OK, so the standard at the University of Florida has moved beyond Southeastern Conference championships. Gator fans can thank Urban Meyer for that one.
But it's probably unfair to put those kind of expectations on new coach Will Muschamp, as he takes over an Outback Bowl team and works to change the offensive philosophy from Spread to Pro. However, as I said this is University of Florida football, so it isn't as if the Gator Nation suddenly is going to go for losses to current punching bags Tennessee and Georgia.
I truly believe Muschamp is going to build a program that contends for championships (SEC and national) just about every season. His first team may fall in line behind LSU and Alabama in the 2011 conference pecking order, but there is no reason to think beating South Carolina and winning the East will be an impossibility.
For that (and who knows what else) to happen, there are some things that need to take place. Here are just five inside the program (meaning nothing about Trent Richardson, etc... missing the year with an injury):
1. Forget about Urban: For all of the wonderful work Meyer did at UF, he is gone, whether it be into coaching retirement or semi-retirement. This goes for Gator fans who will expect the immediate results Meyer brought post-Ron Zook. This also goes for Meyer signees who came to Gainesville to play for him.
Which of these five must-dos are the biggest for the Gators in 2011?
This is Muschamp's team. He already has had to be authoritative by throwing UF's best player (cornerback Janoris Jenkins) off the team, and numerous other Meyer recruits have moved on believing they don't fit into what Muschamp is trying to do (completely fair, as these kids only have one college career).
Those left behind must buy in and believe in their new coach and his very experienced staff. Muschamp wants to win more than anyone. He's going to be tough on his players, but I have no doubt they will grow to love him.
2. Charlie & Johnny are on the same page: Quarterback John Brantley disappointed many last season by throwing nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has made quarterbacks better at previous stops (Tom Brady, anyone?) and should be a positive influence and teacher for Brantley. The Pro-Style offense Weis has implemented also will be a better fit for Brantley than the Spread, which required him to use his feet as much, if not more, than his right arm.
3. The Second-Year DLs, Play Like Juniors & Seniors: When Meyer signed defensive end Ronald Powell (the nation's No. 1 overall recruit, according to rivals.com) and defensive tackles Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd—all 5-star prospects—to go along with 4-star DE Lynden Trail and 4-star DT Leon Orr in February of 2010, the talk was it could have been the best one-year defensive line haul in college football history.
Everyone deserves at least a year to adapt to life on campus and away from home (Powell is from California, Easley from New York and Floyd from Pennsylvania). Plus, the college game has bigger and faster players going against you (Floyd said the best prep offensive lineman he faced outside of all-star games signed with Temple).
But now is the time for those guys (you, too, Omar Hunter) to join underrated DT Jaye Howard and steady, if unspectacular, DE William Green and give UF one of the best defensive line rotations in the country.
4. Find at Least One Go-To Wide Receiver: Deonte Thompson was supposed to fill this role, but so far he has been discussed more for his drops than his catches. Still, he and Brantley have worked together extensively since being on the scout team together in the Tim Tebow days.
Figure Thompson (38 receptions for 570 yards and one touchdown) will get the first look, but if he falters, the coaches raved about sophomore Quinton Dunbar in the spring, and redshirt sophomore Andre Debose broke out in the return game last year and could be ready to on offense this season.
5. Stay Healthy: Well, duh! Write this down for every team in the nation.