The Florida Gators are breaking in a new head coaching staff, so I know you’re going to have some big things in store for the football program this year. I feel like our signals have gotten crossed in past years, though, so I’m going to try to be more specific about what we want for the program.
Please, Santa, don’t get me wrong. Maybe it was our fault, not yours. After the constant rotating in the offensive assistant ranks of Will Muschamp’s staff, we asked for some coaching stability. You delivered on that for sure, but it also kind of meant that some of Jim McElwain’s offensive assistants stayed on longer than they should have. Our bad.
I know you’re busy this time of year, so I’ll be brief. Here are three things we’d like to get this year. Three isn’t too many to ask for is it?
1. A quarterback (again)
I really feel like this is a big area where there’s been some misunderstanding.
During John Brantley’s 2010 season, we asked for a quarterback to fit Urban Meyer’s system. You then delivered Jeff Driskel, but Meyer left and was replaced by people who wanted a completely different system. We also asked for someone really good, good enough to play in the NFL. Well, Driskel, Jacoby Brissett, and Will Grier either were or will be drafted, but all from schools that aren’t Florida. We asked for a better arm than Treon Harris or Luke Del Rio, and, well, Feleipe Franks’s arm strength is by far his best attribute.
So here’s what I want this year: a quarterback who is able to maximize his abilities in Dan Mullen’s system.
I’m not being picky. Maybe it’s someone on the team already like Kyle Trask. I’m sure he’d love another shot at playing after being out injured all season long. Perhaps it’s Matt Corral, who could be a preternaturally good true freshman starter. I mean, you’ve give Georgia two of those in a row. Toss one our way. You could even put a sixth year of eligibility under Malik Zaire’s tree. He’s a dual threat guy who would be much better served in Mullen’s spread option than McElwain’s pro-set. He could give Corral some time to get up to college speed without the pressure of starting.
I’m not picky about who it is. Jake Allen? Sure! An as-of-yet unknown grad transfer? That works too. I just would like to see someone who is a good fit for Mullen’s offense who performs up to the best of his abilities. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a quarterback max out in Florida’s offense. If nothing else, please give us this one. Please.
2. A good special teams coordinator
This must have been a tricky one for you to deliver on in recent years. Greg Nord may have had the special teams title, but it was known that everyone on the staff did a little bit of special teams coaching.
That system really didn’t work. The Gators were second-to-last in the SEC in both punt and kickoff coverage, and they were dead last in punt returns. The selection of players to do the returning seemed a bit haphazard, and Brandon Powell got the yips when it came to catching punts.
I think this is fixable through centralizing special teams under a single coach who lives and breathes that phase of the game. Mullen worked under one of the best special teams minds of this generation the last time he was at Florida, so I know that he would appreciate a gift of this nature.
The Gators can’t win if a third of the game is an afterthought among the coaching staff. We promise we won’t take special teams for granted if you give us a good coach for it.
3. Team unity
It’s natural for teams to have some chemistry problems after coaching changes. The new staff didn’t necessarily recruit many, if any, of the old players, and personalities can naturally clash among people getting used to each other.
But Santa, it sure seemed like there wasn’t very good chemistry during this past season either. We’ve seen hints here and there about problems within the program, so there may be some things to fix among the team that have nothing to do with the standard issues with new regimes.
So if you could, please give them a new perspective that allows them to work and play better together. It sure seems like Mullen kept some good ones around from the last staff, so give them some good strategies to help the new coaches relate to the old players. Maybe, while they’re fast asleep during your visit, whisper in the players’ ears some happy thoughts about their brothers on the team and new stewards on the staff.
This Florida roster was young and beat up this year, and the record suffered as a result. It could end up paying dividends, though, with many players having gotten more practice and game reps than they otherwise would have. Poor spirit within the ranks would wipe away that advantage and more.
So that’s my list. I’m not asking for any Christmas miracles here — though I wouldn’t turn one down if you offered. I’d just like to see good quarterback play, organized and improved special teams, and a united team that plays for each other and the new coaches.
Thanks for reading this, and good luck with your deliveries this year. I already like what you’ve done with the early delivery of coal to Florida State. They could probably use a little more when the big day comes.