Gators: Plenty of talent returns for a quick UF bounce back

Florida coach Randy Shannon says the Gators have outstanding young talent on the roster and verbally committed recruit. Young talent such as freshman running back Malik Davis (20). [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]


Florida football is kind of a mess right now. It’s almost dysfunctional, close to broken.

But it’s not going to stay that way. And it’s not going to stay that way for long.

The players and coaches seem pretty certain about that.

They foresee a big bounce back year in 2018 with whomever the new coach turns out to be.

“Honestly, I think it will be easy to turn around,” junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan said of the program. “There’s just some small things, and once they fix that (there will be a turnaround). Coach (Randy) Shannon has done a great job of doing that. Coach (Chris) Rumph, great dude. They’re both great coaches that are able to influence people in a very positive manner very quickly. When they’re in more of a leadership position, it really helps out the team a lot.”

Shannon, the interim head coach, and his staff are trying hard to make the turnaround start over the course of the final three games of this season. But the odds are against them.

This is a season that has come unraveled for the Gators, and patching it back together seems a longshot at best.

This all started with the nine player suspensions in August, escalated over the past two months with a seemingly endless string of injuries and came to a head with the sudden departure of head coach Jim McElwain two weeks ago.

The situation seems almost hopeless at the moment. The Gators are on a four-game losing streak, lost their last two games by a combined score of 87-23 and will be without 25 scholarship players, many of them starters, against South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia.

It’s a dark and discouraging time in program history.

But Shannon sees a bright future for the Gators.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said Wednesday. “You look at the young guys that are doing a tremendous job for us of making touchdowns and stopping guys, interceptions. If you look at what we have, our running back — a true sophomore (Lamical Perine) and (true freshman) Malik (Davis) just got injured.

“You look at the defensive backs. We have one senior and then it’s all true freshmen and sophomores. Defensive line, we have a lot of young guys playing. The whole linebacking corps is sophomores. Take a look at the receivers. Besides BP (Brandon Powell) and Dre Massey, they’re all sophomores.

“There’s a lot of youth on this football team. This team is, for the future, going to be really, really explosive.”

This is a very young team now, one features true freshmen starting at the cornerback spots (Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson) and only two senior starters (Powell and nickel Duke Dawson). Eight other true freshmen are playing significant roles on offense and defense.

The new coach will be inheriting a team that will have a much different look and experience level with the return of the suspended and injured players. If the new coach can also somehow keep this recruiting class together after he arrives in December, the program would seem back on a positive path.

And maybe from there the Gators could see a quick turnaround.

“Like anything else, you want a quick turnaround,” Shannon said. “I think a coach can come in and do a tremendous job. It’s going to come down to recruiting and making sure that you’re injury free.

“That’s something that’s getting us right now. We’re banged up on both sides of the ball.”

The depleted Gators are hanging on, trying to somehow find a way to win their last three games and become bowl eligible and finish with a winning record. Once they are healthy and whole again, and with a new head coach, the expectations will be much different.

“I would think (there will be a quick turnaround) because at the end of the day we’re still the Florida Gators and this is one of the biggest programs around,” junior defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. “I feel like we will be able to bounce back regardless of what we’ve gone through. I mean it was just one year. So, we’ll be all right.”

Junior offensive lineman Tyler Jordan said the Gators will use this difficult and disappointing season as motivation for 2018.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I think we can look back next year or even in the spring, or once we start working out, we come together as a team and say, ‘Hey. We don’t want to have another season like this.’ We’ve got to come out (with that attitude).”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or Also check out Andreu’s blog at


    • Mikey. He was talking about that Shannon is focusing on the little things that are hurting the Gators while being positive and supportive in the process. And you do not fix the problems Florida has in one week. I think you will see improvement this week. If not, then Mikey, then what Shannon is doing is not working. But, you know what, the Dumbo Fisher isn’t doing that good a job over at your favorite school either. Maybe you should focus more on that issue.

    • Hey Mikey – the Gators will have a young winner for a coach and all-new staff next year so things are looking up for us. You will still have Jimbo, who has failed miserably this year with his pre-season #3 team. I like it.

  1. UF has just gone through it’s worst 3-year recruiting stretch since before Spurrier was hired. So the WORST RECRUITING RUN IN DECADES. So this fantasy of “we are sitting pretty talent-wise” is just that – a fantasy. McElTrainWreck’s poor recruiting is what just got exposed again – this time by UGA.

    The reality is that the new HC will be in rebuilding mode those first couple years. We need to shoot for year 3 to hope to compete for an SEC East title.

    • The recruits that are jumping ship may just come back in when the new coach is hired. Why they would want to lose continually under McYet makes no sense, they would have jumped ship anyway if he was still here. If we get Frost or Norvell the WRs will be stars on the field and possible NFL material. The smart ones can think this through pretty easily.

  2. This column was really sad. “This team is … really really explosive”. Wow – heard that a lot in the spring, summer and fall. And then MAC got his feelings hurt when nobody believed him. And then he ranked 100+ in offense for the third year in a row. Man – if we didn’t believe new coaching could do it – we’d be terminally depressed.

  3. Sure there is some young talent, but there are massive holes in the group and getting a decent culture will be very difficult. No more just having fun, no just having a good experience playing in SEC venues, no more player friendly (like a friend not a parent) coaches. And if the 7 are not coming back it will be more difficult. We have massive holes at LB and apparently at oline as well that won’t be filled easily.

  4. ”Honestly, I think it will be easy to turn around,” junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan said of the program. “There’s just some small things, and once they fix that (there will be a turnaround). Coach (Randy) Shannon has done a great job of doing that.”
    Easier said than done! If it’s so ”easy to fix”, then why did the 2nd worst team, Mizzou, put OVER 40 POINTS on U.F. last Saturday? They’re pee’ing down our backs and telling us, ”it’s raining!”
    U.F. Football has a lot of work to do, and getting the fans’ (our) respect back, well, that will be one of the last things they do, on a very long list.

    • Mizzou put 28 points on a strong Ga team, actually the most scored on the number 1 in the country, so it’s no shock they put up 40 on a team who’s head coach was fired, multiple injuries on defense, and underclassmen corners, linebackers safety. I’m shocked it wasnt 60.

      If all starters come back it may be daylight at the end of the tunnel. Its talent on the team but not enough for top sec teams.

  5. Just because many of the players are young and getting experience does not mean that they are good, or will be good in the future. If there only a few things wrong, that does equate to 40 points scored by Mizzou. The new coach will need more than one or two years to rebuild this program. Getting a good QB and some offensive lineman will help, but the defense needs a major rebuilding job was well

    • You gotta give it up to Robbie for just doing what he has to do. He’s gotta cover this team, and if every article he and Pat writes hammers UF they will never get another interview. They know the same thing that the rest of us do. If the Gators lined up today against USF or UCF, they would be ground into the turf. The recruiting here since McElwain got here has been abysmal. He never figured out he was no longer coaching at Colorado State (please don’t give me Alabama. You are I could coach and recruit offense when Uncle Nick has our back). At least will could coach the h— out of and recruit defense. The only way they win more than 8 games a year over the next two seasons is if they get a coach that runs a dynamic offense that can exploit mismatches. Don’t pay attention to what RS says, he’s trying to put lipstick on a pig, and position for his next job. Just hope it is not so horrible over the next 3 games we fall behind Nebraska, UT, and A & M on the pecking order.

      • By the way George, my previous comment was not meant at all as any negative comment towards anything you said. I actually agree 110% with everything you said. I kinda did the formatting goofy where it ended up looking like it was a reply solely to just your comments, but my intent was really to throw the hat in on what everyone is saying. RECRUITING IS EVERYTHING!! Even Ron Z. and Will M. understood that, and both of them, with their flaws, did a better job than Coach “aw shucks” did in that arena. If you can’t recruit 4 and 5 star players consistently, you better at least have a dynamic offense. McElwain had neither. He makes Doug Dickey look like an innovator. As Pat Dooley said, this could be the worst Gator team in modern history, even worse than 0-10-1 in 1979. That team only had one loss (to Alabama) as bad the two that Florida has laid in consecutive weeks. And compare the QB stats of 1979 QB (for the majority of games) “Dr. O”, Larry Ochab, a somewhat short walk-on player, with any of our starting QBs today. It stacks up pretty well. Also a team with Cris Collinsworth and the legendary Scot Brantley (who was injured in that season).

  6. It’s more evident that one of the reasons Mac checked out is that he knew he had done a lousy job recruiting/rebuilding, and saw things getting worse into next year. I can’t believe he made me actually miss Muschamp. What a disaster.

  7. Yes, things to learn to do well with all that return or come on board next year:

    1. The QBs learn how to read defenses and react innately to what he sees just before the snap, and then execute the play in a timely fashion accordingly.
    2. The offensive line learns how to read and react to opponents blitz packages, while also learn that blocking does not end after initial contact with your opponent and continues down the field until the play is dead.
    3. The wide receivers learn that pass patterns do not end at the end of the pattern and often requires them to come back to the QB, or simply move to an open area….to get open for your QB.
    4. The running backs keep doing what they are doing and get bigger stronger, and faster.
    5. The tight ends learn how to simply block as well as catch passes.
    6. The defensive ends learn that rushing the QB does not mean giving up the edge to running backs.
    7. The defensive tackles learn that making the tackle is not always their job, but that gap control is always their job.
    8. The linebackers learn how to drop effectively into pass coverage after focusing initially on covering their gaps vs. the run, and especially the edge for the outside linebackers.
    9. The cornerbacks learn that plays do not end when a receiver gets a step on you, and that a play ends only after you have done everything legally you can to prevent a pass from being caught or the receiver has been tackled to the ground.
    10. The safeties learn how to wrap up when attempting to make a tackle, which is much better than a big hit that often ends up in a complete whiff.
    11. The special team players on kicks learn to run at full speed, in complete control, and stay in their lanes. And when they reach the kick returner, the learn to wrap up on tackles.
    12. The punter learns everything he can from J. Townsend before he leaves, other than kicking directly to Christian Kirk.
    13. The placekicker should just hope and pray that the new head coach fires Doug Nussmeier immediately. Or before he is hired, which would be much better for the team.
    14. The assistant coaches learn how to coach up all the above, whoever they may be next year (hopefully, not many from the current staff, if any).
    15. The head coach TEACHES all the above and LEADS all the above in a positive and effective manner, with a positive attitude and with great communication skills.
    16. The new S&C coach learns how to organize and execute an effective work out, training, and weight lifting program that elevates players to the highest levels of SEC competition and also allows them to perform successfully without an abundance of injury.
    17. And everyone associated with the team learns that a credit card with someone else’s name on it is not your credit card and you cannot use it to buy anything you think you may need or want. Just say no thank you.

  8. It seems that this team has more issues than ever thought they had. The whole bunch is delusional…they must be high or something??? It will be two to three years before they get back to being a .500 ball club. The attitude I saw in Missouri was the worst part of the game. Absolutely no pride at all. There are not ten players on that team that could play for one of the top teams in the country!!! I need to stop. I’m sorry…

  9. Sorry, Jay, but it’s ridiculous to say this team will take 2-3 years to go .500! LOL. There is a ton of talent all over on offense, some holes indeed need to be filled on D. But you get a coach in here who actually DEVELOPS players, and came get them on the same page so our “execution” doesn’t look like the proverbial “Chinese fire drill”, and you will see big changes immediately. Especially if he recruits well.
    Let it sink in that about FORTY(yes, FORTY, in fact, maybe more) guys who are not playing right now will be available, when you consider the return of the injured and suspended, plus the new recruits.
    A Kelly, Stoops, Frost or Norvell who actually knows what he’s doing will pay dividends immediately, I DO agree that it’ll take even the best coach 3-5 years to be elite here, with the holes on the roster, esp. on D, but 8-9 wins next year for an elite coach is absolutely do-able.

  10. I caught Gator fever at the beginning of our 0-10-1 season. Lots of room on the bandwagon. The saying then was: “Give em hell Pell”. Before the year was over it was: “Wait ’til next year”. Well I waited and it got better next year (8-3). Even Bama has had down years. We’ll be back. If you’re a fan, support our team! If you don’t want to support these hard working young men, pledge your allegience to another team.

    • Jack Jennings. The effort of the players (most of them) vs. Missouri could hardly be described as “hard working.” Even the Florida middle linebacker agrees with that assessment. Before the Missouri game, the effort had been there. Unfortunately, good coaching (particularly on offense) did not provide the players with the knowledge and skills required to be successful against good teams. In the future, I just want the team to be well coached and exhibit confidence and consistent execution on the field as a result. I will have absolutely no issue with anything if that happens. That has not been the case in most games this year. The majority of Gator Nation is not going to accept that, ever. And neither should the person coaching the Florida Gators football team, nor the players on the team. You can acknowledge all that without removing your allegiance and support for the Florida Gators football team. So, sir, I respectfully disagree with you.

    • I agree Jack – this year is toast, but great hope for the immediate future of Gator football for next year and beyond. Look at what the coaching change at UGA did for them, and the good coach they fired is running a top-10 team at Miami. Our coaches sucked beyond belief and we will get a young winner, and he will have some talent to play with. The difference next year won’t be championship-quality, but we will be dramatically better.

  11. We as Gators have become very spoiled. How many SEC championships did we win under Spurrier? Meyer gets 2 NCs. Basketball under Donovan was incredible. How many other championships have we won in all the other sports. When we have a bad season we don’t handle it very well. I’m included in this. I was a kid when we had the 0-10-1 season and it’s hard to remember any of our losing seasons. This season is really tough to stomach, but maybe we can appreciate our winning seasons more having gone through it.

  12. I agree, Jay, that lack of leadership/loafing is a big problem with this team. But you have to have a coach who DEMANDS that players DO lead. Not a “boy, isn’t this cool” coach who might say “I hope we get some leaders”. I can’t see Urban Meyer, SOS, Saban, etc., saying “I hope this or that”, he’d say, “we WILL do this or that”, then get it done. Our new coach needs to be an alpha male.

  13. Frankly, I do not want ANY of the nine suspended players back on the team. Period! Some of them were on their second and third chances. I dont care how good they are, let them go play somewhere else. They knew what they did was illegal and they went ahead and comitted the crimes. They are a bad seed. Moreover, it frees up nine scholarships that can be used for players who have common sence smarts amd wjp really want to play for the University of Florida. We need to instill discipline and this is the first step. “Break the rules … youre off the team.” Glad to see we have a fully stocked cubbard in terms of talent. Can’t wait till we close this chapter of Florida football and start a new chapter, with a new coaching staff with a new attitude.