Imagine being an SEC coach. One under SEC expectations from SEC fans, looking down the barrel of a brutal SEC schedule. One stuck with a scarcely tolerable offense, even by SEC standards.
It’s a lot of pressure, right?
Then, add that your two top playmakers — receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett — were caught in a scandal that threatened to end your team’s season before it even started.
But hey, at least they’ll play eventually … right?
For the third consecutive week, Florida football coach Jim McElwain was asked Wednesday for an update on the nine players that the team has suspended indefinitely for reportedly using school funds to buy electronics and then attempting to sell them for a profit. For the third consecutive week, McElwain had no update.
Initially, a number of Gators fans assumed it was a one-game problem.
Leading up to Florida’s season-opening loss to Michigan, I heard Gators fans accepting the fact that their best receiver would miss the game. Then accepting the fact that their best running back would miss the game.
But one thing I haven’t heard fans accept is that there’s a good chance Florida may play its entire 2017 season without Callaway — UF’s leading receiver in 2016 — and Scarlett — UF’s leading rusher in 2016.
Based on McElwain’s deflections when it comes to questions about the suspended players, it looks like the team has given up on getting their offensive stars back this season.
You can see it in some of McElwain’s statements on the expected length of the players’ suspensions. Take a look and let me know if you interpret these statements as becoming more optimistic or less optimistic.
On Aug. 14, McElwain informs reporters of the suspensions of seven players from all team activities — Callaway, offensive linemen Kadeem Telfort and Richerd Desir-Jones, linebackers James Houston and Ventrell Miller and defensive linemen Jordan Smith and Keivonnis Davis. He does not clarify how long they are suspended or what the suspension is for.
“(They) will not go to Michigan and will not play in that game. Anything further from there, obviously, we’ve got a of time now between then and whatever the next thing is.”
On Aug. 18, McElwain says the suspensions aren’t limited to one game.
"No, till it's resolved."
On Aug. 28, McElwain is asked to confirm that the seven suspended Gators won’t play against Michigan.
"No, still kind of running its course.”
On Aug. 30, McElwain addresses the freshly announced suspensions of Scarlett and receiver Rick Wells (reportedly related to the seven earlier suspensions). He does not state a set date that the suspensions will end.
“(Scarlett) won’t be part of any team activities, as the other guys have not been until, you know, whatever it is is resolved.”
On Aug. 30, McElwain is asked if he anticipates the suspensions dragging on.
"Well, you know, it's interesting. If we're made aware of whatever it is or anything else, the proper things will happen.”
On Sept. 2, Gators receiver Josh Hammond is asked if not having Callaway hurt the receiving corps in their loss to Michigan.
“Antonio was definitely a big part of our team but we’re still fine.”
On Sept. 5, running back Mark Thompson doesn’t mention Scarlett when asked about his confidence in the team’s rushing corps when Scarlett returns.
"I'm very confident about the running backs that we have in the room. Whether it's myself, Lamical (Perine), Tyriek Hopkins, Adarius (Lemons), it doesn't matter who it is, Malik (Davis), it don't matter who it is.”
On Sept. 6, McElwain is asked for an update on the suspended players and shakes his head no.
On Sept. 13, McElwain is asked for an update on the suspended players and shakes his head no.
If I was an SEC coach under SEC expectations from SEC fans, and you asked me when I get my two best players back, you’d see me smile and I’d tell you about the big red “X” I have on my calendar for the special day. But if I had no hope of getting those stars back, and I had no calendar with a big red “X,” I’d probably just shake my head: “No update.”
Matt Brannon is the sports editor of the Alligator. Look out for his next column on Sept. 22. Contact him at [email protected].