GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While Florida fans, media and the Gators administration have mostly turned their respective attention to the football coaching search and to the future, the players this week maintained that they aren’t even thinking about who will take over the program after this season.
“How do I avoid it? I just don’t pay attention to it,” kicker Eddy Pineiro said after stating he hadn’t even heard the names in the coaching rumor mill.
Said offensive lineman Tyler Jordan: “I haven’t been paying attention to it. I’m interested in the now, really. I’ll worry about that when the time comes. We’ve still got three games.”
Florida (3-5, 3-4 SEC) travels to South Carolina (6-3, 4-3) this week, trying to snap a four-game losing streak that has looked worse with each passing game.
More to the point, the reeling Gators are hoping to show that they are still as focused and invested in this season after a 45-16 loss to a Missouri team more accustomed to being on the other side of such blowouts.
This is a lost season, certainly. At best, the Gators might slip into a bowl game, might avoid just their second losing season since 1980.
If the players truly aren’t the least bit curious about who their next coach will be, well, they’re the only ones.
Scott Frost & Co. are more on the minds of fans right now than South Carolina.
It would be human nature for the players to at least be wondering who will be coaching them a month from now and setting the tone for the future of their program. It’s also standard for athletes to cultivate the message they think they’re supposed to project.
In this case, one of undivided focus in the face of considerable external distractions.
There was one thought toward the future that the players who spoke with reporters this week were willing to address. They believe that whoever takes charge of the program will get the Gators back to a more familiar standard in short order.
“I mean, I would think so, because at the end of the day we’re still the Florida Gators and this is one of the biggest programs that we’ve got around. I feel like we will be able to bounce back regardless of what we went through,” defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. “I mean, it was just one year. So we’ll be alright.”
Said fellow defensive tackle Taven Bryan: “I think we can definitely recover from it. With this team, there’s so much potential that you guys don’t get to see that I’m around all the time. They just really haven’t had the opportunities to really shine, how good they really are. … Honestly, I think it’d be easy to turn around. There’s just some small things.”
Bryan is expected to head to the NFL after this season, but many of these players will be back and will be the bridge to the next era of Florida football.
And presumably the next coach will be reviewing tape and making some preliminary evaluations off what he sees, so these final games still matter even if not for the standings.
With enough questions about their focus and investment, coming even from one of their teammates, the players were right to downplay the coaching-search distraction in their comments this week. That is one part of the operation that really is out of their control.
It’s fair to wonder, though, how easily they’ve truly been able to avoid the chatter.
“It’s going to work itself out, honestly,” receiver Dre Massey said. “Yeah, it’s going to work itself out. I don’t really pay too much attention to it, I just let God handle it.”
Along with athletic director Scott Stricklin, that is.
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