Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Colleges

Florida Gators suspend Antonio Callaway, six others for opener

Months of speculation about whether Florida would suspend star receiver Antonio Callaway because of marijuana has turned out to be moot.

The Gators suspended Callaway, their top offensive skill player, and six other players Sunday for other reasons they didn't specify for their blockbuster Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan in Arlington, Texas.

"We have a small group of players that have made some choices that are extremely disappointing," coach Jim McElwain said in a statement. "Action has been taken. They have missed some practice and will miss the Michigan game. We will use this as a learning opportunity, and we will have some players step up as we move forward."

McElwain and UF did not specify the nature of the players' "choices." Multiple news outlets reported over the weekend that they involved misusing school-related funds. The money did not come from cost-of-attendance stipends. None of the seven players has been charged with a crime, according to Alachua County court records.

The other suspended players are defensive linemen Keivonnis Davis, Jordan Smith and Richerd Desir-Jones; offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort; and linebackers James Houston and Ventrell Miller.

Davis is a notable hit to a defense that lost seven players to the NFL draft plus coordinator Geoff Collins, who left to become the head coach at Temple. Davis, a 6-foot-4, 241-pound junior, appeared in 13 games last year and started five at defensive end. He recorded 27 tackles (three for a loss) and a forced fumble and ranked second on the team with five quarterback hurries.

Desir-Jones is the only other suspended player with previous playing time. Telfort, a four-star recruit from Miami, could contribute this season as a true freshman.

But the biggest loss is Callaway, a game-breaking player on the field who keeps finding trouble off it.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound junior is the only player in school history to score a touchdown via rush, reception, pass, punt return and kickoff return. Through two seasons, the Miami native has 1,399 career receiving yards and seven touchdown catches.

His winning 64-yard touchdown against Tennessee in 2015 remains one of the highlights of the McElwain era, and he has shown up on early NFL mock drafts as a potential first-round pick next year.

If he can stay out of trouble.

Callaway was suspended for UF's 2016 spring practice as the university investigated a sexual assault accusation against him. During the investigation, he said he was high on marijuana during the encounter. A school conduct hearing found him not responsible for any wrongdoing. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating UF's handling of that Title IX case.

In May, Callaway was cited for marijuana possession. The charge was dropped after he pleaded no contest to possession of drug equipment.

How McElwain and the Gators planned to handle Callaway's conduct was one of the biggest questions of the offseason. UF's policy calls for a suspension if a player tests positive for marijuana twice. Callaway has no known failed drug tests.

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

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