There’s no mistaking, Dan Mullen has brought great energy and hope to a Florida football program desperately in need of both.
Now, will all this preseason passion carry over into the season with quality performances and wins on the field?
The Gators have put in the work. And they’ve also done some talking, saying there will be dramatic improvement on offense and a return to elite status on defense.
With the opener finally here, it’s time, Gators. Show us what you’ve got.
“There’s definitely some curiosity on how it’s going to go,” junior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “I’m just excited to go out and get rolling.”
Given Mullen’s track record for developing quarterbacks and scoring lots of points, the anticipation among Gator Nation is that the offense will at least show signs of starting to roll.
“Just want to show them what they’ve been waiting to see,” junior offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor said. “They’ve all been waiting all offseason to see what we’re going to do in a game. Can’t wait to get out there and do what we do, play Florida football.”
There will be cynics, of course, because that’s what you get when your offense has been in a slump as long as Florida’s.
The Gators think they can prove the cynics wrong, win them over with their offense.
“We’re going to be very explosive, scoring a lot of points,” junior wide receiver Freddie Swain said. “You never know where the ball will go. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The offense is back in the hands of quarterback Feleipe Franks, whose struggles last season as a freshman likely will make some apprehensive about just how much better the offense can be.
But this is a new season with a new coach and a new offensive system. And there’s a belief among the players that this is a much different Franks from a year ago.
“Definitely,” Hammond said. “You can see it just by the way he goes through practice. Just the way he goes through progressions, going through reads, getting on guys that are not running full speed or are not getting to the ball fast enough and playing to the tempo that Coach Mullen wants.
“So going through last year really helped him a lot just knowing what coach Mullen expects of him and we expect to have a good season.”
Franks said earlier this week that he doesn’t feel he has anything to prove. But he is eager to start giving the fans a glimpse of the new offense.
“The first game we just want to show how much our offense has improved,” Franks said. “As an offense, I can speak for us, we’ve all worked super hard this summer and this fall camp.
“We want to go back out there and kind of get things where we can stay on the field on third downs, when we get in the red zone putting points up, not settling for field goals. Little things like that we have to improve on from last season. Those are the main things we’ve focused on.”
Unlike a year ago, when UF’s two best offensive weapons — running back Jordan Scarlett and wide receiver Antonio Callaway — were suspended, Franks should get a much bigger assist from the skill players around him.
Scarlett is back, and the Gators are a solid five-deep at running back with Malik Davis, Lamical Perine, Adarius Lemons and true freshman Dameon Pierce.
At wide receiver, the addition of transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes boosts a solid returning group that includes Hammond, Swain and Tyrie Cleveland.
Tight end is also a viable option with C’yontai Lewis, R.J. Raymond and Moral Stephens.
“We have a bunch of good guys,” Franks said. “All the receivers that we had last year are coming back and then we’ve got new additions with Van and Tre and some of the bigger tight ends coming up.
“We’ve got a bunch of good guys that are ready to step in and fill their roles and make big-time plays for us. We’ve got really good depth right now and the best part about it is we don’t just have depth, but we’ve got depth with really good players.”
Franks has been coached up by Mullen and has more playmakers around him and an experienced line in front of him.
Will that translate into more points and a much improved offense?
Jefferson said it will be evident in tonight’s opener.
“They’ll see that we’ve worked on offense a lot more,” he said. “Florida, the last few offenses haven’t been that great. Coach Mullen has put an emphasis on making the offense better and scoring lots of points.”
It’s time, Gators. Show us what you’ve got.