University of Florida

ESPN commentator rips UF for Jim McElwain incident

Florida quarterback Will Grier is hit by Kentucky defensive tackle Cory Johnson, left, after throwing a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Lexington, Ky.
Florida quarterback Will Grier is hit by Kentucky defensive tackle Cory Johnson, left, after throwing a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. AP

The Florida Gators have moved past last weekend’s viral sideline incident between coach Jim McElwain and tailback Kelvin Taylor, but the story still is a hot topic nationally.

ESPN College GameDay analyst Desmond Howard called for McElwain’s suspension Saturday, as the former Heisman Trophy winner spouted an impassioned rant defending Taylor.

“When I first saw the video I was like, ‘OK. This guy is very passionate. He’s trying to teach his player a lesson,’ ” Howard said. “I’m all about tough love. I was raised by a father with tough love. I played under some of the toughest coaches who every coached the game. I understand that, but when I heard the audio, it made me sick to my stomach.

“He overstepped his boundaries when he said some of the things that he said that I can’t repeat here on live TV. First and foremost, you don’t never sit there and humiliate player like that in any situation, not even behind closed doors. You just don’t do that. He lost control. That’s one thing you’re always taught as player. Never lose control in any situation during a game. He lost control.

“Even more importantly, how is he still coaching today? What does it take for a coach to be suspended? Because in my opinion, you just embarrassed not only yourself, not only the team, but you also embarrassed the University of Florida. How come the [athletic director], Jeremy Foley, didn’t suspend him for a game for embarrassing the university? How come the president, Kent Fuchs, didn’t suspend him?”

“In my opinion, you come in, Monday morning, that video is on your desk and you see your head coach humiliating a student-athlete like that and you’re OK with it to he’s going to sit here and work the next day? He’s not suspended? What message are you sending to your student athletes if a coach can conduct himself like that on the sidelines?”

In last weekend’s win over East Carolina, McElwain was seen screaming at Taylor after the tailback received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a throat-slash celebration following a fourth-quarter touchdown.

McElwain “regretted” the tirade but said the team was unfazed by the incident.

Former Florida State quarterback and ESPN commentator Danny Kanell vehemently disagreed with Howard, tweeting, “Oh my goodness, we coddle and baby these players so much now. … Suspension??? Come on now Desmond Howard. I can’t take it that we are even still talking about this. This is absolutely not a big deal.”

Taylor was benched to open the game against Kentucky, with freshman tailback Jordan Cronkrite (Westminster Christian) earning the start. Taylor’s time on the sidelines didn’t last long though, as he entered the third play of the game.

SECONDARY READY

For the first time all season, Florida’s stacked secondary featured its full complement of players.

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III returned from a one-game absence after missing the ECU victory with an undisclosed leg injury. Starting safety Keanu Neal also returned to the lineup after sitting out the first two games due a preseason hamstring strain.

Because of suspension (starting safety Marcus Maye) and injuries (Hargreaves, Neal), UF’s starting secondary hadn’t played a snap together before Saturday.

THIS AND THAT

▪ Tight end C’yontai Lewis, a redshirt freshman with two touchdowns on the season, did not travel after injuring his hand in practice Tuesday.

▪ Five-star freshman defensive end CeCe Jefferson earned his first-career start.

▪ Florida’s special teams woes continued, as Austin Hardin had a field goal blocked, and punter Johnny Townsend averaged just 33 yards on two kicks.

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