GAINESVILLE It came from nowhere, totally unprompted, courtesy of Florida coach Jim McElwain. Responding to a question about whether the coaching staff deserves more credit than it’s getting, he launched into a discussion far more serious than the questioner anticipated.
“It’s ... you know, a good lesson for the way things are,” he said of the coaches not getting credit. Then he transitioned. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger, and yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is obviously when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought up out there, and yet I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally.”
Death threats against his family. Threats against players. Threats, presumably, against coaches.
“Death threats?” another reporter asked when McElwain finished.
“Hmmm. Hmmm,” is all he answered. He didn’t want to talk about it much after bringing it up spontaneously, but he did provide some details. Is he shocked?
“No,” he said. “Here’s the one thing. You’re in the business, that’s all part of it. When it’s directed toward your players, when it’s directed to families, wives, that kind of thing ... and yet at the same time they know what they signed up for as well. That’s part of the business.”
Linebacker Kylan Johnson said he’s seen some negative chatter from fans on social media, though he tries to avoid it. He admitted it’s tough sometimes, especially with the team on a two-game losing skid ahead of a matchup against No. 3 Georgia, but it’s the only option he sees.
“We’re not really worried about that,” he said. “We’re just going to keep moving forward. We’ve got Coach Mac’s back. We’re just going to continue to be positive moving forward.”
Safety Chauncey Gardner was more blunt.
“We don’t care,” he said. “We’re playing football.”
Franks still starter
Elwain faced several questions about the possibility of backup quarterback Malik Zaire getting some snaps moving forward. He confirmed Feleipe Franks is still the starter, and Zaire is still trying to get into a game.
In five starts this season, Franks has thrown for 800 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. In less than one half of action — all against Michigan — Zaire threw for 106 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and lost 29 yards on the ground.
Still, McElwain said, he’s trying.
“He continues to work,” McElwain said, “and that’s a good thing.”
Florida’s depth was thread-thin last weekend after its loss to Texas A&M. With nine players still suspended, the Gators lost a player — defensive end Jordan Sherit — for the year for the third time this season against the Aggies. There were also multiple smaller injuries.
McElwain said that a full injury report will be given on Wednesday, but for now, it looks like there’s some hope the team will get some of its playmakers back.
The two biggest losses were both at receiver, where UF was without leading wideout Tyrie Cleveland and electric athlete Kadarius Toney against TAMU. McElwain said Cleveland “ran pretty decent” his last time out, but he’ll be limited for the rest of the week. Toney, meanwhile, won’t know where he’s at until Wednesday.
McElwain added he expects to have linebacker Jeremiah Moon back after he missed last week’s game. Defensive end Jabari Zuniga is still in limbo for now.
The only new injury was Josh Hammond, who tweaked his back. McElwain said he’s questionable.
“It was really bad last week,” Hammond said. “I finally got standing up and walking again, so that’s a good sign. Gonna keep treating it and see.”