Last season, Florida surprised the college football world when it jumped to a 10-1 record and climbed as high as No. 8 in the polls.
Then the Gators fell off the map.
UF went 4-4 to end the year, including three consecutive blowout losses to Florida State, Alabama and Michigan.
So Florida’s focus this spring is on finishing.
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“It was very disappointing and not the way we wanted to end the season,” senior safety Marcus Maye said. “We didn’t come out ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard. … We’re approaching the spring with the right mentality. We’re focused, running around fast.”
Florida was humbled by its humiliating finish, and the players say they learned a valuable lesson in regression and complacency.
After clinching the SEC East title, the Gators practiced — and played — as if they had arrived. They hadn’t.
Just a week into camp, second-year coach Jim McElwain has praised his team’s early energy and hunger to avoid repeating last season’s swoon.
Now he’s curious if it will last all spring.
“We’ll see how it is, see if we can sustain it,” McElwain said. “One of the things that hit us a little bit last year was, obviously, we didn’t finish and we didn’t sustain. So, to me, these practices have to be one of those deals where we get a little bit better and never take a step back. That’s going to be our challenge.”
HARDIN OFF TEAM
Kicker Austin Hardin’s much-maligned career at UF is over. McElwain said the redshirt junior had left the team but remains in school and is set to graduate this spring.
Hardin had a tough time at Florida, making just 16-of-36 field goals in three seasons. The former Under Armour All-American did hit a pair of game-winning field goals for the Gators, including drilling a 49-yarder to beat Vanderbilt in 2015.
But Hardin mostly had a disastrous junior season, missing nine kicks and three extra points.
McElwain hopes Miami native Eddy Pineiro is the answer to UF’s kicking woes, as the early enrollee and No. 1 junior college kicker has impressed early in camp.
Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Travaris Dorsey is transferring to Tuskegee. The little-used lineman played in 10 games last season, almost exclusively on special teams.
Redshirt freshman wideout Kalif Jackson will likely miss the remainder of spring practice with a knee injury. According to McElwain, defensive tackle Joey Ivie and cornerback Quincy Wilson remain slowed by groin injuries, and defensive back Duke Dawson (foot) and tight end Camrin Knight (leg) missed Monday’s practice but are expected to return to action Wednesday.