The signs were there. Presented (mostly) without comment… for now.
Snippets from a preseason back-and-forth I wrote with another Florida writer just before the 2013 season kicked off...
“As for Florida -- the consensus No. 10 team in the country -- I'm skeptical. I joked in a separate season preview the team reminds me of Jim Carrey's insane character (The Riddler) in "Batman Forever"." There's too many questions. There's too many questions."
Every team has uncertainties to start the season, but it just seems like the Gators have a helluva a lot right now to seriously compete for an SEC title. I am in no way prophesying some doomsday season (WHOOPS). With a pulverizing ground game and a still-scary defense, Florida could reach Atlanta. But with so many questions, it might not be until 2014.
The Gators obviously have talent -- three top-five recruiting classes in the last four years will that do for ya -- but their success last season was particularly predicated on three things: turnover margin, rush-defense -- both No. 4 nationally -- and Caleb Freakin' Sturgis. Are any of those things not going to regress in 2013? The offense isn't ready to shoulder the load. "Murderball" -- as the esteemed Bill Connelly calls UF's attack -- is effectively ugly, but can Florida duplicate last season's success with the same formula, only with worse luck?
I'm actually pretty bullish on LSU and just the opposite on South Carolina. The East is a tricky pickle, but the annual Cocktail Party should decide the division again (OOPS, AGAIN). The Aggies, Tigers (purple, not navy), Dawgs and 'Cocks all have question marks too, but to me the Gators are the league's hardest team to handicap -- and I’m around this team everyday! Is the offensive line actually better? Will the losses of Jon Bostic, Matt Elam and Josh Evans be more significant than many anticipate? Can (a potentially blossoming) Driskel stay healthy? Is Demarcus Robinson more Amari Cooper or George Farmer? Florida absolutely has some studs -- head nods to Matt Jones, Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, D.J. Humphries, Fowler Jr. -- but as a whole I see it as a good, but not great team.
... Last season, I said Rome wasn't built in a day, but hey, Muschamp damn near built the Coliseum in 20 minutes. Florida -- winning with an ugly-duckling blueprint -- quickly reestablished itself among the nation's elite, so a 10-win season is a decent bet. But an 8-4 year might be too, so, I'll hedge at 9-3. When motivated, the Gators (talent-rich despite so many question marks) can compete with anybody. They can absolutely split the fearsome foursome (UGA-USC-FSU-LSU). And yet, Florida, forcibly playing with such a small margin for error, could totally get knocked off or upset or stunned, whatever by Miami or Vanderbilt or Missouri. By season's end, this group could actually be a more complete team than the 2012 boys (WRONG), but right now I just have a bunch of questions.”
And coach Will Muschamp during UF Media Days in August...
"You have to build and develop your team for a long season. There are going to be injuries. So to me, I've always sat down and asked the question to our staff, who can we count on? It's not about who is starting. I don't worry about that. Who can we count on? This many guys at this position, this many guys at this position. Tell me who six, seven, eight and nine are. That's what I want to know.
Because I know we're going to have injuries and that's part of playing in our league. You look at last year, as banged up as we got on the offensive line. Later in the year that contributed to us struggling as much as anything late in the year was the injuries we had. So, I think again, training camp is developing your roster as much as anything, especially young players. It's not going to be pretty early with a lot of them.
My whole thing is you've got to project, Game 4, where are we? Game 5, where are we? Are we investing time in a guy that he may know what to do, but athletically we're going to be better with this guy in Game 3, Game 4, Game 5. You invest your time with a better athlete."
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