The Florida Gators turned the page on the 2017 season by attempting to breathe new life into the program coming off a tumultuous season on and off the field. A season was essentially lost before it ever could truly get going when wide receiver Antonio Callaway was suspended for the season as part of a felony fraud case and a drug charge over the summer, as well as being connected to a Title IX investigation. As the now former Gator prepares for the NFL, he is faced with questions regarding his past in Gainesville, and he is shouldering blame on his shoulders for how it all came to an end for Jim McElwain as head coach of the Gators.
As reported by Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter Trevor Sikkema, via Twitter, Callaway says McElwain may still be the head coach at Florida (and not an assistant coach at Michigan) if Callaway played last season.
Callaway may not be too far off the mark. Callaway was the explosive playmaker Florida desperately needed last season. Callaway was Florida’s leading receiver in 2016 with 721 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore and a team-high 678 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. Callaway also returned two punts for touchdowns in 2015, proving to be a threat any time he stepped foot on the field during his two seasons on the field at Florida. Would Callaway have been able to turn a team that went 4-7 into a team that could muster together enough wins to save McElwain’s job?
Considering Florida lost three of their seven games by a single score, the case could be made that Callaway may have been able to save McElwain’s job. But McElwain pretty much talked his own way out of the job by throwing out the idea his family was being targeted and never being able to provide the evidence asked of him.
Florida replaced McElwain with Dan Mullen, previously of Mississippi State, as their new head coach.
Felony charges have been filed against Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett for their involvement in an incident regarding the inappropriate use of school funds. And that’s just the beginning.
The state attorney’s office has reportedly filed felony charges against several Florida players on Monday. Callaway and Scarlett were each charged with third-degree felony charges. So was defensive lineman Jordan Smith. Other players reportedly facing felonies include defensive end Keivonnis Davis, wide receiver Rick Wells, linebackers James Houston and Ventrell Miller, and defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones.
It was reported last week all of the players currently serving an indefinite suspension in Gainesville could be facing felony charges.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain met with the media earlier on Monday during his regularly scheduled media availability. At the time of his media briefing, McElwain was unaware of the updated charges, although suggested felony charges could change the status of the suspended players by hinting at possible dismissal.
UPDATE: Offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort has also been charged with six third-degree felony charges related to the scandal. This brought the total number of players charged to nine.
Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway had charges for marijuana possession dropped after he decided to plead no contest to a drug paraphernalia possession misdemeanor. The no contest plea was part of an agreement Callaway made with the state attorney, which is said to be routine in incidents like the one Callaway was involved.
In May, Callaway was cited for possession of seven grams of marijuana in his pants and another 5.4 grams located in a vehicle Callaway was a passenger in. In June, the state attorney confirmed he had offered Callaway a plea deal, where Callaway could plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and then have the possession charges dropped entirely. The attorney denied making the plea deal because Callaway is a football player at Florida and insisted the plea deal is common for charges involving such a small amount of marijuana.
Callaway will likely be fined and/or sentenced to some community service, but that will be determined at a later point in time. Callaway was fined $301.
What remains to be seen now is how Callaway will be handled within the Florida program. A suspension of some sort would be expected for such an offseason incident, but for how long? It is worth noting Florida opens the season with a big neutral site game against Michigan instead of staying home to play a cupcake opponent in the opener.
The No. 14 Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) made sure they would end the day in first place in the hotly contested SEC East with a 24-10 victory over Georgia (4-4, 2-4 SEC). It is Florida’s third straight win (and third straight double-digit victory) against Georgia in the series.
The game was not particularly enjoyable to watch for many, as the defenses took advantage of some sloppy offensive play on both sides. Georgia managed to get just 164 yards of offense and went 4-for-14 on third down. Florida’s offense did not fare that much better, with fewer than 250 yards of offense and a turnover. Luke Del Rio completed 15-of-25 attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown (and an interception on the opening series of the game). Georgia’s freshman Jacob Eason had an even longer afternoon, completing 15-of-33 attempts for 143 yards. Florida really clamped down on Georgia’s running game, limiting Nick Chubb to 20 yards on nine rushing attempts. The Bulldogs rushed for just 21 yards in the game.
Florida held a 14-10 lead at halftime and expanded their lead in the third quarter on an Antonio Callaway touchdown run. From there, Florida could keep Georgia at a distance with a few punts and turnovers on downs the rest of the way.
With the win, Florida remains on top of the SEC East standings with a one-game lead in the loss column on Kentucky and Tennessee. Florida also owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Kentucky, but not with Tennessee. Florida may have a small buffer, but the Gators also may have the most difficult remaining SEC schedule among the SEC East contenders. Florida plays at Arkansas next week and now had a mid-November game at LSU that was rescheduled from earlier this season (which was originally a home game for the Gators).
Georgia is now eliminated from being able to win the SEC East with four conference losses, so the sights will be on trying to finish strongly to improve whatever bowl opportunities will be available. Georgia can throw a wrinkle in Kentucky’s SEC East hopes next week in Lexington before closing out SEC play at home against Auburn in two weeks. Georgia’s final three games of the season will all be at home, starting with Auburn and finishing with UL-Lafayette and ACC rival Georgia Tech.
If this was supposed to be the year Tennessee finally came out on top in the SEC East, the Florida Gators did not get the memo. Florida is up 21-3 on Tennessee in Knoxville at the half, thanks in part to a Vols offense that has imploded inside the 10-yard line twice in the first half. Tennessee was booed off the field, while on offense, as the final seconds ticked away in the first half. It has been 11 long years since experiencing a win over Florida, so you can imagine the pent-up frustration the home crowd has.
The tempers flared right from the opening kickoff, with Tennessee being called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the opening kickoff, giving Florida 15 free yards without running a play. Two plays later, Florida starting quarterback Austin Appleby completed a 51-yard pass to Antonio Callaway to the Tennessee four-yard line. Three plays later, the Gators jumped on the Vols with a short pass from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby for a 7-0 lead right out of the gates.
Tennessee looked to catch a huge break on special teams when Callaway failed to hold on to a punt. Tennessee recovered at the Gators’ two-yard line but was unable to punch it in from the door step on four straight plays. Marcus Maye broke up a pass from Joshua Dobbs intended for Alvin Kamara on fourth down. Down 14-0 in the second quarter, thanks to a touchdown pass from Appleby to Jordan Cronkrite to finish off a 93-yard drive, the Vols worked their way back to inside the 10-yard line and seeing a chance to build some momentum. That hope was dashed when Quincy Wilson picked off a pass from Dobbs to the back of the end zone on third and goal.
Florida turned what could have been three or seven points for Tennessee into a 21-point lead. On the first play of the ensuing possession following the turnover in the end zone, Apply picked up 20 yards through the air with Callaway hauling in a pass.Later, on 2nd and 3, Appleby completed a 36-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland, and a few plays later it was 21-0 after a video review to confirm Jordan Scarlett had punched one in from the one-yard line.
Nothing has gone well for the Vols, but credit Florida for making the plays they have bene making. The Gators have made plays on both sides of the football and avoided letting a special teams hiccup burn them.