Listen Now! Should Gators fans have hope? Or is more football disappointment on the way?

Tim Walters
The Gainesville Sun
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It’s been an up-and-down ride for new Florida Gators football coach Billy Napier, and he has yet to coach his first game.

The SEC is a tough place to coach, and Florida is a program that expects greatness.

Yet, the past few years have not produced greatness.

Do Gators fans need to change their expectations, given how the SEC has cloistered some of the most powerful and storied programs in the game’s history, or should they expect greatness and to be in the thick of it every year?

Gator fans would say the latter, but it will become even tougher once Texas and Oklahoma join a conference that already boasts the last three national champs in LSU, Alabama and Georgia, not to mention Texas A&M and Auburn, and building powers Kentucky and Tennessee.

Previous podcast columns:

Gator Quarterback Anthony Richardson gives a high-five to a Gator fan during Gator Walk for the  annual Orange and Blue game on Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2022. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2022

Napier has an uphill battle after taking over for the deposed Dan Mullen, and he took plenty of heat early on when it seemed Florida’s recruiting class wouldn’t be up the standard that they’re used to in Gainesville.

But things got better, more recruits came, and Napier all of a sudden wasn’t looked down on nearly as much.

It will be interesting to see what fans think following a tough opening game against Utah on Sept. 3. It doesn’t get any easier after that. Kentucky, which beat the Gators last year, awaits in Week 2, followed by USF and Tennessee.

We’ll find out a lot about the Gators right away.

So, what should we expect? And what do we need to know about the 2022 edition of the Florida Gators?

To tell us, I welcome in Kevin Brockway, the new Florida Gators reporter for the Gainesville Sun as the latest guest of “The *State* of Florida Sports Podcast,” powered by the USA TODAY Network.

Kevin knows plenty about what’s been going on in Gainesville given he had a previous stint there from 2003-19, and he’ll fill us in on what he’s been seeing during practices over the past few week.

One of the biggest storylines will be the progression of quarterback Anthony Richardson. He’ll fill us in.

“Billy Napier addressed that in terms of, you know, him wanting to be a guy that the other players look to as an example as a leader,” Kevin says on the podcast. “And I think that process is ongoing off the field and on the field.”

He’ll also tell us who will fill in the holes at running back with the departure Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis.

And he’ll break down the defense, which has been a point of struggles the past few seasons despite Florida’s tradition of powerful defenses and players who go on to the NFL.

Kevin and I also find a kinship when it comes to Key West. He was the sports editor there for two years in the 1990s.

I drop an Easter egg of knowledge in there about Henry Flagler, too.

If you love the Florida Gators — or if you hate them — you’ll want to be sure to check out this podcast.

Join the tens of thousands that have downloaded us and find out why we give you the best sports breakdowns in the state.

We can be downloaded wherever you listen to podcasts, or simply type in “The *State* of Florida Sports Podcast” into your favorite search engine. We also can be found on any of the 17 USA TODAY-Network Florida websites.

If you like it, you can check out previous shows, which feature current and former professional athletes and coaches, as well as our stable of journalists who cover beats and write columns, all of whom have a tie to the Sunshine State.

Contact Walters at twalters@gannett.com

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