Usually when a new football coach takes over a 4-7 program where the expectation is to play for championships, a lengthy building/rebuilding process is certain to follow to get back to where you hope to be.
Naturally, it takes time.
Well, let’s just say the Florida Gator fans are not a patient lot.
They expect to start winning again now, this season, in Year 1 under Dan Mullen.
That was the clear message coming from the three Florida players who attended SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
“Oh, yes, most definitely,” senior defensive end Cece Jefferson said when asked if the Gators are good enough to contend for a championship in Mullen’s first season. “This team is extremely capable of winning right now. Why wait? If you can do it now, why wait? That’s something that we talk about every day.
“Don’t wait for anybody to do it. If you see that you can do it then take the initiative and get it done. Yeah, man. I’m seeing it. I am. That’s pretty much the way we go about it.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey and junior middle linebacker David Reese.
“Why Wait?” seems to be this team’s mantra.
“Definitely. Definitely,” Reese said. “My expectation for this team is to get to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game in December). Get right back to where we were. That’s the expectation.
“We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the experience. And we’ve got guys who have been there before.”
Since Mullen’s first day on the job in late November, he’s been stressing that the goal is to make Florida a championship program again, the way it was when he was the offensive coordinator and the Gators won two national titles under Urban Meyer.
Many of the current players can relate to that goal, and are embracing it, because the Gators did play for two SEC championships after winning the East in Jim McElwain’s first two seasons.
But, of course, then came the star-crossed season last fall. Player suspensions. Injuries. Close losses (and some not so close). McElwain forced out.
It all added up to a 4-7 season that definitely has taken some shine off the Florida brand.
But what happened last season doesn’t seem to have shattered anyone’s confidence, or lessened expectations. The Gators expect to win. Now.
“Oh, yeah, without a doubt,” Ivey said. “When I first game in, we were contenders. In the second year, we were contenders. Last year, we had incidents come in and we had a drop-off.
“This team is good enough to contend this season.”
Members of the media, and certainly many others, probably aren’t seeing it that way. Many are speculating that at the end of SEC Media Days, the Gators likely will be picked to finish fourth in the East, behind Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky.
“I don’t see that at all,” Ivey said. “I see us placing first in the East. That’s what I believe. I don’t care what anybody else has to say.”
What the Gators have to say is, “Why wait?”
Mullen is OK with that.
“That’s me,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for, to win championships. I would certainly hope we are (a contender this season). That’s the plan every single year, find a way to get right back here in the first week in December.
“That will be my goal this year and that will be my goal five years from now. That’s always the goal, and so realistically to me, yes, that’s what we’re fighting for every day.
“I want to see how they come off of summer conditioning, all the extra work that they’ve put in. Certainly our goal is to find a way to compete for a championship and get back here in December.”