HOOVER, Ala. — Say this for the Florida Gators, they are a resilient bunch.
Florida finished the 2015 season on a three-game losing streak, a humiliating 41-7 loss to Big Ten East Division third-place team Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl topping it off.
But when it comes to the SEC East Division, the Gators believe they are still the team to beat regardless of preseason projections that have Tennessee.
“I can’t wait to go to Tennessee, man, I can’t wait, that’s going to be the big game this year,” Florida offensive tackle David Sharpe said Monday at SEC Media Day at the Wynfrey Hotel.
“We’re just ready to go show them,” the 6-foot-7, 340-pound junior said. “We expect to come back and win ever more than we did last year.”
Sharpe said seeing the Vols picked to finish ahead of the Gators — a team Florida has beat 11 straight times, including last year’s 28-27 victory — is “a head shaker.”
Florida senior linebacker Jarrad Davis made it clear the defending SEC East Division champs have their own expectations, and the Gators are hungrier than ever.
“We’re chomping at the bit, ready to go,” Davis said. “We’ll take advantage of every opportunity we get to put ourselves back in Atlanta.”
Davis said the way last season ended played “a lot” into his decision to return for his senior season.
“You get that close to something you have to take full advantage of the opportunity, and the way it ended in Atlanta like that, back in the state of Georgia, it was rough,” Davis said. “The way we walked out of the locker room at the end of the night didn’t feel right. I walked away wanting more.”
The expectation for this season, David said, is “go back to Atlanta and win.”
The SEC Championship Game is scheduled for Dec. 3 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Florida safety Marcus Maye made it clear the Gators are ready to take on all comers.
“The Florida Gators are always going to be the Florida Gators,” Maye said. “You got to respect them no matter what. I feel like we know who we are. We know the talent level and the capabilities that we have, so we know once we step out on the field we’ll be ready to go, no matter what.”
No matter the projections.
“They are picking other teams to win, we see it, but we don’t harp on it, because we know once it comes around, it’s time to go.”
Sharpe said he remembers his first trop to Knoxville vividly, a 10-9 win in 2014, and he can’t wait for Florida’s Sept. 24 trip to Tennessee.
“It was great, the ground was rocking, I remember the fans were terrible, throwing stuff at us” Sharpe said. “It was crazy, I cant’ wait to go back, actually.”