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 email@example.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.