The Florida Gators will take the stage at SEC Media Days this Monday along with Auburn, Vanderbilt and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. Wednesday the Gators announced that seniors Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye, along with junior David Sharpe would represent the school along with Jim McElwain.
Other than the immediate disappointment that opinionated preseason All-American Jalen Tabor would not be in Hoover, Gator Country worked to think of what the student-athletes in tow thought about five issues surrounding the program.
1. How do the players feel about the state of the quarterback room?
For six blissful weeks the Gators enjoyed an undefeated run. Each Saturday brought about another win. Some were easier than others, but each Saturday brought about the same result and a jubilant locker room. One change at one position completely derailed Florida’s season. Would the Gators have run off the rest of the season unscathed and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff? Probably not, but the change at quarterback and what happened after shows just how critical the position is.
All three players that will be in Hoover have seen how the new quarterbacks performed this spring. Davis and Maye have now had the opportunity to practice against the two quarterbacks Florida deployed in 2015 and the four that are in the room currently. Sharpe will be tasked with guarding the blindside of whichever quarterback wins the starting job.
In the politically correct world that we reside in (did we mention that we’re sad Jalen Tabor won’t be in Hoover?) you’re not going to get a straight answer on which quarterback the players prefer, but we can get a sense on where the new quarterbacks stack up with what Florida had last year. Is the room better? Is there better leadership? Are Davis and Maye noticing that the offense is a little less predictable and tougher to go against? Does Sharpe feel that there is a voice in the huddle that the rest of the offense is behind, a voice that they’re following and one that they’re confident in?
Is Florida better off at quarterback than they were a year ago?
2. What is the biggest difference between the program in year two?
Jim McElwain took over a team that had forgotten what it was like to win. They had forgotten what it took from Sunday to Friday to ensure you were ready to win on Saturday. Perhaps questioning the work ethic is off, but you can’t question that the Gators needed a confidence boost.
Jim McElwain injected that confidence into the team but the bubble of confidence the team built in the first half of the season was abruptly burst.
Where does the team stand now? How different are things running in year two, after a full year in the system?
3. What is strength coach Mike Kent like?
The change was noticeable. Antonio Morrison, who made a remarkably quick recovery from ACL surgery looked bigger than ever, despite spending most of his days in rehabilitation. It wasn’t just Morrison though. The entire roster looked bigger, stronger and, for the most part, stayed healthy all season.
What is different about Kent’s strength and conditioning program? Is the philosophy different? Do the players enjoy this type of program? Whatever Kent is doing is working, but is there something the players can put their finger on as to why it is working?
4. What are the new facilities like? Are they really a big difference for the student-athletes?
The $25 million dollar renovation of the Otis Hawkins Center was just opened last week. Even as the ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony was going on, student-athletes were walking through the doors, perplexed as to why there were so many people standing in the lobby, I’m sure, and already taking advantage of the new facility. The indoor practice facility was used frequently. How are these new facilities helping the players on and off the field and does it help just to know that the coaching staff and university if doing everything it can to help the players by supporting them with new facilities?
5. Who is a surprise player that is ready to shine?
We know the names. All three players that will be at Media Days are integral to Florida’s success in 2016. Throw in Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Alex Anzalone, Luke Del Rio and a handful of others that we know Florida will need to contribute in 2016, but who is flying under the radar. Is there a player that we may not be talking about, maybe a player that has been in the program for a couple of years but has yet to produce on Saturdays?
Which player that isn’t getting hyped in the offseason is quietly impressing the coaching staff and his teammates in the locker room, weight room and on the practice fields?