GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Give one thing to this year’s Florida Gators — there’s never a dull moment with them.
News seems to be happening constantly with this team, and it doesn’t always make for good headlines. Star cornerback Jalen Tabor and tight end C’yontai Lewis were suspended Wednesday for fighting each other.
Several people asked for my take on this situation, and one person even wondered if the preseason troubles with Florida players are a sign that they’ll take a step back this season.
I definitely don’t think so. A few isolated incidents aren’t indicative of where things stand with the entire team, and two of them really aren’t that serious.
A fight between teammates and BB gun horseplay by a pair of freshmen aren’t exactly indictments on the football program. However, because the scuffle drew blood and the pellets damaged property, the players deservedly received punishment from UF coach Jim McElwain.
But in a month, nobody will be thinking about what they did.
As for Callaway, his case warranted extensive coverage in recent weeks, but the alleged assault took place way back in early December.
The accusation didn’t seem to slow him down in the SEC Championship Game or Citrus Bowl (121 total receiving yards and a punt return score), so I don’t expect it to have an impact on his production this fall. Certain aspects of Callaway’s case caused a bad look for the university, but he and his teammates should be unaffected by this now that he’s been cleared.
Here are the top five questions from this week:
Are we in the mix for any stud LB’s this recruiting cycle?
It’s fair to say Florida is in the mix for Anthony Hines, the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker.
He made news this week by revealing he will take an official visit to UF, which is huge for the Gators. That shows legitimate interest. They haven’t signed a top-100 linebacker since 2013, so a stud is certainly needed.
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon has ties to Texas and flipped Kylan Johnson late in the 2015 cycle, so he’s capable of luring Hines away from the Lone Star State.
Shannon is also pursuing 4-star linebackers K.J. Britt, Rahyme Johnson and Levi Jones. Florida has two commits at the position and the early returns have been promising on the three freshmen, but the Gators need to at least one more linebacker in their class and they’re aiming high.
Do you think the QB from New Jersey is ours to lose next year, and who else are we recruiting at QB for 2018?
That’d be Artur Sitkowski, the nation’s No. 4 pro-style quarterback for 2018. He wowed at Florida’s QB camp and earned an offer from the Gators, which I could tell was a big deal to him.
Despite being a New Jersey native, the Sunshine State is sort of a second home to him. He has stayed in Tampa with aunt, a Gator fan, on several occasions and even attended the Florida-FSU game with her in 2013.
So Sitkowski and his parents are very familiar with the program and the camp experience impressed them even more. At this point in his recruitment, it appears to be a battle between Florida and Michigan.
The other 2018 uncommitted quarterbacks with offers are Trevor Lawrence and Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was also offered after camping at UF. Neither signal caller seems likely to end up with the Gators, and I think Sitkowski is their man for next year.
Who do you see as a breakout player that no one is talking about this year?
I really believe Jordan Scarlett is going surprise everyone in 2016.
He probably won’t start or get the most carries or yards, but look for him to become Florida’s home-run threat at running back. That 60-yard scamper against Georgia showed his big-play potential, and I’m told he broke free in the first scrimmage for a long run.
He needed to go through some growing pains as a freshman and humble himself after being such a high-profile prospect. Most fans have a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately outlook when it comes to recruiting, but I still remember the jubilation Florida coaches felt when they flipped Scarlett from Miami.
The U.S. Army All-American ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at The Opening and beat Gators running back Mark Thompson in a foot race. That speed will be showcased significantly more during his sophomore campaign.
Outside the lack of experience level at QB, is the LB position the most volatile area going into the season?
(From @davemock, @go_pharm_gator)
Without a doubt. If one of Florida’s starters at linebacker suffers an injury, the Gators will be in trouble.
Their depth isn’t ideal, but there’s a bigger issue now that Matt Rolin is no longer with the team. UF has zero experience among the five players behind seniors Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian.
How fragile is Florida at the position? When Anzalone wasn’t spotted at practice Thursday, fans went into panic mode on social media. It got so bad that Anzalone had to address his absence on Twitter.
In case anyone is wondering, I am at grad school orientation today. Don't worry lol
— Alex Anzalone (@AlexAnzalone34) August 18, 2016
If the starters stay healthy, the Gators should be fine. All indications are that freshmen Kylan Johnson and David Reese will be able to provide quality depth, but you don’t want to count on first-year linebackers for anything more than that.
Is there any serious possibility of an assistant coach or coordinator getting a head coaching job?
UF has three heading coaching candidates on its 2016 staff.
The obvious choices are defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Both were considered for jobs last year, with UCF interviewing Collins and Nussmeier turning down Southern Miss.
Shannon, Miami’s coach from 2007-10, has also drawn interest from a few schools in recent years. He’s just waiting on the right opportunity, but it’s hard to imagine him not becoming a head coach again.
Collins may be the most likely to leave if his defense has another successful season. Should that happen, I think you’d see Shannon and Florida defensive line coach Chris Rumph become co-coordinators.
Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier is the name to watch if and when Nussmeier gets a head coaching gig. Napier, Clemson’s former offensive coordinator, worked with McElwain at Alabama in 2011 and then followed him to Colorado State to serve as his assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.