Jim McElwain and the coaches’ goal for preseason camp was to make the players uncomfortable by putting them in difficult situations and see how they respond.
As it turns out, some of the players likely have made McElwain and his staff uncomfortable by turning Florida into Suspension U.
The latest bombshell dropped Wednesday, with the news that junior starting running back Jordan Scarlett and redshirt freshman reserve wide receiver Rick Wells have been suspended from all team activities and will not be making the trip to Arlington, Texas, for the season opener against Michigan.
That brings to 10 the number of players suspended from Saturday’s game.
“Early this afternoon we were made aware of a couple of more guys,” McElwain said. “Obviously, one of those is Jordan Scarlett that won’t be going with us this week and won’t be part of any team activities, as the other guys have not been until whatever it is is resolved.
“As you know, the one thing I will never do is look the other way and try to hide something. The guys on our team understand the responsibility, but with that, people think of the distractions and that type of thing, and yet, it’s an opportunity for more guys to go and play and play their tails off.”
Nine of the 10 suspensions, including Scarlett and Wells, stem from an ongoing University Police Department investigation into allegations of credit card fraud.
The seven other players involved in the possible credit card fraud are wide receiver Antonio Callaway, offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, linebacker James Houston, linebacker Ventrell Miller, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, defensive tackle Richerd Desir-Jones and defensive end Jordan Smith. They were reportedly buying items at the campus bookstore with their student identification cards, which didn’t have sufficient funds for the transactions, and later selling the items for cash.
The other suspended player is true freshman wide receiver James Robinson, who was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana earlier this month.
McElwain said he was surprised when he found out two more players — Scarlett and Wells — were involved in the ongoing investigation. He said he doesn’t anticipate any further suspensions.
“I didn’t expect these. I don’t expect any more,” he said. “But at the same time, if there is, it will be dealt with. Some places, who knows, you might try to figure it out and yet at the end of the day, the positive is we’re going to handle what it is and not run and hide. There are some guys who are going to step up and play their tails off. That will be fun to watch.”
The first seven suspensions were announced Aug. 13. After that news broke, McElwain addressed the issue with his players during a team meeting, but none stepped forward to say they might be involved
“We had a nice discussion about it. Yes we did,” McElwain.
McElwain was asked if Scarlett and Wells are in more trouble for not revealing they were involved.
“I don’t know,” he said. “They’re in trouble. So I don’t know what more is or what less is. What you hope is you learn from the lesson.”
With Scarlett and Callaway suspended, the Gators with be without their two most productive offensive players Saturday. Scarlett led the team in rushing last season, while Callaway was UF’s leading receiver.
At running back, Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson are expected to share playing time Saturday. The Gators also will have two true freshmen — Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons — ready to go.
“We’ve bumped Mark and Lamical (up),” McElwain said. “Malik will play a ton as well. Those guys will be in there, and then Adarius, who’s had a good camp. We’ll carry those four going into it. So from a rotation standpoint, it probably moved Malik up into a few more things.”
The nine players involved in possible credit card fraud have been suspended indefinitely, and will not be allowed to return until restitution has been made and the investigation is complete.
UPD confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into possible credit card fraud. No charges have been filed thus far.
McElwain said he does not anticipate the investigation dragging for a lengthy period of time.
“Well, you know, it’s interesting,” he said. “If we’re made aware of whatever it is or anything else, the proper things will happen. We’re not going to hide anything from there. Do I expect it (to drag on)? No. I don’t expect it. And yet you don’t know either. I don’t have a crystal ball.
“At the same time, sometimes through adversity, it actually brings a group tighter together. We have a really tight group right now.”
The suspensions stem from a legal issue, and do not appear to involve any potential NCAA compliance issues for the program.
“I don’t think there is. I don’t see it as that,” McElwain said. “Obviously, when anything happens, one of the things you do is discipline and you call it out and you say it as it is. That’s when usually people go in. I invite them in, come on. The one thing I do know is we’re going to handle it and we’re going to handle it right.”