GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Be it gamesmanship, a still unresolved element to the situation or simply a desire not to provide an update, Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain offered no clues Thursday as to whether sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway will be active for the team’s season opener Sept. 3 against Massachusetts.
“Yeah, we’re still working through some things” is all McElwain would say on the matter when asked.
Callaway was handed an indefinite suspension on Jan. 27 in response to a sexual assault allegation against him, but he was allowed back on campus for classes and team workouts in June. On Aug. 12, a university Title IX hearing cleared him of any violation of the school’s code of conduct.
After practice Wednesday night, Callaway posted a tweet referencing the season opener.
He was the team’s top receiver as a freshman last year with 678 yards and four touchdowns yards on 35 catches while also excelling on punt returns.
The Gators probably don’t need him to get past Massachusetts, but it’s a question McElwain will keep getting asked until he’s ready to answer it.
In other news regarding the return of key players, McElwain confirmed that junior cornerback Jalen “Teez” Tabor and redshirt sophomore tight end C’yontai Lewis would indeed return to team activities Thursday after they were suspended early last week for getting into an altercation with each other.
Both are still suspended for the season opener, though.
“We talked about it as a family and our expectations, (and) off we go,” McElwain said, keeping his comments brief on that matter as well.
McElwain did not offer any specific timetable for when freshmen receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells — both out with hamstring injuries — might return to practice.
“Those two guys are obviously going through some things and dealing with some things, but they’ll be back,” he said.
In other injury news, redshirt sophomore lineman Kavaris Harkless (undisclosed injury) returned to practice Wednesday, and fellow redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Andrew Mike was set to return to practice Thursday. McElwain did not provide any specific update on sophomore running back Jordan Cronkrite, who was “banged up” in the team’s scrimmage last Friday, but he did clarify that junior wide receiver C.J. Worton’s injury is a “dreaded high-ankle sprain.”
“Exactly what that means, I don’t know other than the fact that it’s not low,” McElwain said. “But it surely seems to take some time to get back, and yet the one thing we do is we’ve got great doctors, we’ve got great trainers. We never push anybody back before they’re ready.”
Shared duty on kickoff return likely
After mentioning last week that he was looking at junior college newcomer Dre Massey and junior incumbent Brandon Powell as the top candidates for kickoff return duties, McElwain said Thursday that both likely would get opportunities in that role.
“We’ll use multiple guys back there,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with staying fresh. You’ll see both of them back there.”
Those two also were competing for slot receiver duties in camp, but McElwain has commented multiple times now that he’d like to find ways to get them on the field at the same time.
A offensive lineman’s perspective on Del Rio
Sophomore right tackle Fred Johnson met with reporters Thursday and was asked his impressions so far of newly-minted starting quarterback Luke Del Rio.
“I’ve seen some crazy things, like he surprises me sometimes with how he handles situations and handles just the accuracy of his throws,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen one play, he just chucked it between two defenders and the receiver just caught it for a touchdown. I was like ‘Hey, whatever works.’”
Turning the focus forward
McElwain planned to have the team turn its full attention toward the season opener starting with practice Thursday, signaling the end of preseason.
“Today is really our first introduction to what we’re gonna do moving forward next week,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that we’ll kind of do from a routine standpoint, work situations with the crowd noise to get our guys kind of used to that. After practice we’ll do the routine that we would normally do on a Friday, actually. We’ll meet at the Gator head, go up and do our Friday meal, how we kind of go about that. …
“Today will be practice 23, and this is when we normally kind of start on the prep piece of the season and the first opponent.”
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.