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Florida suspends seven for failing to ‘live up to the Gator standard’

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Not that it matters much given the opponent, but Florida will be a bit shorthanded when it opens up the 2018 season.

In a news release about an hour before kickoff, Florida announced that seven players have been suspended for tonight’s opener against FCS Charleston Southern — defensive tackle Luke Ancrum, defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, cornerback Brian Edwards, defensive end CeCe Jefferson, running back Adarius Lemons, wide receiver Kadarius Toney (pictured) and offensive lineman James Washington.

The suspensions of Campbell and Toney aren’t surprising as they were involved in a bizarre offseason incident involving airsoft guns, a frying pan, a baseball bat, rocks and a gambler nicknamed Tay Bang. Five other Gators connected to that incident — wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells, quarterback Emory Jones and tight ends C’yonta Lewis and Kemore Gamble — avoided suspensions.

Jefferson’s suspension is for academic reasons, the Orlando Sentinel reported.  It’s unclear what exactly the other four players did to earn their respective suspensions.

Toney’s 15 catches for 152 yards were both fourth on the team, while Jefferson led the team in sacks last season with 4½.  Campbell played in nine games during the 2017 season.

In traffic stop, Florida wideout says he had AR-15 ‘for protection because of locals’

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There’s some additional, interesting fallout from a bizarre set of circumstances this offseason.

Wide receiver Kadarius Toney is one of six Florida Gator football players facing university discipline following an on-campus confrontation in late May with a Gainesville-area gambler named Devante’ “Tay Bang” Zachery and his associates that involved airsoft guns that looked like real rifles, a frying pan, a baseball bat and rocks. The two groups had a beef that dated back to February and escalated from there when one football player was allegedly knocked out by one of Zachery’s friends during a bar altercation on the Fourth of July.

A little over two weeks later, the vehicle which Toney was driving and in which UF defensive back Brian Edwards was a passenger was pulled over by Gainesville Police Department officers for seat belt violations.

According to the Gainesville Sun, the officers found a real AR-15 rifle in Toney’s backseat. The police report stated that “Toney told police he bought the rifle and had it with him ‘for protection because of the locals.'”

Whether the locals referenced included Zachery, who told police he gave rental car discounts to UF football players, creating potential NCAA issues, and his crew are unclear at the moment.

The players were briefly detained and handcuffed as the officers cleared the weapon and searched the vehicle. No criminal charges, however, were filed at the time of the traffic stop, and the Sun writes that “State Attorney Bill Cervone said Tuesday he doesn’t expect any charges to be filed based on the information GPD provided.”

Toney’s 15 catches for 152 yards were both fourth on the Gators last season. Just what university punishment Toney and his teammates have received or will receive is not known.

Head coach Dan Mullen is expected to address the media Thursday morning ahead of the Gators’ kicking off summer camp.

Transfer WRs from Ohio State, Ole Miss granted immediate eligibility at Florida

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Thursday was a very big day for Florida’s receiving corps.

This morning, UF announced that a pair of transfer wide receivers, Trevon Grimes and Van Jefferson, have been granted waivers from the NCAA that gives them immediate eligibility for the upcoming season.  Grimes comes to Gainesville from Ohio State, Jefferson from Ole Miss.

Jefferson still has one hurdle to clear before taking the field in 2018 as the SEC must issue a waiver as well, although, with the conference’s new intra-conference transfer rule enacted this offseason, that approval is a mere formality.

“I’m excited for Trevon and Van,” first-year head coach Dan Mullen said in a statement. “We appreciate the NCAA’s understanding in both situations, and are thankful to the UAA’s administration and compliance staff for their role in helping guide Trevon, Van, their families and our coaching staff through this over the past six-plus months.”

This past season, Jefferson was third on the Rebels in receptions with 42 and fourth with 456 receiving yards.  For his career, the Tennessee native has totaled 91 catches for 999 yards and four touchdowns.

A four-star member of Ole Miss’ 2015 recruiting class, Jefferson was the No. 11 receiver in the country; the No. 3 player at any position in his home state; and the No. 106 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

Jefferson announced his move to the Gators in December.

In October, Grimes took a leave of absence from the Buckeyes due to a family member dealing with a significant health issue.  The speculation at the time was that Grimes would likely transfer in order to be closer to his family in Miami; while initially denying it, the receiver moved on to the Gators in December of last year.

Grimes, a four-star 2017 signee, caught three passes for 20 yards during his brief time in Columbus.

Reputed gambler reportedly gave Florida Gator football players discounts on rental cars

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The Florida football program might have bigger issues to deal with than an incident involving mock assault rifles, rocks, bats and a frying pan.

A report emerged in the middle of last week that six Gators football players — wide receivers Kadarius Toney (pictured), Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells as well as defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, tight end Kemore Gamble and quarterback Emory Jones — are facing university discipline following an on-campus confrontation in late May with a Gainesville-area gambler named Devante’ “Tay Bang” Zachery and his associates.

In the latest development connected to the bizarre situation, First Coast News is reporting that Zachery, an employee at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, told the Gainesville Police Department that he gave Gator football players discounts on rental vehicles.  The Orlando Sentinel wrote that “Zachery filed a report last week with the [GPD] that gave further details on the fractious relationship with the Gators.”

The names of the players who were allegedly on the receiving end of the discounts weren’t divulged.

If Zachery’s claims are accurate, they would very likely constitute NCAA violations.  The university said in a statement that it’s aware of the allegations and is looking into it.

We understand GPD has followed up last week’s UPD report with a background report that has Devante Zachery (aka Tay Bang) as its primary source. We are not aware if there will be any additional information provided by GPD on this matter. Anytime we get information involving our student-athletes we look into it.

At this point, it’s unclear what if any type of punishment from the NCAA the unnamed players could be facing.  It’s also unclear if there is anything deeper to the gambling aspect other than Zachery’s alleged association with it.

Of the players involved in the original confrontation, Cleveland led the Gators in receiving yards (410) and was second in receptions (22) last season, while Toney’s 15 catches for 152 yards were both fourth on the team.  Campbell played in nine games in 2017, with Gamble taking a redshirt his true freshman season.  Jones, originally an Ohio State commit, was a four-star member of UF’s 2018 recruiting class.

The May kerfuffle was actually the second incident involving airsoft/BB guns for two of the players.

In mid-July of 2016, Cleveland and Wells were arrested and originally charged with criminal mischief for damaging property and shooting a missile inside an occupied dwelling; both of those charges were felonies. The two allegedly shot BB guns at and around a dorm on the UF campus, causing more than $1,000 worth of damage.

Those charges were ultimately reduced to criminal mischief, and Bonnie & Clod were suspended for the 2016 opener.

Additionally, Wells was one of several Florida players suspended for the entire 2017 season for the misuse of scholarship money at a bookstore, with some nine players total caught up in making improper charges on student IDs and selling said items for cash.  He was one of the four suspended players who returned to the team in late January.

Twice-arrested 2018 signee leaves Florida ‘to better my opportunities’

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This is… ummm… something.

Earlier this week, 2018 Florida signee Justin Watkins was arrested and booked into the Alachua County Jail Tuesday on four charges, including a pair of third-degree felonies (false imprisonment/kidnapping and domestic battery by strangulation) as well as two misdemeanors (first-degree battery). According to the police report, Watkins pinned his girlfriend to a bed, punched her with a closed fist and choked her three times.

That was Watkins’ second arrest in two months as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing on school grounds after a verbal argument with an unidentified female turned violent as Watkins shattered the woman’s cellphone, kicked her vehicle and attempted to let the air out of her tires.

With his future in Gainesville very much up in the air — he was indefinitely suspended from all team activities after the second arrest — Watkins took to Twitter Friday morning to announce that he is leaving the University of Florida. “To better my opportunities,” the true freshman wrote with seemingly no sense of self-awareness whatsoever.

(Writer’s note: the tweet has since been deleted, but here’s a handy screen snap for reference.)

A four-star member of the Gators’ 2018 recruiting class, Watkins was rated as the No. 16 wide receiver in the country; the No. 20 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 89 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Only three players in UF’s class signed this past February were rated higher than Watkins.

Watkins had recently enrolled in classes at UF.