Thursday, April 26, 2018
Colleges

Disappointment deja vu with Jim McElwain, Antonio Callaway

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain stood in front of reporters Monday afternoon to discuss a topic that is growing tiresome to the Gators.

Not the ongoing quarterback battle. Or the years of offensive struggles.

McElwain had to address yet another off-the-field issue involving standout receiver Antonio Callaway.

This one stems from Sunday's suspension of seven players (including Callaway) for the Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan, reportedly for misusing school-related funds. McElwain said they have been suspended from team activities, and none were seen at Monday's practice.

"I'm very disappointed," McElwain said.

That's almost the exact same thing McElwain said in May, after another Callaway incident. That came before a speaking stop in Clearwater, the day news broke about Callaway's citation on a complaint of marijuana possession.

"Just really disappointed," McElwain said then. "And yet, at the same time, there's another opportunity to learn. There's another opportunity to educate."

Those opportunities don't appear to be working.

Callaway's problems began at the end of his first season, when he was accused of sexual assault. UF ultimately cleared him of wrongdoing, but not before suspending him for all of spring practice, and not before he admitted to being high on marijuana at the time of the encounter.

Then came the second marijuana incident, which ended in him pleading no contest to possessing drug paraphernalia. And now the latest transgression, which deprives the Gators of their top offensive skill player in their biggest opener in decades.

"It's not just Antonio," McElwain said.

It's not. Six other players are out, too, including key defensive end Keivonnis Davis and four-star freshman Kadeem Telfort, a potential contributor at offensive tackle.

But things keep coming back to Callaway.

RELATED: University of Florida faces a second Title IX investigation.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound junior from Miami is still trying to maximize his first-round talent. His seven career touchdown catches came without a quarterback who could consistently get him the ball and without much offensive skill talent around him to ease the pressure.

Without Callaway's fourth-and-14 heroics against Tennessee in his fourth collegiate game, McElwain would be 0-2 against the Volunteers. If it weren't for Callaway's flashes of success against Alabama and Michigan, two of the biggest failures of the McElwain era would have looked even worse.

Unless Callaway's conduct changes, his untapped potential might not matter. McElwain said Monday he "absolutely" has a limit to how much he will accept from Callaway.

"And yet at the same time, the individual circumstances, they'll be handled and dealt with for the severity that it is," McElwain said.

For now, that means Callaway and six of his teammates performing some unspecified act of restitution and missing at least the first game — although McElwain didn't rule out further punishment.

While McElwain was typically vague about many of his comments, he made one thing clear: He isn't giving up on Callaway.

But McElwain said the same thing during spring practice, when he and other Gators praised Callaway's progress. And he said the same thing in May, when he mentioned the "tons" of growth he had seen from his top receiver.

"I'm telling you, man, when you talk about the disappointment piece, I saw these strides …" McElwain said Monday. "And then sometimes you take a step back."

Again.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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