In his postgame press conference following the Orange and Blue Game, Florida coach Urban Meyer said the Gators were heading into the most important offseason since he’s been at UF.
The way I see it, it’s so important for three main reasons.
1. With so many young players being counted on to contribute (some even start) this season, the offseason strength and conditioning program will be huge. It’s Mickey Marotti’s team for the next three-plus months, and what he does with the Gators (especially the early enrollees and the rest of the freshman who arrive for Summer B) is critical. He needs to get these young players stronger and tougher. He needs to have them game-ready by August. This is a time when team chemistry (good or bad) really starts to form for next season.
2. Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes and all those experienced leaders who carried this team the past three years are gone. The Gators will be under new leadership in 2010. In the spring, the guys who were stepping up were center Michael Pouncey, strong safety Ahmad Black and defensive end Justin Trattou, all seniors. They need to continue what they’ve been doing and establish themselves as the clear leaders of this football team. Another guy who absolutely has to become a leader is quarterback John Brantley. Meyer has been stressing this since January to him, and the soft-spoken junior is trying to take on the role. This is Brantley’s team now, and he has to take control of it.
3. The Gators need to stay out of the headlines this summer. That means staying out of trouble. Given all the arrests over the past three or four years, the Gators need to be the poster boys for good behavior between now and the start of two-a-days in August. That would send out the message to the rest of the SEC (and the nation) that this team is serious about playing for championships in 2010. That is not the message UF sent out last season when Carlos Dunalp was arrested for DUI the Tuesday morning before the SEC Championship Game. Pouncey has been assuring people that there will be no off-the-field issues this offseason. A lot of it has to do with leadership. So, we’ll see.
The bottom line is this: If the Gators do the right thing this summer, it could be a very rewarding fall.