Gators' coach Zach Azzanni appreciates being on the "other side"
From the predawn wake-up calls, throughout the day of practices and meetings, and late into the evening watching opponents' video, new Florida receivers coach Zach Azzanni is enjoying every moment of his first season with the Gators.
Azzanni joined the Florida staff in late December after spending the past two seasons at Central Michigan.
But as the Gators prepare to open the season against Miami of Ohio, Azzanni has a great appreciation for the daunting task Miami of Ohio faces, and for how far he's come. A former player at Central Michigan, Azzanni spent nine years coaching in the Mid-American Conference.
"I'm from the Mid-American Conference so I've been playing from behind for the last eight years,'' he said. "I'm the guy that used to have to come in here (The Swamp) and play in these kind of games. So I've always had that edge. Coming here and seeing we all have that edge at at place like this, it's fun.''
Azzanni said he's constantly reminding his UF receivers they have to be ready to play in three weeks, despite the fact the Gators should be overwhelming favorites in the season-opener.
"I guarantee those guys (Miami of Ohio) are coming in here to kick our rear ends,'' Azzanni said. "I've been on that side of it, so we've got to prepare. Every game we play here is a championship game. Every game we play. In this conference, this schedule, you slip up one and it could mean some of your goals.''
Azzanni said he doesn't think coaches at smaller schools have a tough time selling their players on traveling to play games against teams from more prominent conferences.
"I don't think there's a head coach that is standing up there going "Alright boys there's two games on our schedule we can't win'," Azzanni said. "I don't think he's saying that in his first team meeting. But the kids are competitive, this is Division I football. All kids are competitive and those guys want to show they can play with us. I tell my guys that all the time, you can't sleep on anyone. You have to play the same vs. Alabama as you do Miami of Ohio. They are all the same to us, championship games.''