The past six seasons have been pretty rough on the Florida faithful. Even the two best seasons, 2012 (11-2) and 2015 (10-4), ended in miserable fashion with crushing bowl losses.
While the Gators are the defending SEC East champs, they’re not really getting treated that way by the media. Tennessee is the overwhelming favorite in the division, despite the Volunteers’ ongoing struggle with finding a way to beat Florida.
To most outsiders, UF’s 2015 season under coach Jim McElwain was a fluke. Fair or not, these Gators aren’t seen as a great team in the style of dominant squads coached by Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.
To borrow from The Donald, here are five ways to Make Florida Great Again:
1. Secure the border
No, this isn’t about building a wall. It’s all about recruiting.
A lot of teams recruit the Sunshine State in search of some of the top high school football players. The Gators go up against Florida State and Miami for many of the top in-state prospects and that is unlikely to ever charge.
What should bother Florida coaches is how the rest of the SEC has been able to come in and cherry pick the state’s top talent. Too many standout Florida high schoolers are leaving the state to play for schools like Alabama (most notably Heisman winner Derrick Henry), Auburn, Georgia and LSU.
If a Florida recruit wants to play in the SEC, he should be considered a Gator lean from the get-go.
2. Take back The Swamp
This was off to a great start in 2015, at least for September and October. The Gators beat UT in thrilling fashion and followed that up with a dominating upset victory over Ole Miss, suggesting The Swamp had some magic again.
Then November rolled around. Florida was fortunate to escape Vanderbilt 9-7 at home, a homecoming contest that was not supposed to come down to a late field goal. The next home game proved even more of a nail-biter, as a Florida Atlantic team sporting a 2-8 record took the Gators to overtime in a 20-14 squeaker.
UF’s disappointing November hit rock bottom when FSU came to town to close out the regular season. The Gators were nearly shut out in the 27-2 thumping at the hands of the Seminoles.
A perfect home record in 2016 would give McElwain’s squad some momentum toward reclaiming greatness.
3. Bring stability back to the quarterback position
This one should not be hard because the bar has been set very low. With the recent transfer of Treon Harris, it now means that no quarterback signed by former coach Will Muschamp will end his career at Florida.
The post-Tim Tebow era of the past six seasons has been a series of swings and misses. Even when it looks like the Gators found their quarterback of the future (Jeff Driskel in 2012, Will Grier in 2015), things had a way of going south.
While the Gators are using one graduate transfer this season (Austin Appleby), McElwain is clearly building for the future. Luke Del Rio (above) is only a redshirt sophomore when it comes to eligibility, and it’s unknown when the four-year clocks will start for newcomers Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask.
The depth at quarterback is there, and could be the foundation for the future if McElwain can finally end the revolving door of transfers.
4. Make Spurrier part of the team
Steve Spurrier is back on Florida campus. While his new role is defined as an ambassador and consultant to the athletic department, he needs to be an active face of Florida football.
For his part, McElwain has shown no ego when it comes to having the ultimate Gator return to an office in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Spurrier has also attended multiple practices, including one open to media members on Monday.
HBC in the house, watching from the shade.
— Andrew Olson (@ByAndrewOlson) August 15, 2016
The Gators appear to be taking the steps to make this happen. Hopefully we see and hear more from Spurrier this fall.
5. Start beating FSU again
If you’ve followed the campaign to Make America Great Again, you’ll know that winning is a big part of restoring greatness. Lately, the Gators haven’t done much winning against FSU (1-5 since 2010).
A six-year winning streak was snapped in 2010 with a Seminole blowout in Tallahassee, 31-7. With Jimbo Fisher wrapping up his first year as Urban Meyer retired a second time, the rivalry had officially swung back to the garnet and gold’s favor.
For Florida, recent successes over Tennessee and Georgia are nice, but in order to be a truly great program, UF has to be the best team in the state. That comes by starting up a new winning streak against FSU.
Source: Saturday Down South