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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Brandon Hicks has one regret from his senior season.

And it has nothing to do with wins or losses.

Hicks will play his last game in The Swamp on Saturday against Appalachian State, playing for pride on a 6-4 team that has already missed out on its opportunity to play for a Southeastern Conference Championship.

Hicks said this year’s Florida team wasn’t lacking the potential to be great. Instead, it took them too long for veterans like Hicks and the freshmen to become a team.

“We’re a very talented team on both sides of the ball,” Hicks said. “I wish camaraderie would’ve came a whole lot sooner.”

UF brought in 27 players and the No. 2 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, including four five-star and 17 four-star athletes.

Right from the beginning, the integration process to the team was rough, making headlines when senior and team leader Mike Pouncey delivered a strong message to the first-year players during preseason camp.

“At the end of the day, the freshmen need to just shut their mouths and come play,” Pouncey said. “They haven’t done anything on Saturday, and most of the fans don’t even know who they are. So, until they prove themselves, they just need to sit back and let the older guys play.”

When Pouncey and Hicks addressed the media this week, both said they wish they could’ve bonded with the freshmen earlier in the season.

Hicks said the team needed the freshmen to come along faster and contribute right away, something that didn’t happen.

Freshman defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, a five-star recruit who has made a big impact as of late and was named defensive player of the week by coach Urban Meyer after the Vanderbilt game, confirmed what Pouncey and Hicks said.

“It started off a little shaky, then we started bringing it together, started being a team instead of segregated,” Floyd said.

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Not all of the freshmen felt that way, though.

Cornerback Cody Riggs, who has seen a lot of playing time this season and replaced starter Jeremy Brown midway through the Georgia game, said his relationship with the veterans in his position group — Janoris Jenkins, Moses Jenkins and Brown — has always been a positive one.

Riggs came into offseason camp as the last cornerback and formed a strong relationship with Brown, who he is now competing with for playing time.

“I’m with Jeremy more than anybody on the team,” Riggs said. “I look up to him. He helps me even when I was playing, he would talk to me on the sideline and tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

The seniors say their relationships with the young players are much better now with three games left in their careers.

But who knows what could have been if they had come together sooner?

“That’s one of the things I wish we could’ve done better,” Hicks said.

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