While the Florida football program is in danger of finishing the season with a losing record for the second time in five years, the rebuilding shouldn’t take as long as some are predicting.
Despite all the problems with Florida at the moment, UF interim football coach Randy Shannon said the head coaching job at UF remains one of the best in college football.
“Yes, very good football job,” he said. “It’s probably still going to be one of the top programs in the nation, because you’re able to go and recruit nationally. You’re always going to recruit the Florida and the south Georgia areas where you always tend to get great players at. And now you always can go national because the Gator brand is big.
“You all sit back and say, ‘Well there’s no talent here.’ No, there’s a lot of talent still on this football team. It’s young talent, there’s a lot of young players on this football team and future-wise it can be unbelievable.”
UF athletic director Scott Stricklin and staff are in the process of hiring a new coach, with Central Florida’s Scott Frost, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Memphis’ Mike Norvell topping many speculated lists.
“This is a pretty good job,” Stricklin said. “You look up out at that (stadium wall), it lists three pretty recent national championships (1996, 2006 and 2008). This is a place you can have a lot of success. Certainly the facility enhancements (more than $100 million in upgrades planned) will be a really important part of our future, but I like the opportunity for somebody wanting to come in here and start building something in the present.”
Shannon selling UF brand
Even though he might not be around after the season, Shannon is reaching out to recruits, trying to sell them on Florida.
“We did a tremendous job of communicating with the guys that, ‘Hey it’s not about me, it’s not about anybody on this team, it’s about the University of Florida.’” Shannon said. “It’s about the Gator brand. You want to come to the University of Florida because you want to play at a high level. You want to get a great education. You want to get a family atmosphere. And every young man that we talked to last night was unbelievable.”
Shannon said several recruits have already reaffirmed their commitment to Florida.
“They were upbeat, ‘Yeah coach, I’m still ready to come. Coach, I’m still ready to do this.’ They’re still excited,” Shannon said. “And I say ‘Listen, we may not be here.’ They said, ‘Coach I understand that but you’re right, It’s about the Gator brand.’
“Those are the guys you want to be a part of this football team. When you have young men like that that really want to be a part of it, those are the guys you have to embrace. That’s the guys that you have to say, ‘OK, we need this guy to be a part of this football team. We need this guy to be a part of this university. We need this guy to be a part of this organization.’ And that’s what we go for.”
Play like a veteran
In an attempt to end the slow starts that doomed Florida in back-to-back blowout losses to Georgia and Missouri, Shannon is demanding that his young players start playing like veterans at the opening of games.
“I don’t make excuses, but like I said the other day, we don’t have any veterans right now,” Shannon said. “We’ve got to build on a guy like (David) Reese, build on some other guys to start fast and do certain things. Early in the year when we had a lot of veterans on this team, we were starting fast.
“Right now, we’re counting and depending on these young guys to crank it up a little bit. Because they’re at Florida. Don’t make any excuses because you’re young. You’re a veteran now, you’ve played some games and you’re representing the Gators.”