It is finally here. Football season has arrived, sort of. Practice begins for real on Monday. These are extremely important practices this August. Not just because the Gators have a new offensive scheme to iron out. This year the first game is of great importance and it cannot be prepared for the same way a Gator team might usually prepare for an opener against a lesser team like Idaho.
Most years the Gator nation is discussing such topics as “not showing too much” and “playing vanilla” in such a game. Most years there is suspicion that the coaching staff will withhold most of the playbook against an Idaho. I do not believe that Florida can afford that approach this season. These Gators need a blowout win over Idaho. I hate it for Idaho but it is what it is.
These Gators need to build confidence and get that nasty taste of 2013 out their collective mouths. These Gators need to begin executing their offense like a well-oiled machine as early as possible, like the first quarter against Idaho. This Florida team needs to be comfortably ahead early in this game so reserves can get into the mix and quality depth can be developed. And this team needs to begin showing recruits at the first possible moment that all is well in Gainesville Florida.
Most years, Gator fans can just be comforted by the knowledge that the team opens the season against an opponent that should allow them to overcome some first game jitters and work out some bugs in the new offense. Not this year. This year needs to be complete domination from the opening kickoff.
Head Coach Will Muschamp and Defensive Coordinator DJ Durkin need to open practice driving the point home to every defensive player on the roster that the lackadaisical starts to games that took place last year are not acceptable. Shame them into understanding that nothing short of a shutout against Idaho will be considered adequate. The Gator Nation wants to see the Florida defense come out and smother the Vandals into submission by halftime.
Much more importantly, Gator fans (and recruits) want to see an aggressive and explosive offense. This is not a season to hide some of the offense from Alabama or LSU or Georgia. This is a season where the Gators should come out firing all of their bullets and boldly stating to everyone on their schedule that last season was an aberration and Florida plans to exact revenge in 2014. I know there is at least the perception out there that it is preferable to keep opponents from seeing all of your playbook (especially on offense) any sooner than absolutely necessary. Personally, I think the advantage is greatly overstated. More importantly, I do not believe that the Gators can really afford to hope that they can just turn that switch on when they need it.
The one thing I see missing more than anything else from the Gators these days is swagger. I want to see the team step out onto the field like they own it. I want to see that look in their eyes that says “we don’t care what you planned all week, we intend to impose OUR will on YOU”. Swagger isn’t something that a coach can instill on the practice field or in the film room. Swagger must be EARNED on the playing field. I believe it is imperative to do that from the opening snap of the first game. The ONLY way to acquire any swagger from a game against Idaho is complete and utter domination in all facets of the game.
It cannot be done by establishing a ten or seventeen point lead and then burning every possible second between running plays as you let the air out of the ball. I firmly believe that the Gators need to go wide-open on offense using every play in their arsenal and then let the reserves come in and do the exact same thing. The defense must flex their muscle from the first snap and make every effort on every play to demoralize the opposing offense. Muschamp and staff cannot be satisfied with a comfortable 31-14 victory doing their best to avoid embarrassing an overmatched opponent needlessly or protecting against injury. After last season, the Florida Gators find themselves in a position of needing to show all of college football that their demise has indeed been greatly exaggerated. The goal here needs to be a 55-0 type victory in this first game. It may not matter to the staff what I and the rest of the nation believe, but if this game remains relatively close for two and a half quarters with the Gators pulling away to a two touchdown victory with a boring time-eating fourth quarter I (and the rest of the nation including recruits) won’t believe it was because Muschamp didn’t WANT to dominate a lesser opponent. We will all suspect it was because his team could not do it.