With every pass caught and every handoff in the backfield, the team continues to forget. However, the thought still lingers on the field as the season progresses.
No. 21 Florida enters Saturday’s matchup against Vanderbilt with more than football on the mind.
The nine players who have been suspended since August are facing potential felony charges for credit card fraud, with star wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett among the accused.
Per sworn complaint affidavits filed by the UF Police Department Monday, the nine report that the nine players used stolen credit cards to add more than $15,000 to their student accounts and used that money to buy headphones, laptops and more.
With those allegations looming, their futures become murkier by the day.
Florida (2-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) coach Jim McElwain showcased his reaction to the startling amount of money Thursday.
“In a couple of the guys’ case, when you look at the sheer numbers,” McElwain said. “The idea of getting something for nothing… really disappointing.”
But McElwain still stressed that while the main talking point for the media may be the potential charges, the active team is solely focused on its upcoming matchup with Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1 SEC)..
“I think the big piece is how you deal with it really reveals who you are,” McElwain said. “If you’re going to let it hang over your head, or are you going to move forward and learn from it?”
Apart from the suspensions, the Gators have a ton of other questions to answer in their third SEC matchup.
After starting the last two games, redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks will not start against the Commodores. Instead, redshirt junior Luke Del Rio – who started six games for Florida last season and led the second-half comeback against Kentucky last week – will take the reins on offense.
After tossing an interception on his third throw of the day, Del Rio marched the Gators down the field on two consecutive drives. Both resulted in touchdowns and a one-point lead, which was all the Gators needed to remain perfect in SEC play.
“Some guys think they have swagger, but they haven’t put in the work,” McElwain said of Del Rio. “He actually has put in the work. His teammates respect that, and obviously they’re ready to go with it.”
The Gators will need consistency through the air against one of the nation’s top secondary’s. Vanderbilt has allowed just 116.8 passing yards per game, second to only Buffalo in the FBS.
Florida also has questions at tailback. After sophomore Lamical Perine started all three games, freshman Malik Davis took a bulk of the carries in the second half against the Wildcats and continues to impress.
Davis took off for 93 yards on 21 carries, and the Florida coaching staff knows how immediate his impact can be.
“I mean, that kid's fantastic,” offensive line coach Brad Davis said. “You could put me in there and he'd still probably get a yard or two.”
Although Vanderbilt took a beating against No. 1 Alabama 59-0 last week, the Gators recall their recent struggles with this rival. Florida has averaged just 11 points against Vandy in its last two matchups, both narrow victories.
“In the history of this game, this has been a battle,” McElwain said. “And we're expecting nothing less this week.”
Saturday: Vanderbilt @ No. 21 Florida
Kickoff: Noon; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville.
TV/radio: ESPN; WINZ 940.
Favorite: Florida by 10.
Records: Florida 2-1 (2-0 SEC); Vanderbilt 3-1 (0-1 SEC).
Series: Florida leads 38-10-2.
Florida injuries: Questionable — WR Brandon Powell (ribs); LB Cristian Garcia (shoulder); DL Khairi Clark (calf); DB Duke Dawson (head); DB Quincy Lenton (hamstring); LB Kylan Johnson (leg). Out —WR James Robinson (heart); QB Kyle Trask (foot); DB Marcell Harris (achilles).
Vanderbilt injuries: Questionable —FB Bailey McElwain (foot); DB Bryce Lewis (undisclosed).