Florida Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days
SEC media days were a lot more interesting for the Florida Gators than I thought they would be. I believed it was going to be much of the same stuff we’ve heard about for the last several months. Things like the quarterback play needs to improve, the Gators have to perform better and the coaching staff has to do whatever it can to avoid losing their jobs.
Instead, it was quite eventful, and one could argue that the Gators stole the show during Day 1 of the event. There was a little boasting going on, players and coaches had a little cockiness to their tone and we received a few updates on some key players’ status for the upcoming season.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Florida’s media day.
Florida Will Use Two Quarterbacks Early
Like most SEC teams, Florida begins the season with two cupcake games, with matchups against Idaho and Eastern Michigan. These will not only get the Gators warmed up for what’s to come but it also opens the door for backups to gain valuable experience. Muschamp admitted that the quarterback position is one that is certainly going to be experimented with, according to Thomas Goldkamp, of 247Sports.
We need to develop a backup behind [Jeff Driskel], Muschamp said. I don't know who that would be right now. But I would plan on playing that person early in the season, talking about the first game, just like we did with Jeff his freshman year when John Brantley was our quarterback because of the lack of experience behind Jeff. We need to develop that guy and be ready for a situation where we might have to play him.
The fact that Muschamp doesn’t even know who the backup is at the moment means that there’s a chance Will Grier or Treon Harris aren’t redshirted. Either way, this will help Florida as it heads into the meat of the schedule, especially given Driskel’s injury history.
Florida knows all too well how things can go with an inexperienced backup.
Andre Debose Is Ready to Go
Spread and quick-tempo offenses fit speedy and elusive players better than anybody, and there are few faster than wide receiver Andre Debose. Since suffering a torn ACL last spring, Florida’s coaching staff could only hope he was ready to go by the time fall camp rolled around so he’d be ready for the regular season. Muschamp gave Florida fans the great news, according to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.
“[Team doctors] didn’t think there was any way he’d participate in non-contact in spring practice, and right now he’s been cleared for everything in the summer," Muschamp said. "Here’s a guy who’s really worked his tail off to put himself back into position to do some things.”
Debose has a chance to be the X-factor for Florida this season and actually contribute in other areas besides special teams. He’s one of the few Florida receivers who can make plays after the catch and create his own offense. Debose also has the speed to spread the field and make things tougher on the opposing defense.
The Gators have the potential to be a lot more productive offensively with a healthy Debose on the field.
Muschamp Isn't Worried About a Hot Seat
If it wasn’t talk about how Jeff Driskel has to improve, it was what Muschamp has to do in order to save his job. Those were the two main topics for Florida this offseason that have been beaten over your head.
Apparently the message was received by Muschamp, but he isn’t worried about it in the slightest, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.
"There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business and that's part of it," Muschamp said. "The way you combat that is by having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do."
Notice how Muschamp said the Gators are going to win. He didn’t bite his tongue or dance around the question. He poked his chest out and answered it with unusual confidence for a coach who led his team to just four wins a season ago.
This is a great sign for Florida fans, and the confidence has obviously trickled down to the players.
Players Believe Things Will Be Different
Muschamp wasn’t the only one who brought bold statements to Alabama. Florida’s players seem to be on board with this whole turnaround thing, as defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. expects the Gators to make their presence felt in the SEC this year, according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.
"We're all we got," Fowler said. "My brothers, my coaching staff, that's how it's going to be here. Our job is to fight adversity and our job is to make the Gator Nation happy and get Florida back on top, where they used to be."
It didn't stop there, either.
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III told reporters that Jeff Driskel is the best quarterback in all of college football. Driskel then echoed those statements by saying he thinks he's capable of being one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC. Yup, the same quarterback who is coming off a broken leg and has nearly as many career interceptions as touchdowns.
It was a point well taken. Florida was not going to back down from what they believe in, and, while they know it’s a tall order to bounce back from last season, it’s a team that’s clearly ready to take on the odds.
Fans, players and coaches all appear to be mighty optimistic about the upcoming season and believe that things are going to turnaround in a big way. The media, however, isn’t buying any of it.
When the SEC media days were over, everybody turned in their ballots and ultimately had Florida finishing third in the SEC East, behind Georgia and South Carolina, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com. To make matters worse, nobody gave Florida a shot to win the conference. Heck, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State were picked by at least one media member to win the SEC this season, per the report.
The good thing for Florida is that the media doesn’t play the game, they just report it. Also, the media overwhelmingly picked Alabama to win the SEC last year and not a single person picked Auburn to walk away with the crown. That didn’t work out so well.
If anything, this puts an even bigger chip on Florida’s shoulder.