GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida center T.J. McCoy heard the update on Monday, just as the Florida football fan base did.
The University Police Department filed sworn complaints against all nine Gators players who have been suspended since August and recommended felony charges for each player in relation to an on-campus credit card fraud. The players include star wide receiver Antonio Callaway and starting running back Jordan Scarlett.
According to the sworn complaints, all nine fraudulently transferred money from credit cards into their own personal accounts. All nine bought electronics at the campus bookstore, while others also made additional purchases as well.
While most limited themselves to one transfer and one transaction, freshman Kadeem Telfort and redshirt freshman Jordan Smith repeated the act multiple times and are potentially facing 30 and 18 charges, respectively, according to university police.
But the question still remains: Will any or all of the nine players have the chance to return to the team?
Coach Jim McElwain and Florida isn’t focusing on that at the moment. The Gators have a football game, a conference slate, a season to worry about. And they have players on the team ready to make the most out of it.
A month into the season, Florida is slowly starting to find its identity. And that’s a good thing for these Gators because even though the investigation into their teammates is complete and in the hands of the state attorney’s office, it’s still unclear when — or if — any of those players will return.
“It’s a distraction, but coach Mac does a good job keeping us all together and toward our goal,” outside linebacker T.J. McCoy said. “Our goal is to win out this season. Right now, our goal is to beat Vanderbilt.”
The Gators are ranked No. 21 in the country and are 2-0 in conference play after a pair of back-to-back fourth-quarter heroics. First, it was Feleipe Franks’ 63-yard touchdown to Tyrie Cleveland as time expired against Tennessee on Sept. 16. On Saturday, it was Luke Del Rio leading the Gators to 14 unanswered points for a 28-27 win over Kentucky.
Those are moments to build on. They also have been glimpses of the players Florida has at its disposal, such as Malik Davis and Kadarius Toney, the play-making freshmen who are becoming more valuable in the offense each week.
There’s Cleveland, who is beginning to look the part of a No. 1 wide receiver, and Brandon Powell, who has 2 touchdowns over the past two games.
There’s the offensive line that had its best showing of the season late against Kentucky.
“I really felt like this game was a coming-out game for the offense,” McCoy said.
And it was done without their two most proven playmakers, Callaway and Scarlett, coming into the season. Florida will look to continue that momentum with three home games before a bye week and its annual matchup with Georgia on Oct. 28. That game likely will determine who wins the SEC East.
It’s uncertain when the district attorney’s office will make a decision on the cases, but the season already seems lost for those nine players.
Even if they hypothetically return in the next two weeks — which seems like a stretch at this point — Florida already will be five weeks into its season. Those players, most of whom have been suspended since Aug. 13, will have been away from the team for two months by then.
That’s a lot of ground to rebuild, a lot of trust to regain, a lot of opportunities lost.
So for now, the Gators will continue to keep doing what they have been doing.
That’s all they can control.