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5 posts from September 2017

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.



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