GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Dan Mullen addressed the reinstatement of four suspended football players for the first time Wednesday during his National Signing Day news conference.
Mullen said he will not hold off-field transgressions against those players — star running back Jordan Scarlett, untested wide receiver Rick Wells and redshirt freshmen linebackers James Houston and Ventrell Miller — but he also told them they will be held to a different standard moving forward.
Those four were among the nine Florida players suspended last August for using stolen credit card information to make unauthorized transactions. Four others have since left the program, while defensive end Keivonnis Davis is still recovering from non-football injuries sustained in a scooter crash last fall.
The reinstated players all received pre-trial intervention, which would allow their recommended third-degree felony charges to be dropped if they meet the requirements set forth by the State Attorney’s Office.
Mullen inherited the situation when he was hired in late November and worked with athletic director Scott Stricklin to reach a resolution once the matter passed through the legal and university stages.
“There was a lot of different processes going on with that in every phase, and I did my research and studied, and we got through the semester,” Mullen said. “I wanted to see where everybody was academically and how seriously they took the responsibilities of being a member of this football program. And [I] met with everybody that was involved.
“One of the things I talked to them about is, ‘Obviously you’re going to be held to a slightly different standard because of what’s happened in the past, but I’m not going to judge you for what you’ve done in the past. That all happened before I got here. I am going to judge you, though, on what happens in the future. And I will tell you that you’re probably going to be held to a higher standard, not just in my office, but to other people outside … because of what’s happened.’ “
The players were reinstated a couple of weeks ago and Stricklin commented on the matter for the first time over the weekend. He said each case was evaluated on an individual basis and that he wanted Mullen to give him feedback on which players he felt would fit into his expectations for being part of the program.
Scarlett, who rushed for 889 yards and 6 touchdowns to lead Florida in 2016, was the most high-profile of the group once former star wide receiver Antonio Callaway opted to declare for the NFL draft.
Meanwhile, offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort and defensive linemen Richerd Desir-Jones and Jordan Smith left to pursue opportunities outside of the program.
“So the individuals that are back are the ones that I believe deserve that opportunity,” Stricklin said. “To a man, they’ll tell you they made a mistake, and in life it’s how you respond to mistakes a lot of times that kind of determines what you’re made out of. So I think those young men have a great opportunity and I think they’ll take advantage of it.”
Mullen reiterated that sentiment.
“They’re thankful for the opportunity to show what they can do as part of our football program, not just on the field but as part of the football program and what it means to be a member of this program.”