Motivation comes in many forms and it doesn’t always work. You can have players’ only meetings and get drubbed in the next game. You can have a coach give a rousing pep talk and come back to the locker room after the game with a knot on your head.
You can bring in motivational speakers, have former players talk about bleeding for the alma mater and put on uniforms that defy your school’s color scheme. You can have slogans, bulletin board material and hype videos.
But a team is only as motivated as it wants to be.
Nobody can make a player play hard.
Nobody can make the tackle or sack the quarterback for them.
And just wanting to be great doesn’t make you great.
There is no doubt the Florida football team that takes the field Saturday has plenty of reasons to be motivated. These guys didn’t come to Florida to go 4-7. Shoot, I bet Vanderbilt players didn’t go there to be 4-7.
But it’s way harder to lose when you are used to winning.
So this team should be dripping with motivation.
Doesn’t always mean anything.
But here is some more.
Florida has an argument to call itself DBU. The defensive backs this school has sent to the NFL are a source of pride for the program and the players.
But right now, at this point in time, do you know what Florida really is?
Second Chance U.
Because the first chances didn’t go so well for a lot of players on this team.
If they embrace it, if they really understand that football is important to them, if they have done the work and continue to do the work, then and only then does this program have a chance to turn it around quickly rather than slowly.
Is it a second chance for Feleipe Franks? The first one was a disaster. His quarterback ranking looked like a 6-year-old’s bowling score. At 113.3, he ranked 14th in the SEC. Last time I looked, there were 14 teams in the SEC. You do the math.
But here is his second chance. Instead of running play after play without correction in practice, he’s getting some real coaching. So are his receivers. The offensive line has been handed a simpler scheme.
The same goes for Kyle Trask (and let’s face it, they both are going to play this season). He might have been the starter last year if not for a foot injury. He’s waited for his second chance for a long time.
And speaking of that offensive line, it certainly is a second chance. Last year’s miserable offense was not all their fault, but these guys shoulder some of the blame. Redemption is there if they go after it with great enthusiasm.
The guys who missed last year because of suspensions, boy, talk about a second chance. I mean, they didn’t even know if they would be allowed to come back. I was hard on the guys who let their teammates down. But the ones who came back did for the right reason and will be embraced by a tough fan base.
As long as they take advantage of the second chance.
What about Cece Jefferson and Martez Ivey? They didn’t turn pro because neither really took advantage of their first three years. This is their second chance to show they are NFL-worthy.
It’s a second chance for Dre Massey, who came in with a lot of hype and has yet to live up to it, partly because of the injury he suffered two seasons ago. It’s a second chance Adarius Lemons, who hinted at leaving the program last year and now is expected to play a major role on this team.
It’s a second chance for all of the returning receivers who caught all of four touchdown passes a year ago, half of them coming when Kentucky forgot to cover them.
It’s a second chance for the returning tight ends who caught a measly 13 passes last year.
It’s a second chance for a defense that slipped last year, for pass rushers who couldn’t get to the quarterback, for linebackers who couldn’t cause a fumble if it was raining corn syrup.
And it’s a second chance for The Swamp, where only Gators used to get out alive.
Mostly, it’s a second chance to make Florida football relevant again, to make a GameDay appearance a possibility, to be ranked late in the season.
And in a way, it’s a second chance for Dan Mullen and his coaching staff to show that they can do more than win, they can win big.
Nobody knows what this season will be. Nobody knows if the motivation will stick throughout a tough schedule.
All we know for sure is they have a chance. A second one.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.