Forget about all the offseason issues that potentially could have stalled momentum.
Never mind all the youth and inexperience on the offensive line, or the lack of depth at linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback, or the demanding schedule that includes Auburn, Georgia and LSU.
None of it seems to matter when it comes to the expectations for this Florida football team. They continue to soar to dizzying heights, and the Gators are doing their part to perpetuate the trend.
There’s no doubt, the Gators are aiming high, really high, in 2019.
“I think that you would be wrong if you weren’t going with expectations of winning a national title,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “I think that you’d be selling yourself short. I think this team is really special. I think that we expect to win games. That’s the Gator Standard and we expect to go out there and win every Saturday and try to make it a playoff contender and win a championship here again. That’s the expectations here every year.”
The expectations are off the charts mainly because of the way last season ended — blowout wins over FSU and Michigan for a 10-win season and a top-10 ranking in Dan Mullen’s first season — and the idea that things will be even better in year two with Mullen now that there is a comfort level for the players with the coaches and the system. And, of course, there are proven playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Franks and others say the offense is way ahead of where it was a year ago.
“(Coach Mullen) was still learning our names (a year ago),” Franks said. “Now we’re comfortable with him. Me personally, more comfortable with his playcalls. He’s more comfortable with me executing the playcalls. And I think that’s most important when you have a head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback and the whole offense on the same page. That just comes with time. That’s just what’s different between now and last year, the comfortability.”
Mullen said earlier this week that Franks has made great improvement since the end of last season, and this is an experienced quarterback now who has multiple weapons around him, at running back, wide receiver and tight end. The vibe coming out of preseason camp is this is going to be an up-tempo, explosive offense that should score a lot of points.
UF, and everyone else, will know more after Saturday’s opener against Miami and its aggressive, athletic defense.
The Gators seem eager to strut their stuff.
“Oh, we’re extremely explosive,” tight end Lucas Krull said. “You look at our depth chart up and down, we got guys on the corner, we got the best wide receiving corps in the nation. That group out there is phenomenal. We got match-up problems all around the board, so I’m really excited for our guys to get out there and show it.
“Our guys are ready to go attack and win. So, that’s what I’m curious to see, is us to get out there and dominate who steps in front of us. I think we’re ready to go and we’re going to dominate.”
The offense has the tools to do that, senior wide receiver Freddie Swain said.
“We have a little talent in the receiver room. We have talent in the running back room,” he said. “The O-line will be pretty good. It’s going to be a good offense to watch.
“It’s a lot of talent. You can just see, everybody is making plays, whether that be a small run turned into a big one or a little catch turned into a big catch. You can see the excitement out of guys and a burst of energy out of guys.”
If the offense turns out to be as potent as the players are predicting, and the defense stays healthy and plays up to its usual high standard, maybe Franks will be right about this team.
That’s certainly the expectation the Gators are embracing.
“I definitely do (think this is a special team),” sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson said. “Over the years I’ve seen a change in how the team interacts with each other, definitely a lot more love for each other. I think that’s really important to go be a championship team.”
Who: No. 8 Florida vs. Miami
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850