Missouri

 

He came to Florida to play his final season of college football only to get beat out by redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. But finally, after seven contests, Malik Zaire will get his shot. 

When the Gators travel to Missouri this weekend to take on the Tigers, Zaire will start under center for the first time this season. 

"This is his opportunity," interim coach Randy Shannon said, "to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he's the starter."

Shannon said Monday he planned to shake things up and do things his way while leading the Gators through the end of the 2017 season. He made that clearer with this move, departing from former coach Jim McElwain's preference for Franks. 

Franks started six of Florida's seven games this season, amassing 830 passing yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. The remaining game was started by Luke Del Rio, who was lost for the season. 

Zaire has only played in mop-up duty, helping Florida limp to the finish line in games that were out of reach. In those two appearances, he's thrown for 142 yards and no touchdowns. 

Zaire is more mobile than Franks, who at 6-foot-6 has shown the ability to scramble some, but it's not viewed as a strength. Sometimes he also scrambles to his detriment, sensing nonexistent pressure and leaving the pocket only to lose yards near the sideline. Zaire hasn't had many opportunities to show that he can do better, but he'll get one in Columbia. 

He just has to make the most of it. Shannon said the competition between him and Franks, who will serve as the primary backup this weekend, is ongoing. 

"Today is an opportunity for him to run the offense and understand the expectations that we have for him," Shannon said. "This is not a time for him to feel comfortable and feel like he's made it. We want him to keep grinding and understand that competition is very good." 

 

October 29, 2017

Updates on Florida football, McElwain aside

Jim McElwain's firing is the news of the day, week, month and year for the Florida football program. But with the team now having lost three consecutive games, where does it go from here? A few clues were offered Saturday.

First, at quarterback, where starter Feleipe Franks managed 30 yards on 19 attempts. He was relieved by backup Malik Zaire, who managed 36 yards on six attempts and added 30 rushing yards well after the game was out of reach. 

"It’s not showing up on Saturday," Franks said of the lack of offensive improvement. "There’s a lot of things we can improve on. Like I said man. we’re not going to fold. We’re not going to just bow our heads down."

McElwain didn't address Zaire's apparent spark after the game, though his opinion matters little now. With the SEC title game now officially out of reach, it'll be interesting to see how Florida approaches the quarterback competition between Franks — the incumbent starter who played poorly in meaningful action — and Zaire — the Notre Dame graduate transfer who didn't work out as a starter but who played well on Saturday in meaningless action.

Florida's offense took a hit at running back, where leading rusher Malik Davis was injured and taken to the locker room in the first half. McElwain said he injured his knee, and reports surfaced Sunday that it was season-ending. Davis' mom told the Herald those reports were premature and he hadn't had an MRI yet, but Davis retweeted several teammates wishing him a speedy recovery. So season ending or not, it doesn't sound good. Davis, a true freshman from Tampa, leads the team with 526 yards this season. 

His counterpart Lamical Perine managed 93 yards in Davis' absence against the Bulldogs. He's up to 365 on the year, and he's scored six touchdowns. 

The other injured Florida players mentioned by McElwain were Jachai Polite (shoulder), Kylan Johnson (hamstring), Tyrie Cleveland (ankle) and Kadarius Toney (shoulder). He didn't specify any of their statuses moving forward. 

 

 

 

 

 

October 25, 2017

Gators hopeful about getting big-play receivers back against Georgia

A Florida assistant coach meets with reporters every Wednesday at noon. The coach rotates from week to week, but the procedure is usually the same: Ask about each individual player in that position group, because who knows when that coach will speak again. This Wednesday was receiver coach Kerry Dixon’s turn, but the procedure was a little different.

Only two players were asked about by name: Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney. That makes sense. When they’re on, Florida’s offense is noticeably improved. When they’re not, like against Texas A&M when they were both injured, well, Florida’s offense is even worse than usual. So heading into a game Florida (3-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) must win to stay in slim contention for the SEC eastern division title, it wasn’t surprising to hear them brought up. Because without them, Florida’s chances this Saturday against No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC), which are already bad (the Bulldogs opened as 14 ½-point favorites), are much worse.

Toney came up in the second question of Dixon’s press conference. He’s the less important of the tandem based on production. At 107 yards through the air this year, he ranks fourth on the team. But his value is more in his electricity.

He can run the ball on sweeps, he can run out of the wildcat formation, he can catch passes, and as a guy who played quarterback in high school, he can throw as well. That versatility is why he’s listed as an athlete — the only athlete — on Florida’s roster. If there was such a thing as the “eyeball test” for Florida’s offense, his moves and cuts would make him one of the few guaranteed to pass.

“We knew he was special in the spring,” Dixon said. “Moving forward we definitely hope to use him a lot more."

McElwain said Wednesday afternoon that Toney’s return is not certain, but he’s “doing everything” to be able to play.

Cleveland came up a little later for Dixon. Despite not registering a catch in UF’s last two games — that’s a third of the season — he still has twice as many yards as the next-closest receiver at 326. Brandon Powell is next at 149. He missed those two games with a high ankle sprain, and his absence limited Florida’s vertical passing game. Coach Jim McElwain said that will be a big part of this weekend’s contest against Georgia given how the Bulldogs load the box to stop the running game.

“We're going to have to make some plays downfield,” he said.

Players sounded hopeful Cleveland will be back. So did McElwain, who called him probable.

"He's back to his normal self,” Powell said. “It's just an ankle sprain, so he needed some time off, he got the bye week, so now he's back to his old self.”

However, Powell then referred to the abilities of other players in the wideout group.

“We've got playmakers everywhere,” he said. “Just to have another one of our playmakers back just makes us that much better.”

That’s not exactly true. At least not so far. In the two games without Cleveland, UF managed 135 and 108 passing yards. With him, it’s managed 249, 209, 212 and 181. Dixon knows the difference Cleveland makes.

"There's a comfort level when you have that deep threat out there,” he said. “They have to make certain coverage adjustments to him, which is a great asset to the offense.”

-- In addition to updates on Toney and Cleveland, McElwain said defensive end Jabari Zuniga, who was nursing an ankle injury, should be able to play. He added wideout Josh Hammond is questionable with a tweaked back.

-- Jim McElwain ignited Florida’s fan base Monday by revealing he’d received death threats. Some questioned the legitimacy of those threats after UAA spokesman Steve McClain sent out statement ending with, “Our administration met with coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.” McElwain tried to clarify on Wednesday.

“It’s just something that came up and obviously was on my mind,” he said. “It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it right to air that laundry, and yet at the same time [we’ve] got total, total support.”

When asked if his family was threatened directly, he said the threats were anonymous but didn’t offer many other details. His response, in its entirety:

“Obviously, I understand that's the news,” he answered. “It goes with the territory. You know what? It’s hard to leave sometimes. You know how much I care about this program, these players. Obviously, everything that goes in with it. But ultimately allowing one or two, and who even knows who it was, right? You don’t know. It’s anonymous. So, that is what it is, and I’m confident we’re all right.”

October 18, 2017

UF DL Sherit out for season

Starting defensive end Jordan Sherit will be out for the season after sustaining a hip injury on Saturday against Texas A&M. Coach Jim McElwain said he had surgery earlier this week. 

Sherit was finally in the midst of a breakout campaign after suffering injury setbacks in previous years at UF. Once again, though, his season ended with an ailment. And this time, it's permanent. 

A redshirt senior, Sherit's college career is over. He finished his final campaign with with 2 ½ sacks, 23 tackles and five tackles for loss. 

Days before the injury, he told reporters how it was finally dawning on him that this season was his last in The Swamp. That he only had so many college games left. 

Days later, all of it ended sooner than he thought it would. 

"It's a bad deal, man," coach Jim McElwain said. 

October 08, 2017

Gators fall from AP poll, announce time for TAMU game

Florida fell out of the AP Poll Sunday for the first time this season. The Gators entered Saturday's matchup against LSU ranked No. 21 before they lost to the Tigers 17-16.

UF also fell from the Amway Coaches Poll. It was ranked No. 20 before the loss to LSU. 

It was also announced that this Saturday's matchup against Texas A&M in Gainesville will be played at 7 p.m. ESPN2 will broadcast it. 

October 05, 2017

UF to honor Tom Petty during game against LSU

There was some speculation after Gainesville native Tom Petty passed away on Monday that the halftime show during the Florida-LSU game would honor the late musician. While that hypothesis hasn't been refuted, it now seems unlikely. 

The UF Athletic Association announced Thursday that it will pay a different tribute to Petty. After the band plays "The Boys of Old Florida" at the conclusion of the third quarter, Petty's "I won't back down" will echo through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 

"Let's celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,'' UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a release. "Since we are already singing 'We are the Boys,' let's go right from that into one of his great anthems and make that the way we are going to jointly celebrate Tom Petty and the Gators."

September 27, 2017

UF’s offensive line showing improvement after disastrous opening game

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. In the season’s first game, on the Dallas Cowboys’ field, playing on national television against the storied Michigan Wolverines, Florida’s offensive line was supposed to do the pushing rather than get pushed around. Coach Jim McElwain had raved about the unit heading into the season. He said it would be a team strength. Yet in game one, it was not .

“It was a gut punch,” offensive line coach Brad Davis said. “And it was what we needed.”

Since that game, during which Florida allowed six sacks, No. 21 UF’s offensive line has allowed three sacks combined in two games. The nine total sacks still rank 10th in the Southeastern Conference and 86th nationally, but the pass blocking has shown improvement since the stomping it took against Michigan. So has the run blocking.

The Gators managed 11 yards on the ground against the Wolverines, upped it to 168 against Tennessee and 186 against Kentucky.

Through the discouragement of the opening loss, the disappointment of missing out on a tune-up game due to Hurricane Irma, the suspension and levying of potential felony charges against freshman tackle Kadeem Telfort and back-to-back last-second wins, Florida’s offensive line has shown one thing it preached in the pre-season has come true: Thanks to the bonds formed within the unit, it’s been able to tune out distractions.

Now, the classic sports cliche of “just focusing on the game” and forgetting about hurricanes, suspensions, close wins and poor performances is repeated across sports whenever something bad happens to a team. Granted. But Florida’s offensive line has shown its legitimately capable of doing it. One player even says those challenges help.

“It made it a lot easier on us,” left tackle Martez Ivey said. “It’s like, we can fight through adversity and come together and we can still win, still push each other every day to come out and play hard.”

The improvements shouldn’t be a total surprise. Florida’s offensive line features a group of highly ranked, tall, heavy players, starting with Ivey.

He was the top-ranked offensive lineman in the class of 2015, carried five stars and was rated as the nation’s second-best player. He was joined by UF’s now-starting right guard Fred Johnson, who was a three-star recruit, but one who was 6-foot-7, 301 pounds in high school, held offers from Virginia Tech. Nebraska and Tennessee, and played his freshman year at Florida.

Right guard Brett Heggie was rated as the sixth-best center in the nation in the class of 2016 by the 247Sports Composite in addition to being an Under Armour All American. And go-to backup Tyler Jordan was also an Under Armour All American rated the seventh-best center in the country.

That leaves T.J. McCoy and Jawaan Taylor. McCoy is the outlier of the group, having come to Florida as a transfer from North Carolina State to be closer to his ailing father in Orlando. He was relegated to third-string center duty until late into last season when a string of injuries forced him into action. Since then, the 6-foot-1, 314-pound leader of the offensive line hasn’t lost his job. And Taylor, the team’s heaviest offensive lineman at 334 pounds, made the All-SEC Freshman Team last season.

Still, there was work to be done after Michigan tore through them like bullets through paper.

“To go out and underperform and underachieve was a huge disappointment,” Davis said. “My job as a coach is to not beat them up or tear them down. It’s to build.”

He’s done so by trying to improve communication and eliminate “self-inflicted wounds,” like penalties and missed assignments. He said his players have responded well.

“They handled it like men,” he said.

McCoy added having Luke Del Rio at quarterback helped with the communication.

“He does a great job of calling out the play and explaining it to everybody,” he said. “He does a great job of that and keeping everybody together."

And McElwain, with all the off-field distractions, said it’s expected of the offensive line to tune out. When nine of your teammates are suspended -- including one from your own unit -- you’ve missed a game, your quarterback position is in constant flux, what’s one bad opening game?

“I think there's one thing these guys have done a pretty good job of,” McElwain said, “is dealing with some things."

DL Jordan Smith facing four more potential charges

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Smith is facing four more potential felony charges, according to Alachua County court records. 

In a sworn complaint affidavit filed Wednesday by the Gainesville Police Department, Smith is accused of using a stolen credit card to pay $1,007.82 to his apartment complex, the Woodlands of Gainesville. 

On Monday, the University of Florida Police Department accused Smith of 18 felony counts. Wednesday's complaint affidavit brings his total potential charges up to 22 by adding two charges of larceny-grand theft and two of fraud. 

The State Attorney's Office will decide whether to ultimately press charges against Smith and the other eight players accused of fraud. 

 

Florida Gators bought laptops, fast food and more with stolen credit cards, police say

The nine Florida football players who have been suspended since August are facing potential felony charges for fraud, according to sworn complaint affidavits filed Monday by the University of Florida Police Department.

Antonio Callaway, Jordan Scarlett, Rick Wells, Ventrell Miller, Keivonnis Davis, Richerd Desir-Jones and James Houston are all facing two possible third-degree felony charges, per Alachua County court records.

Defensive end Jordan Smith and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, a freshman offensive lineman from Miami's Booker T. Washington High School, are facing multiple charges for multiple transactions and stolen information.

 

The State Attorney's Office will review the evidence and decide whether to formally charge the players.

Most of the players are accused of using stolen credit card information to transfer money to their student debit card accounts, which they then used to purchase laptop computers, iPads and headphones, among other items.

The nine players are facing 62 criminal counts.

Seven of the nine are accused of making one purchase. Smith and Telfort are accused of using multiple cards to make multiple purchases.

According to the complaints, Callaway spent 2,022.44 on a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which came with gloss black Beats headphones thanks to a coupon code, after using the stolen credit card to transfer $1,970 into his student debit account. Scarlett also bought a MacBook with rose gold headphones.

The same complaint says some of the players admitted to selling what they bought. On Aug. 1, Smith bought three different types of Beats headphones ranging in price from $69.99 to $149.99.

The complaint filed against Scarlett says he used his girlfriend's account to make his purchase after transferring $1,940 from the stolen card to it.

When interviewed by police, she said Scarlett told her there was money on her account from "an agent" in New York and that he needed her to come with him to the UF bookstore to pick out a computer. He told police he transferred the money to her account because “he needed the money but did not want to get in trouble."

 

Telfort is alleged to have used stolen information to buy items ranging from a combo meal at Sonic to an iPad (with $99 insurance) to gummy worms.

The group has a heavy South Florida connection. The two most prominent names -- Callaway, a starting receiver, and Scarlett, a starting running back -- are both from the area, with Callaway, like Telfort, having attended Booker T. Washington in Miami and Scarlett having attended St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale.

Davis attended Miami Central. Houston attended Plantation American Heritage, and Desir-Jones is also an Aquinas alum.

Scarlett, Callaway, Miller, Davis, Desir-Jones, Smith and Telfort have been suspended since Aug. 13. Scarlett and Wells joined them on Aug. 30.

The news of the affidavits being filed broke in the middle of coach Jim McElwain's press conference on Monday, and McElwain said he was unaware of it. When asked, he said no decisions have been made about the futures of those players.

“You’re asking me something I don’t even know about,” he said.

He added that, if charged, the news could change the players' situations.

"Darn right," he said.

Center T.J. McCoy, who spoke to reporters shortly after McElwain, said he still has faith in those players returning.

"I really believe that those guys are gonna come back," he said, "and I believe they're gonna help us to have a great season."

September 07, 2017

Florida cancels game against Northern Colorado

The Gators wont play Northern Colorado this Saturday in The Swamp. The school announced Thursday that the game is canceled and wont be rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. 

“As the Hurricane’s track has approached the state of Florida," UF Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said in a release, "it’s become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do. The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts."

On Wednesday, the school had moved the game up from its original 7:30 p.m. start to noon. But because of everything coming to Gainesville for a football game entails -- filling up on gas, driving on highways, buying snack food and water -- Stricklin said playing the game just wasn't the right thing to do. Plus there are 3,300 working personnel, 17 government agencies and outside vendors who bus employees from Jacksonville and Orlando to Gainesville, per a press release,. Stricklin said he didn't want to clog up those resources incase they're needed elsewhere. 

"Playing a college football game Saturday," he said, "would only add to that stress."

Coach Jim McElwain agreed. While he was excited about the game in press conferences leading up to it, he also noted how the approach of Hurricane Irma put his life into perspective. When the game was canceled, he reiterated those thoughts. 

“When you look at the impact this event could have, you have to sit back and realize what’s really important in life,” he said in a release. “In this case, we’re doing everything we can to help facilitate with what may occur."

He also emphasized that many of the team's players are from South Florida and sent well wishes to them and their families. 

The university said ticket holders will be notified about refunds individually. 

September 06, 2017

Florida moves Saturday's game to noon

Athletics Director Scott Stricklin announced Wednesday afternoon that Florida is moving Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado, which was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Gainesville, up to noon.

“Currently the latest forecast shows that the tropical conditions will probably hit here Sunday morning,” Stricklin said. “There's a chance they could start hitting here Saturday night, so playing the game at 7:30 obviously wasn't a smart move.”

The adjusted start time means the game won’t be televised on SEC Network as originally planned. Instead, fans will be able to stream the game on SEC Network+. Stricklin said television wasn’t a concern that went into making the decision.

He emphasized the safety of everyone coming to the game, as well as fans who can’t because they live in the path of the hurricane. He also encouraged fans traveling to Gainesville to give up their hotel rooms if they can make it back home after the noon start. Coach Jim McElwain also said the team is giving up the hotel it usually stays in the night before home games for potential evacuees.

"How important is a game when you're talking about people's lives?” he said.

One remaining problem is Northern Colorado’s travel. The Bears will arrive in Gainesville on Thursday, but they’re flying commercially and can’t leave until Sunday morning.

Stricklin said he is trying to do “everything we can” to get them out before the weather worsens.

August 30, 2017

Florida loses two more players for season opener

GAINESVILLE

Florida's chances against Michigan in its season opener on Saturday took another hit Wednesday when the team announced junior Jordan Scarlett and redshirt freshman Rick Wells are suspended for the game. 

"Head Coach Jim McElwain has announced that Jordan Scarlett and Rick Wells are suspended from all team activities," the team wrote on Twitter. 

That brings Florida's total suspension list up to 10. Seven players were suspended for alleged misuse of school funds earlier this month, receiver James Robinson was suspended for a marijuana citation last week and now Scarlett and Wells are suspended for unknown reasons. 

The latest round of suspensions is a significant blow to the Gators at running back, where Scarlett led the team with 889 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. On Tuesday, he reiterated his goal for this season is to rush for 1,000 yards. He was also atop the team's depth chart. 

That leaves sophomore Lamical Perine and redshirt senior Mark Thompson, who combined for 720 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns last season, as UF's primary backs. Freshmen Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons round out the group. 

McElwain is expected to speak with reporters around 5:20 Thursday afternoon. 

 

August 24, 2017

Pair of Florida freshmen cited for marijuana possession per report

Linebacker Ventrell Miller and wide receiver James Robinson were cited for marijuana possession on Monday, as first reported by First Coast News

The story cites a UF Police Department report that details a resident assistant smelling marijuana from outside the apartment shared by Miller and Robinson just past midnight on Monday morning. The RA called police, who knocked and found the smell coming from Robinson's room. They then found two small bags of marijuana, and both Miller and Robinson admitted to owning one, per the report. 

The Herald confirmed there was a narcotics violation at Keys Residential Complex on Monday around that time, but a request for the incident report is pending. 

Before this incident, both freshmen had already been in trouble with off-field incidents either during or before their Florida careers began.

Miller was one of seven players suspended from practice and next Saturday's season opener for reportedly misusing school funds, and Robinson was cited for marijuana as a high school senior while on a visit to Ohio State. He also wasn't expected to be allowed to enroll at Florida until coach Jim McElwain stepped in and vouched for him to be given a second chance. 

"I feel it’s my responsibility to give guys a chance," McElwain said on Aug. 7 when asked about vouching for Robinson. "I never will throw somebody out that has something too him and gets an opportunity to be successful.”

Robinson was at practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, while Miller is still suspended for the previous incident. 

Through a spokesman, the school released a statement Thursday afternoon. 

"Coach McElwain is aware and it has been dealt with," it read.  

August 21, 2017

Gators add OL transfer

Offensive tackle Jean Delance has decided to transfer from Texas to Florida after a season with the Longhorns. He announced his decision on Twitter Monday afternoon. 

With Texas, Delance played in two games as a freshman and went through spring camp before announcing his intention to transfer last week. He will have to sit out the 2017 season per NCAA transfer rules. 

Delance was a four-star recruit rated No. 123 in the country by the 247Sports Composite as a high school senior in 2016. Although he won't be playing this season, he will provide Florida's offensive line with some depth at practice. 

Gators ranked No. 17 in season's first AP poll

The Florida Gators are ranked 17th in 2017's first AP poll, which was released Monday at noon. 

They trail their first opponent of the season, Michigan, which was ranked No. 11. They also trail in-state rival Florida State (No. 3) and 2017 opponents LSU (No. 13) and Georgia (No. 15). 

Miami (No. 18) and South Florida (No. 19) were the other Florida teams ranked in the poll. 

The ranking was a downgrade for the Gators, who were ranked No. 16 in the preseason Coaches Poll. 

August 18, 2017

UF defensive lineman Jordan Smith under police investigation

GAINESVILLE

Jordan Smith is involved in a criminal investigation by the Gainesville Police Department, spokesman Officer Ben Tobias confirmed. 

“We did open a criminal investigation involving Mr. Smith yesterday," he wrote in an email, "that has been forwarded to our detective division for followup."

He didn't provide any details as to the nature of the investigation, although he did add that no other players "have been identified as being involved at this point."

He also said he has "no clue" how long how long the followup will take. 

Smith was one of seven Florida players — along with receiver Antonio Callaway, linebackers Ventrell Miller and James Houston, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, Defensive tackle Richerd Desir-Jones and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort — who were suspended earlier this week. Smith redshirted as a freshman last season. 

“I haven’t gotten anything from the authorities,” coach Jim McElwain said Friday when asked about Smith. “Like I said, until it’s resolved that’s the way it is."

 

 

August 13, 2017

Gators suspend seven players for season opener

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Antonio Callaway runs with the ball during practice on Aug. 10, 2017 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

GAINESVILLE

Florida will be without star receiver Antonio Callaway and six other players when it opens the season against Michigan on Sept. 2.

In addition to Callaway, the school announced linebacker James Houston, offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, defensive end Jordan Smith, defensive tackle Richerd Desir-Jones and linebacker Ventrell Miller will all be suspended for reasons that weren't made public. 

Houston, Telfort and Miller are all true freshmen, with Telfort being a Miami Booker T. Washington High alum and Houston hailing from American Heritage-Plantation. Davis, a junior defensive end, attended Miami Central and Desir-Jones, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, attended St. Thomas Aquinas. 

“We have a small group of players that have made some choices that are extremely disappointing," coach Jim McElwain wrote in a release. "Action has been taken. They have missed some practice and will miss the Michigan game. We will use this as a learning opportunity and we will have some players step up as we move forward.”

The suspensions leave the Gators thin at linebacker and defensive tackle ahead of the week one showdown with the Wolverines in Arlington, Texas. They're also another blow to Callaway, who's gotten in off-the-field trouble before. The junior from Miami faced internal discipline for a marijuana citation in May that resulted in him pleading no contest to possession of drug paraphernalia. He was also investigated for a sexual assault and admitted he was high on marijuana when the assault took place, though he was later found not responsible. 

Callaway was Florida's top receiver the last two seasons, including 721 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. 

August 11, 2017

Gators playing scrimmage in The Swamp Friday, plus other notes

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Malik Zaire passes during practice on August 10, 2017, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

GAINESVILLE

Jim McElwain has emphasized competition throughout preseason camp, and on Friday he'll get his first chance to see it play out in The Swamp.

He's expecting to run somewhere from 90 to 110 plays with special emphasis on end-of-game, end-of-half and overtime situations. He also said he plans to work on substitution packages.

One thing he’s especially excited about is watching the quarterbacks play in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, even though the seats will be empty. McElwain said the introduction of graduate transfer Malik Zaire has intensified the competition more than he was expecting, and he’s expecting that to continue in the scrimmage.

“There should be some answers, I think,” McElwain said of the scrimmage providing clues as to who will be the team’s starting quarterback. “And yet I don't know that. If I had a crystal ball I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.”

He added one of the main purposes of the scrimmage is to evaluate some of the fringe players — freshmen, walk-ons, etc. He said he looks at the scrimmage like a tryout. He wants his players to find roles, whether at positions or on special teams.

“This is their opportunity to make the team,” he said. “I'm really looking forward to seeing where they and how they compete to go get a job.”

Running back Lamical Perine also said he’s excited to see what some of the fringe players do on the bigger stage.

“Some players, they shine under the lights,” he said. “We'll see who the players are."

 

Injury update

 

After missing time earlier this week with some knee swelling, left tackle Martez Ivey is doing fine and is at nearly full strength, McElwain said Friday.

Tight end C’yontai Lewis, defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe, offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, defensive back CJ McWilliams, safety Quincy Lenton, linebacker Kylan Johnson and defensive end Jordan Sherit, meanwhile, will all be out of for the scrimmage. McElwain didn’t elaborate on any of their injuries, but it sounded precautionary.

“Don’t read anything into it,” he said.

 

Will the real Wanny please stand up

 

Florida features two players with the same name: safety Jeawon Taylor and offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor. Coaches have taken to calling both of them Wanny, which has led to some confusion.

“When they call Wanny,” Jawaan said, “we both look because we don't know which one they're talking about. So they've gotta add either big Wanny or little Wanny just so we can know.

He added that in addition to their size separation — Jawaan is listed at 6-foot-5 and 334 pounds while Jeawon is 6-feet, 206 pounds — they’re also differentiated by personality. He said he’s more the quiet type while Jeawon is loud and makes people laugh.

“Ever since he started getting called it, he thinks he's the real Wanny and all that,” Jawaan said. “So it's just fun.”

The confusion figures to get worse next season, as Florida currently holds a commitment from linebacker recruit David Reese. If he enrolls, he’ll join current UF linebacker David Reese.

 

The Wyoming wild man returns

 

Defensive line coach Chris Rumph dubbed defensive tackle Taven Bryan the “wyoming wild man” over two years ago, but his teammates say the nickname is still appropriate.

Running back Jordan Scarlett said Bryan, a redshirt junior from Casper, Wyoming, squats the second-most weight on the team, and defensive end Keivonnis Davis said he’s just as impressive elsewhere in the gym.

“Squat, bench, curl, whatever it is,” he said. “That man is a beast. I’m telling you that man is a beast, like a real life beast. I tried working out with him over the summer but I was sore the next day. He’s a monster.”

Perine added “he could lift the whole weight room if he wanted to."

Offensive lineman Brett Heggie said that translates well to the field, where Bryan’s strength makes him hard to block.

McElwain singled out Bryan as a player who needs to step up this season, especially with the Gators lacking depth at defensive tackle. He said it was Bryan’s “time.”

Perine doesn't think that'll be a problem.

“I feel like he's going to shock a lot of people this year,” he said. “He's very underrated.”

UF releases assistant coach contracts, salaries

GAINESVILLE

Florida’s assistant coaches will all be making more money in the coming seasons. Through a public records request, the school made their contract details available on Friday.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will jump from making $540,000 last season to making $832,725 the next two seasons. The considerable raise comes after Nussmeier received his second $300,000 payment from his former employer, Michigan, last season. The payment resulted from Nussmeier's contract being bought out when Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke was fired in December 2014. The two-year extension runs through the 2018 season. 

Defensive line coach Chris Rumph will get a $100,000 bump, from $490,000 last season to $590,000 the next three seasons. He was the only assistant extended through the 2019 season.

Tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Greg Nord jumped from $390,000 to $410,000 and was extended through 2018.

Wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon jumped from $275,000 to $290,000 and was also extended through 2018.

And linebackers coach Tim Skipper moved from $440,000 to $446,000 and was also extended through 2018.

All assistant coaches also make $10,000 per year from the school’s apparel contract with Nike.

In late july, the school also announced the contract details for its other assistant coaches. Randy Shannon, the former head coach at the University of Miami who was named Florida’s defensive coordinator after coaching its linebackers the past two seasons, made a considerable jump in his new role from $490,000 to $890,000.

New running backs coach JaJuan Seider will make $335,000 this season and $345,000 next season, while new offensive line coach Brad Davis and new defensive backs coach Corey Bell will each make $290,000 in 2017 and $315,000 in 2018. 

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