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As the credit card fraud saga that has embroiled nine Florida football players and set the tone for this wayward season for the program nears a resolution, the logical next question is what does it mean for those players’ futures with the Gators?
Among the players offered pre-trial intervention, running back Jordan Scarlett and wide receiver Rick Wells appeared in court Monday, linebacker James Houston goes Wednesday, defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones and wide receiver Antonio Callaway are set for next Tuesday and linebacker Ventrell Miller is scheduled for Nov. 16.
The court date for defensive end Keivonnis Davis has yet to be posted, and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort and defensive lineman Jordan Smith were not offered the pre-trial diversion due to the number of potential charges they’re facing.
“You have to talk to the university about those things,” interim coach Randy Shannon said when asked about the future of the players. “I’m the head coach at the University of Florida, I’m not the decision-maker that has to do with anything outside this football program.”
And after the court matters are completed, the university has its own student code of conduct matter to explore.
Clearly, as has been expected for some time, none of the nine suspended players will return this season.
As for next season, that’s leads us to our latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day:
@DrJHow12 asks on Twitter … “Is the new HC even going to want the distraction of the suspended players on the team?
I think it will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
I don’t think there’s any way Callaway is given the chance to return with his track record of off-the-field issues and distractions.
There’s no upside for the Gators with Callaway. Sure, he’s a talented receiver who would help the offense, but Florida is looking for a fresh start with whichever head coach it hires and inviting the criticism that would come with a Callaway return is unnecessary baggage from the Jim McElwain era.
It’s hard to forecast a return for the two guys — Smith and Telfort — who weren’t offered the pre-trial intervention and the chance to have their potential charges dismissed.
Davis was seriously injured in a car/scooter accident back in September and it’s not even clear if he’ll be physically able to return to the rigors of college football, though Shannon said Tuesday that is still Davis’ hope.
And Wells now has two off-the-field strikes against him — adding the BB gun incident prior to his freshman season — but has yet to make an impact on the field. It seemed possible even before the credit card fraud matter that he could be a transfer candidate, and it’s looking less likely that he finds his way back now.
That leaves four.
Scarlett is draft eligible and has to decide if he even wants to seek another chance at Florida. Certainly the missed season and the nature of his offense will ding his draft stock, but it’s still probable that he would fetch enough of an NFL opportunity to leave on his own.
If he wants to return, there’s probably a chance.
Same for Desir-Jones and the two freshmen. Miller, for one, has been tweeting as if he expects to return.
— Ventrell Miller (@ventrell_miller) October 24, 2017
The alleged crimes were serious, and it’s easy to understand any fan sentiment that a clean separation from all nine players would be the strongest statement. But for players who avoid charges, make restitution and essentially get off with what amounts to probation, the door for the Gators to bring at least some back is open.
The question, though, was would the new head coach even want to have the guys back in the program?
My guess is when he looks at the linebacker depth, he’ll feel very open-minded about adding Miller and Houston. They don’t carry the same stigma as Callaway and this is their first strike in terms of off-the-field behavior.
So my gut feel is a few of the guys return (including the two freshmen linebackers), and if that’s the case then the same opportunity would presumably be there for Scarlett if he doesn’t choose to leave on his own.
That’s not to say a potential return would be met with unilateral fan support. Even if the university and football program forgive and forget, many others will have a harder time with that.
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