Young leaders step up for Florida Gators

David Reese raised eyebrows on Saturday.

The sophomore linebacker from Illinois called out his teammates for what he viewed as unacceptable behavior during a 45-16 loss to Missouri.

“I hate the way we represented our coaches like that today with this game. Those guys really care for us and gave us a real good gameplan to do what we had to do. It’s sometimes disappointing when everybody doesn’t want to come together and just play for each other. That’s sad to see. We’ve still got a lot to play for. Me personally and our defense we want to play for those guys. We can’t have appearances like we just had today. That’s unacceptable.”

Randy Shannon said he liked the attitude of his middle linebacker. The Gators are in the midst of a four game losing streak and on Saturday it appeared the team quit. If you think “quit” is too harsh of a term you’d still feel comfortable saying they looked disinterested in the outcome of the game pretty early on.

It’s been a long season. Florida lost an emotional leader and starter in Marcell Harris in July. The next month they lost nine more teammates to a credit card fraud scandal. They were embarrassed by Michigan in the season opener, rallied with three consecutive wins but have gone more than a month since their last victory. Their coach is gone, rumors are swirling about who will replace Jim McElwain and now, they face a stretch of three games that they must win just to get the chance to play in a bowl game.

Somebody needed to say something.

“David Reese made a comment on this football team. I think this comment has really made him be the guy that is a leader on this football team. A guy who’s not afraid to speak his mind and speak what he really believes in as far as this football team,” said Shannon. “By him making those comments, I think that this team has really kind of looked in the mirror and said ‘OK, Reese called it out and this is what we believe in and this is what we’ve seen.’ He’s challenged everybody.”

Reese wasn’t the only one. Sophomore receiver Freddie Swain challenged some of the offensive players in the locker room.

“(He) Kind of snapped on everybody,” fellow receiver Dre Massey said Monday. “I mean he’s probably one that maybe gets in our faces when things get tough like that.”

There’s no getting around this season. It’s been an abject failure. Despite the players and coaches insisting that there are leaders on this team they haven’t helped correct a four-game, month long skid until this week.

The interesting part is that both players are sophomores.

“I think it’s good that someone’s stepping up, filling the leadership role with many of our main leaders down,” Taven Bryan said. “Don’t have Jordan Sherit anymore, one of our bigger leaders. Nick Washington, people like that who are injured. It’s really good for someone to fill in and step up to be a leader.”

The present may be bleak. Florida is a 7.5-point underdog to former embattled head coach Will Muschamp — who would love nothing more than to run the score up on Florida. Bowl eligibility is unlikely and, as stated before, it appears players are checking out.

The future though, with two sophomores stepping up, could be bright.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC