When former head coach Urban Meyer stepped down - and even after new head coach Will Muschamp was hired - there was plenty of concern about the direction of the Florida Gators football program and how successful it could be in 2011. That concern has morphed into universal optimism over the last few weeks as Muschamp hired an experienced coaching staff and reached out to former players visiting Gainesville.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, are part of the reason why the mood is so positive.
Weis's experience and success precedes him. Since taking the job, he has spoken about molding the offense to his talent (not the other way around) and doing whatever it takes to win. Quinn has stressed tenacity, aggression and responsibility from the defense.
Some of Florida's assistants are equally excited about the season.
"To be able to come back to where I played at, [with] so many great players here at the University of Florida and everything that has gone on here with the championships, it's just a great feeling to be back," wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill said. "We're just trying to find out who's the best players, create some competition. This spring propels us into football season."
Former NFL Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young is just as pumped up about teaching the Gators. "I'm so excited. My family's excited. We're really looking forward to the future success of this program," he said. "I'm really happy to be a part of it and help in any way I possibly can to continue what's been started a long time ago.
"[I want] for us to come out and just realize the opportunity that we have before us and just take advantage of it. For us, it's about being physically tough and mentally tough, just come out here and work. We want to make sure that we work as hard as we possibly can during the week in practice and prepare ourselves for those tough Saturdays."
Florida Ring of Honor member and Pro Bowler linebacker Wilber Marshall spoke with the team over the weekend and also visited Florida's scrimmage on Saturday.
"They're huge compared to when I played, man," he said. "The talent, I know they got something good going here. Like [Muschamp] is telling the kids, they've got all the tools now. They're just putting it together."
Marshall also talked about what he said to the team. "The kids here just want to learn a lot. What you've got to do is you've got to soak it in," he said. "It's very fast, and that's what people will tell you when you go to the next level, because there's so much to learn. But now with this pro-style offense and defense they've got here, they've got a head start."
One weekend earlier, a number of former Gators (including center Maurkice Pouncey, quarterback Chris Leak, defensive end Willie Rodgers and wide receivers Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper and David Nelson) stopped by Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for Pro Day and Muschamp made it a point to speak to them about the impact they've had on the program.
"They all really appreciated that," Pouncey told the Gainesville Sun. "Coach Muschamp seems like a great guy. He's going to do a great job here. No doubt."
Leak shared a similar sentiment with the paper. "He's going to do a great job. You can tell the players are excited," he said. "Those defensive players are especially fired up to play in his defense. He really gets after people. His defense sacked me six times when he was at LSU. I tell you what, there are going to be some sore quarterbacks around the SEC after they play Florida."