Florida still has one game to play before finishing its 2015 season, but next year’s team is already taking shape.
And the Gators are going to look a whole lot different in coach Jim McElwain’s second season in Gainesville.
Junior tailback Kelvin Taylor and wideout Demarcus Robinson are turning pro, McElwain announced Monday.
Redshirt junior defensive end Alex McCalister, reportedly dismissed from the program recently, is also entering the 2016 NFL Draft. McCalister recorded a team-high 6 1/2 sacks, Taylor rushed for a career-high 985 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Robinson had 47 receptions and two scores.
With Vernon Hargreaves III already announcing his intention to forgo his senior season, the No. 19 Gators will enter next year without their consensus All-American cornerback and their leading rusher, receiver and pass rusher.
They will also no longer have their top quarterback, as suspended star Will Grier plans to transfer.
Although the quartet of early entrees weren’t particularly shocking, McElwain was surprised by Grier’s decision over the weekend to leave the program.
Last week, McElwain said the redshirt freshman quarterback was in good standing with the school and would return to team activities on Jan. 5 after Florida plays Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Instead, Grier had a change of heart on Friday, asking McElwain for his release.
“We anticipated him being here,” McElwain explained. “Obviously, the choice was made to go somewhere else.”
Grier was 5-0 as Florida’s starting quarterback before he was suspended on Oct. 12 for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Later, Grier lost his appeal and remains ineligible until the seventh game of the 2016 season.
The redshirt freshman’s future options are complicated, but it was clear to McElwain that Grier simply wanted a fresh start.
“There are times in everybody’s life where maybe sometimes a change of scenery can be helpful,” McElwain said, who wouldn’t discuss the specifics on any potential restrictions on Grier’s transfer.
Meanwhile, McElwain said Hargreaves, Taylor and Robinson would definitely play in the bowl game. The Gators are still awaiting NFL decisions by junior safeties Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye.
Taylor is just 15 yards shy of becoming the second UF running back in a decade to rush for more than 1,000 yards. His 13 touchdowns are the most by a Gators tailback since his father, Fred Taylor, scored 13 times in 1997.
As for Robinson, the 6-1, 204-pound junior took a back seat to freshman sensation Antonio Callaway this season. He still led the Gators in catches, but his production dipped dramatically compared to his sophomore season (810 yards and seven touchdowns). Robinson’s enigmatic career concludes with three separate suspensions and a pair of demotions from the starting lineup in 2015.