Hope springs eternal. That old adage is probably never more applicable than it is with college football fans. It’s August which means that right now even Kentucky fans believe. Well, sort of. Across the nation, fans of a hundred or more different schools wait anxiously for the season to start in a couple of weeks. Most believe in some tiny spot deep inside that this is the year that the stars align and their team makes that unexpected run to greatness. Most will be disappointed. But, that’s OK they were disappointed last year, and the year before and the year before that.
Gator fans were EXTREMELY disappointed last season. 4-8 just isn’t supposed to happen in Gainesville, Florida. Ever!!! It just isn’t. But it did happen. And it was fifty shades of ugly. It hurt to watch. The underlying cause was without doubt the extraordinary rash of injuries. I have been watching college football for over forty years and I have never seen a team get decimated by injury like last year’s Gator team. But, excuses are like…… never mind.
In Gainesville, like most other college towns in August, hope does indeed spring eternal. New blood on the offensive coaching staff has the Gator Nation going to sleep at night with visions of offensive competence dancing in their heads. This could be the year that the Gators return to the high-flying, high scoring, RUTS capable offenses that had become the norm in Gainesville. For that to happen there is one very important requirement. This team MUST stay mostly healthy.
Break out your rabbit’s foot, your horseshoe, that nasty Wuerffel jersey you haven’t washed in nearly twenty years, whatever your lucky charm may be. When star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III limped off the practice field to ice his knee you could feel it ripple across the Gator Nation. “Here we go again”. Word is that VHIII will return to practice later this week. If true, and injury updates have not always been accurate in the past, that will be the first sign that PERHAPS the curse has been lifted. Last season that would have been a season ending ACL tear and nearly every Gator fan knows that. Every fan exhaled triumphantly when the MRI came back negative.
The Florida Gators need that luck to hold for the entire season. This offensive line can be effective but it is not exceptionally deep. A round robin of injuries like last year will almost certainly stunt the growth of Kurt Roper’s new offense. The linebacker unit might be even more precarious. Thin recruiting at the position has left that unit lacking depth as well and it would only take a couple of key injuries to take a heavy toll on a Gator defense that has the potential to be dominant. While there is more depth along the defensive line, it still isn’t great and losing Dante Fowler or Jonathon Bullard could be nearly as devastating as losing Dominique Easley was last season.
And let’s not even discuss the quarterback position. While Florida brought in two highly touted freshmen in this last recruiting class, it is unlikely that the Gators will win the SEC East if either has to start many games. Jeff Driskel needs to remain healthy and he has yet to be injury-free for an entire season in Gainesville. For Jeff to truly excel he must be allowed to use his running ability which also puts him at a higher risk for injury. It cannot be helped. He must be permitted to play his game. Keep rubbing that rabbit’s foot.
This Gator team has the talent to be a contender. There is reason for optimism that it has the coaching staff in place to make a quick leap back to the elite level. Will Muschamp needs to be a lot more lucky than he was last season. To be truthful, Muschamp was quite lucky in 2012 when he lead his charges to an 11-1 regular season. Hopefully, he is due for another 2012 instead of another 2013. If you have an extra one of those rabbit’s feet or another stinky #7 jersey, you might want to send one to Will. He could use a little good luck this season.