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For Florida football team, uncertainty gives way to promise

GAINESVILLE — Eight months ago, former Venice High quarterback Trey Burton was spending most of his free time trying to help salvage Florida's 2010 recruiting class.

Burton was among a handful of players who were instrumental in a text message and phone campaign to keep recruits informed as the drama surrounding the sudden resignation of Florida coach Urban Meyer unfolded.

"I wouldn't say I was the only reason," Burton said Tuesday. "What I pretty much did was someone would give me info, then I would spread it. I wanted them to do what was best for them and their families, so I wouldn't tell a lie. But I got the info and then I spread it."

Ultimately, the Gators rallied and held on to their No. 1 recruiting class.

On Tuesday, Burton sat among a group of Florida players during the team's annual media day reflecting on those uncertain days during the winter and about the hopes and expectations of the upcoming season.

The Gators seem years removed from December.

Florida will open the season Sept. 4 ranked No. 3 in the USA Today coaches poll, despite having lost nine players to the NFL, including Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Florida has four new assistant coaches, including a new defensive coordinator.

But the atmosphere around Gainesville, players and coaches insist, isn't one of panic about what has gone wrong but a renewed excitement over what is to come.

"I love it," receivers coach Zach Azzanni said. "Coach Meyer says it all the time; it's just a bunch of hungry guys. There's just a bunch of young guys; there's no egos on the coaching staff and the players. Everyone is just kind of working their tail off, putting their head in the sand and going right now. And I like it."

On Tuesday, talk of the future inevitably consisted of things from the past. It's tough to get away from talk of Tebow. And that's part of the excitement for the Gators — proving they are capable of moving on.

"We want to maintain it for sure because these past few years have been great years for us," quarterback John Brantley said. "Even though a lot of our playmakers have left and a lot of people doubt us, that makes us more excited to start the season."

"Nothing really has changed," junior running back Jeff Demps said. "We're still going to be the Florida Gators that are going to come out each and every day, give 100 percent effort and go hard."

The Gators are the preseason favorite to repeat as SEC East champions, yet there's a feeling among this group that there is a lot to prove.

"You can sense there's a lot of will to prove ourselves," redshirt senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders said. "Coming in last year, we had Tebow, we had (Brandon) Spikes, we had Carlos (Dunlap), we had all these playmakers. Now you see people saying there's a lot of question marks on this team.

"Well, now everybody who has game-time experience wants to make sure that we fill those question marks. And they have that drive. We just want to go out and win games."

With a first-year starting quarterback, a veteran offensive line and a defense mixed with veterans and newcomers with great potential, Meyer has dubbed this "the year of development and accountability."

"We are coaching as hard as we ever have," he said. "Other than '07, this has been one of the newest (teams), but I will tell you what, there is a lot of talent running around on that field.

"I think you will be excited to see what that Florida team looks like. Not now — they are awful right now — but in a couple of weeks, they will be pretty good."

For Florida football team, uncertainty gives way to promise 08/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 12:01am]
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