HOOVER, Ala. — The Florida Gators were the biggest name Monday at SEC Media Days, arriving in Hoover as the defending East Division champions with the SEC Coach of the Year in 2015.
Though UF achieved more success than anyone anticipated last year, there’s some big question marks surrounding this team as it heads into the 2016 season. Here’s what they’re saying nationally about Florida:
“The Southeastern Conference’s coach of the year award might as well be renamed “Welcome to the Hot Seat.” — Dan Wolken, USA Today
Wolken points out how many coaches in the last 13 years have been fired (6) after earning SEC Coach of the Year honors. Two more winners, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, are on the hot seat this season.
Wolken writes that McElwain will have to beat the coaching odds to avoid the same fate. “This league like no other is, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ ” McElwain told Wolken. “We’re the ones who chose to do this. So if you’re going to do it, do it at the highest level where the biggest boiling pot is and let’s go jump in and see what we can make out of it.”
“At this time last year, the thought of Florida playing for the SEC title was utterly preposterous.” — Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated
Florida turned a lot of heads in 2015 by not only making it to Atlanta, but winning 10 games. Despite that success, McElwain and his players aren’t boasting about being SEC East champs.
Staples goes in-depth about how the Gators are driven by the poor finish to last season, and reveals that the team voted against making rings to commemorate the division title. “The expectations are that we should have been better than that,” McElwain told Staples. “To be honest, that was one of the allures to the job.”
“McElwain and Florida are still in (Nick) Saban’s shadow more than anybody else in the SEC.” — Bill Bender, Sporting News
Of the three former Saban assistants who are now head coaches in the SEC, no one is held to his standard more than McElwain. Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart are in their first year at South Carolina and Georgia, respectively, while McElwain had the most wins of a first-year Florida coach in school history and has already faced Saban in Atlanta.
Benton notes the parallels between the Alabama and Florida programs, and it was the Crimson Tide who dethroned UF in 2009 on their way to building a dynasty under Saban. “I was excited to be able to play him,” McElwain said Monday. “I know this: I’d be excited to play him again, because I know it’s in Atlanta.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.