GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Two days after suspended quarterback Will Grier left Florida, the Gators have three more players on the move.
Coach Jim McElwain said Monday that running back Kelvin Taylor, receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive end Alex McCalister have decided to forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft. They join All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who declared his intentions to turn pro after the Southeastern Conference championship game earlier this month.
The decisions mean the 19th-ranked Gators will lose their leading rusher, leading receiver, best defensive back and one of their top pass rushers from this season.
Taylor, Robinson and Hargreaves will stick around for the bowl game. McCalister is recovering from a foot injury and won’t practice or play. The Gators (10-3) face No. 17 Michigan (9-3) in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
”These guys have a pretty good feeling of they’ve got one more opportunity to be proud of what they put on film, to show their worth,” McElwain said. ”The NFL now is as much obviously about great players as it is character. Here’s your opportunity to play your tail off. It says a lot about who you are and how you are going to be as a teammate moving forward. I’m expecting those guys to play all out.”
Taylor ran for 985 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Robinson caught a team-high 47 passes for 505 yards and two scores. He was demoted twice this season and suspended for Florida’s regular-season finale against Florida State. It was his fourth suspension in three years and stirred speculation that he would leave college early. He was reinstated for the SEC title game, after the team’s seniors voted to let him play.
Robinson responded to McElwain’s comments Monday on Twitter, somewhat contradicting his coach and making it unclear if he is entering the draft or just had not made it public. He posted, ”I had no idea! I never told anyone I was entering the draft, what is this???”
Robinson was held without a catch against Alabama in the title game, the third time that happened in his last five games.
McCalister finished the season with 18 1/2 tackles for loss, including 6 1/2 sacks, in nine games.
McElwain offered his support for all four juniors leaving early.
”When you look at it, I think you have to look sometimes at how maybe each position is stacked in a given year to kind of see where you’re at,” McElwain said. ”I know this: We’ll be here for them.”
Linebacker Jarrad Davis and defensive tackle Caleb Brantley said they will return for their senior years. Safeties Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye, both juniors, have not announced their intentions.
”I think some guys are ready and some guys need a little more seasoning,” McElwain said. ”Some guys really helped their draft stock (by staying in school).”
Grier’s future remains a mystery. The redshirt freshman asked for his release Friday, one day before the news went public.
McElwain said he was surprised by Grier’s decision, especially since the redshirt freshman told coaches a week earlier that he would be back in school in January.
”We obviously thought he was coming back,” McElwain said. ”That’s what we had a couple weeks ago. But in this case, that’s a choice. The one thing I’ll never do is make someone do something they don’t want to do. In life, sometimes change of scenery is good. In this case, he’s going to go have a successful career and go on to play in the NFL. We’ll help him and support him in every way we can.”
Grier was suspended one year in October for violating the NCAA’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He appealed, but the NCAA upheld the suspension.
The suspension will follow Grier to any NCAA institution. He could enroll at a junior college and play right away next season, but he would miss six games if he returns to play at an NCAA program.
Although McElwain didn’t say definitively whether he blocked Grier from transferring to certain schools, he hinted that he didn’t want him in the SEC.
”I’m not real fired up about seeing him in the SEC, but we signed (off on) a bunch of … every school that he brought up,” McElwain said. ”We’re here to support him.”