JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A strange week for the Florida football program somehow got weirder Saturday morning with athletic director Scott Stricklin feeling the need to issue a statement to address rumors the Gators are presently negotiating a buyout with coach Jim McElwain.
“No one representing the University of Florida or our athletic department has had any conversations with Coach McElwain or his representatives regarding a buyout of his contract. Our focus is on this great Florida-Georgia rivalry today in Jacksonville,” the statement read.
The telling part of that is not what Stricklin said, but what he didn’t say.
There was no statement of support for McElwain. No, “Jim McElwain is Florida’s head football coach and there is no truth to the rumors that the university is looking to part ways.” Just as there was no statement of support for McElwain earlier this week when he referenced death threats but wouldn’t provide details to reporters or Stricklin.
— Ryan Young (@RyanYoungSEC) October 28, 2017
There was no sense before this week began that McElwain’s job was in jeopardy during the season. In fact, many believed with the recruiting momentum he and his staff have generated for 2018 and 2019, he would get at least another year to prove this season was simply a lull due to injuries, suspensions and a young quarterback.
Now the heat on McElwain feels very real. If his Gators (3-3, 3-2 SEC) can pull off an upset over No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0), the situation becomes even more interesting. Is it too late to reverse the narrative?
Of course, if they lose convincingly, as just about every Bulldogs opponent has this fall, the watch will be further intensified to see just how much fire there is to the smoke created Saturday morning.
In the meantime, though, there is still the game to be played.
Here are a few pregame observations:
- Receivers Tyrie Cleveland (ankle) and Kadarius Toney (shoulder) looked fine going through warmups, offering further confirmation that both are ready to return to action.
- Fellow wide receiver Josh Hammond (back) did not go through warmups and looks to be out.
- Linebacker Jeremiah Moon (ankle) is going through warmups and looks fine as well.
- Nobody else who was expected to play looks to be limited.
- Jeawon Taylor is at first-team safety along with Chauncey Gardner Jr.
- Jachai Polite and CeCe Jefferson are the first-team defensive ends in pregame walkthroughs while Jabari Zuniga and Antonneous Clayton are the second-teamers. With Jordan Sherit lost to a season-ending hip injury, Clayton could not get his chance to contribute.