As the Florida Gators enter the new year, it’s time to look forward to the new recruiting class. With a roller coaster year for the team, Coach Jim McElwain has stated that he is bringing in 25 to 30 new players for the 2016 season. The Gators started out strong when the new head coach first arrived this year. Winning the first six games, they were on par with No 3 Ole Miss. However, things didn’t take a turn for the better for the rest of the year.
The Gators saw the suspension of quarterback Will Grier in the early fall, lost the final three games of their season, and then got crushed by the Michigan Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. They lost to the Wolverines 41 to 7; one of the worst performances the team has ever had in their history. Needless to say, the Gators went home with the taste of disappointment in their mouths and their tails between their legs. McElwain seemed to be chipper after the game though.
He stated to reporters during his postgame press conference that; “Maybe that’s my fault about being upbeat. Yeah, I’m disappointed. We’re all disappointed. But you also got to learn from disappointment, and we will.”
As four upperclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, McElwain shifted his focus on the players that will shape the years to come for the Gators. Seeing them as leaders, the coach will depend on them to help guide the newcomers over the year. As a result of this new responsibility for returning team members, the excitement for next season seems to be returning. A crop of fresh and talented newcomers are set to start early in order to be eligible for the fall season. Ten out of the twelve of them have arrived already for spring classes and received a warm welcome from the head coach.
In addition to these new team members, Austin Appleby has announced that he will be transferring to the University of Florida as a graduate student. Currently, Appleby is the head quarterback at Purdue University. The addition of the older player will add an interesting contender for who might the starting QB next year. As I already wrote about in a previous blog post, there are four other contenders for the starting position. However, Austin is the only one that already seems to fit what the head coach looks for in a starter. He is the same height as all of the other QB’s who played under McElwain’s other teams, can take care of the ball well and has the experience of playing under pressure already.
Whatever the outcome of the transfer window, the Gators seem to be taking the steps towards laying down a solid foundation for the team. It’s an exciting time for both fans and teammates as everyone looks forward to a successful 2016 season.