Another chance to achieve for Gators

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Dan Mullen gets to try his hand in leading the UF program as head coach. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

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 pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Pat: Good theory/hope. Old Gators like me are glade we final hired a SEC caliber HC who is proven he can run a whole Big League Program. That was our problem with Foley: Zook, Mushchamp & McElwain, all unproven. Its naive for any business person to believe President Machen didn’t recommend Meyer and help Foley make the call…duh. He had better of done that or else that would have been even worse. BUT, now Hope lives! Go Gators!

  2. Pat, great perspective and a terrific, well knitted article. Hadn’t thought of it quite that way until I read it; now I will be thinking about it through the season. Thanks…..

    PS: I could use your help on proper use of semi-colons; if I have it correct you need not say anything and I will accordingly tell my pals on this forum to stop kicking sand in my face.

    • 6 punctuation is debatable. In college I a professor in business communications explain there are differences in casual v business v formal, and that writing conventions have changed a bit over time. There is still proper grammar but add the invent of cell phones and text messages that is changing to r. Further writing is not my strong suit. I also learned recently that while math is my stronger subject i was taught incorrectly the order of functions which evidently changed some 70 years ago. So if we are taught using outdated material…. Not that this has anything to do with football 🏈 but if things continue maybe futbal will be the correct way in time or just 🏈 pictures and we’ll go back to using hieroglyph which could be 🐊🏈 👍👌🐊😎 GO GATORS! Oh and to the article, Pat great story. Should have lots of reasons for motivation.

      • Gator 65. Proper use of the written English language has no future except in literary compositions. Maybe not even there, as more and more people are listening to text instead of actually reading it. Eventually, an implant will be needed for the human brain of the future to translate actual printed English text into cognitive comprehension. But even those in the future (and some today) will understand…Go Gators!

        • It’s probably already the case with cursive. I imagine in history departments across the country there are graduate courses in cursive to enable future historians to decipher original-source material.
          Meanwhile, OMG, LOL, and WTF; and, of course, Go Gators!

    • Gator 6. Here comes the sand!

      You used your semi-colon correctly (congratulations), as the second independent clause is somewhat related to your first independent clause. However, your second independent clause is written and punctuated incorrectly. You needed to use an adverb as your sentence modifier (correctly) instead of a adjective sentence modifier (correct), and you left out a needed comma. You also needed…guess what….another semi-colon. i.e….”on proper use o semi-colons; if I have used it correctly, you need not say anything; and I will tell my pals on this forum to stop kicking sand into my face (the sand is not actually “in” your face). As such, the structure of the sentence would have greatly benefited from eliminating the semi-colon you did use and contained an independent clause with a period as your punctuation instead; with the second independent clause then containing the semi-colon you did not use with two associated independent clauses in that section of your semi-colon composition.

      So, DUCK! Quack. Quack.

      And since I was just “poking some fun”, do not take any offense or insult from my post, Gator 6. But I am convinced that you were fishing for such a response. Just point out any language use errors I have made in my semi-colon composition sports forum response. I am sure there are some.

      And by the way (and back to sports), excellent article, Pat Dooley; unusually well-written article (just joking, as I needed an adverb after my semi-colon in my semi-colon composition). It was pointedly appropriate for this year’s Florida Gators football team as well. Go Gators.

      …..

  3. I think the second one is definitely right. The first one I think is technically correct, but would flow better if you took out the “now” afterwards. Throw in a comma before the “and” in the last sentence and I think we’re good.

    No sand in the face… and I could be wrong (I often am).

    Pat’s right, only the players can control their level of motivation.

    It’s like Fight Club… you choose your own level of involvement

  4. Well Pat I’m ready for some football! I’m at the point of the season where I have endless possibilities for a successful Gator season. Last year it was quickly washed away with the Michigan game when I saw how unprepared and undisciplined the team was. Nothing shows you what a team is like than attending a game in person and after being at the Vandy and LSU game I sunk to an all time low. It was obvious we were watching a staff that was ill equipped to be coaching kids on a football team. So far this year I see a staff that just coaches and coaches and teaches and teaches. I think that’s all our boys needed a leader and a coach. I think were on the verge of good times returning to Gator Nation and it’s hard containing my excitement. Not one football has been kicked off yet but I feel good about where we’re at. Bring it home Coach Mullen, Go Gators!!!!

    • Robert your observations were what i felt too sending games the last three years, as well as your feelings going forward. Haven’t been this wound up about the season start in some time. Go Gators! 🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊 days to Swamp Time.

    • Robert. You know what is sad on my part? I knew something was just not right under McElwain, but I thought then that just a change of offensive coordinators would fix the problem. I had no idea how deep and complex the problem was under McElwain, or how poorly the program was being run by McElwain at the time. It has become apparently very clear since Mullen took over the leadership of the program and brought experienced and successful assistant coaches in to help him restore talented players to expected performances through proper conditioning, coaching, and guidance. I am anxiously looking forward to that much needed progress on both sides of the ball this season. Go Gators.

    • Robert,
      Im with you, I cant wait for some football either. I just wasted 5 minutes of my life reading about semi colons! Imagine how great it will be reading about how solid our oline looked and how defense pitched a shut out. I dont expect miracles(although I wouldnt be shocked if we are better than people think), but I expect us to be competitive and not an embarrassment. This season will determine our recruiting class, and therefore the speed of our turn around. I believe that if we can show we are a program on our way back and just need a few key players, we can start to get those 4 and 5*’s needed to compete with the big boys. If we dont show much improvement and stumble through another season, it could be awhile before we start landing recruits.

      • I think what you meant to say was we can start to get those 5*’s needed to compete with the big boys. We’ve been doing pretty well with 4* players the last 4 or 5 years, especially the last 2 years where of the 43 total players signed, 24 of them were 4*. We just need to finally sign a 5* player to get the fan base to quiet down about recruiting, which actually hasn’t been that bad the last couple of classes.

    • I’m certainly on board with Mullen and Co. righting the ship. However, our poor players have gone through 3 years of horrible coaching and S&C. I’m not sure even Mullen can fix the poor mentality of 3 years of bad habits the boys were subjected to with one off season of good coaching. The program as a whole needs rejuvenation which is horribly deflating since that is what was said when Meyer left, when Chump left and now Chester Cheetos Teeth leaving. My fingers are crossed and I’m hoping for a special year but I’d be thrilled with a year pointed in the right direction. Dare I say fun even!

      Is it game day yet?

  5. As they say (not sure just who), the proof is in the pudding. Now is the time for the Gators to show us (their fans, and of course their coaches) what they are made of, what they have learned, and whether they have benefited from their improved physical conditioning and (hopefully) mental grasp of the game of football. Now is the time for them to execute what they have been taught. Now is the time for at least one of our QBs to step up and become the true leader of the Gator offense. Now is the time for the O-line to blow their opponents off the line of scrimmage, to open big holes and to PROTECT the QB. Now is the time for our RBs, WRs, SRs and TEs to make plays that involve positive yardage, catching the ball (when thrown to them), and retaining ball posession (no fumbles please). As for the Gator defense – you know your assignments. You will be executing a far superior defensive game plan (schema) that will give you opportunities to force fumbles, to intercept or bat down passes, to sack the QB, and so on. The Gator Nation is waiting, so GET”R DONE, GATORS!!!

  6. I have been a Gator fan since Ray Graves was the head coach. I’m giving away my age, but I don’t care.
    Great article. This is second chance U. It’s second chance season. It’s a chance to erase the bitter memories of 4-7. It’s a chance for Dan Mullen and his coaches to rise to the top of NCAA football coaches, systems and programs. Just 5-plus days. A GREAT, THOUGHT-PROVOKING ARTICLE.

  7. excellent. I had somewhat forgotten how bad things have been in the last 5 years, I knew 4 and 7 twice is really bad especially when the schedule always has 2 or 3 division 2 teams instead of Miami and other programs that want to play you. in reality it should be another year or so with the program, but I look forward to us never going back to the trainwreck of champ and the aftermath caused by trying to rush things back to normal.

  8. To predict the future, watch Mississippi-Alabama from last year. The Bulldogs answered every blow with an equal blow until the clock stopped the game. The talent on that team was equal to or better than maybe 90% of CFB. And that with very few 4* players. Mullen left a full larder for his successor. So with better resources a big-time “Brand,” in a weaker division how can he fail? If you watch the game (and there is a very good half-hour version of Youtube), you will see how well coached and organized his boys were. Just watch and wait.

  9. Said the Muschamp hire was a mistake when we hired him.

    I was supportive of the McElwain hire because it meant the end of the Muschamp Era, but when Mac hired Nussmeier as OC, I predicted here and on many other pages that it would eventually be his downfall. It was, as Nussmeier absolutely DESTROYED our offense. Then Mac began hiring one bad assistant after another, which perhaps only a couple of exceptions. Mac hire mostly a “good ole boys club” coaching staff, not qualified assistants.

    Also, a lot of people don’t even know the history of Mac at UF, but he was, putting it nicely, an insincere and unstable personality who quickly made enemies in the UAA and alienated his players.

    With Mullen, I feel just like I did when we hired Spurrier and Meyer… excited, reinvigorated, much more confident. I don’t expect championships in Mullen’s first year, but I do think we will see this team program move in a positive direction, well coached, well-prepared and conditioned, and with the FUN back in Gator Football.

    • I groaned over the Zook hire, a guy who had been demoted by Spurrier because he obviously lacked the ability to coordinate anything of complexity. His horrible decision making was so predictable. I also groaned over McElwain, whose positive experience as a head coach at a second tier school seemed tied to good fortune rather than any skill he could demonstrate (unlike Spurrier and Meyer, McElwain had no visible strategy or ideology at CSU that we could wowct to see replicated at UF). But I actually was pleased by the hiring of Muschamp. After the robotic and listless end of the Meyer tenure, I thought a young, energetic, tough coach would be a great change. It was a tremendous change, just a tremendously frustrating one. Such a waste of talent on the offensive side.

      This feels right. I’ve not been this excited for a season to begin in almost a decade.

  10. Love the article, Pat and agree 100%. Time to stop all the hype and show Gator Nation what ya got under Dan. Charleston Southern will of course not be the test. Kentucky will be interesting – never underestimate Kentucky. They should have beaten us twice in the last 5 years. Tennessee, although everybody is saying they have a long way to go, has a new coach like we do and who knows? It’s at their place and it will be packed with 108,000 screaming to beat the Gators. Show us Dan! Give GATOR NATION a real football team!! !

    • Wow. You know, Ray, I was thinking the same exact thing — a second chance for Dan Mullen too — but decided not to write it since it would be too difficult to explain what I meant by it. Well, you just solved that ever so ironically.

      I think it’s a second chance for Dan Mullen EXACTLY for what he did at MSU, his success there. He took an assignment at a school in the hinterlands of the SEC, one that has had difficulty competing despite having had some pretty darn good coaches over the years who eventually were buried there. And, he stuck with it. He built a program that in the end was at new heights and actually respected. The risk was that he could have been buried there too; but he got his second chance because Florida, having already experienced his talents as an OC, recognized his abilities as a head coach and brought him to a program rich in the type of resources needed for a coach of his skills to really prosper and become, potentially, one of the best ever.

      So yeah bud….second chance for Dan Mullen too.

  11. “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.”

    This is the stuff I don’t get, with this sentence you are basically saying the previous coaching staff just let FF make repeated mistakes and didn’t say squat?! Really, is that what happened? Do you know of any coach from Pop Warner on up that does that?
    I understand excitement for new coaching, but you guys act Mclewain and others saw the players playing like crap and just sat back. What happens now when these players don’t perform to what you expect, will it be the new coaching staff’s fault again?

    • I get your point, won’t argue with it.
      But I will say that the buck has to stop somewhere, and when you’re in-charge, with both the responsibility AND the authority to do the job, that is where the buck actually can’t go further.