Amid coordinator shuffle, Florida Gators preaching optimism and perseverance

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

The Gators made two coordinator changes in the aftermath of the 40-17 defeat at South Carolina — the worst loss in series history to the Gamecocks — in hopes the program could implement the needed corrections for a team moving opposite of the intended direction. 

Although there’s no guarantee the departures of offensive line coach John Hevesy and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will immediately spell the return of UF’s competitive nature — on the contrary, Florida faces the prospect of declining even further with a road trip to Missouri and a rivalry bout with a much-improved Florida State team still remaining on the Gators’ schedule. 

It could still get much worse, and Florida’s veteran leaders weren’t oblivious to the possibility as they returned to the preparation process Monday. 

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Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter gets the crowd excited.

“I’m telling guys every day we still have a lot to play for. Obviously, we know the goal: we wanted to win a national championship this year, we wanted to get to the SEC championship this year. It’s not attainable anymore and we’re all aware of that, but there’s still a lot to play for,” Florida redshirt senior defensive lineman Zachary Carter said. “We’re playing for guys that came before us and played in the same uniform. We still have a lot to represent — and there’s a lot of people that are still watching us.”

Many viewers of Florida’s recent decline haven’t held back when it comes to expressing their emotions regarding the team’s play this season, whether in-person at games or via social media, and the team has responded by vocalizing a desire to tune out the outside noise. 

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Even if the expectations of the fanbase aren’t motivating factors, every player has someone counting on them or rooting for their success, and the entire roster has dreamt of reaching the pinnacle of the profession, the NFL. 

No matter how apathetic one feels, each Florida player possesses some form of motivation. 

“We have families at home, you’re playing for the last name on your jersey. Guys are trying to feed their family. There’s a lot of motivation, guys have a lot of different motivations,” Carter said. “Whatever it is, we have to find that to keep playing.”

The saying “tough times don’t last, tough people do” has never seemed more applicable. To echo Dan Mullen’s sentiment Monday, this is Florida: the program has too many resources to be on the decline for very long. 

The Gators may not be playing to the “Gator Standard” currently, but the long-term forecast doesn’t change — understanding the issues can be transient will ensure the program returns to the top sooner rather than later. 

“It’s not easy to tell someone it’s gonna be a brighter day when it’s raining, but you just gotta have faith that the sun’s going to come back out,” senior running back Dameon Pierce said. “You go through cloudy days. Eventually it’s going to blow over. Our storm is going to pass and we’re going to get back to our standard soon.”