Come Saturday, Florida will get the chance to finally bury the disaster that was the 4-8 season of 2013. It seemed the day would never come, but a clean slate for the program starts with its season opener against Idaho.
The Gators haven’t won a game in nearly 10 months — their last taste of winning came following a 30-10 victory over Arkansas on Oct. 5. For redshirt senior linebacker Mike Taylor, the opportunity to get a win can not come soon enough.
“Getting a win will definitely help; definitely help the whole feeling around the stadium,” Taylor said. “Because of the season we had last year and just to know that all the hard work we’ve been putting in all offseason and how we came together in camp. Knowing that that will have paid off and contribute to some wins, which I feel it will, that will just be the biggest thing.”
Taylor returns to the defense as the leading tackler from 2013, racking up 62 total tackles, including 3.5 for loss. The defense as a whole returns seven starters from a unit that finished among the top two conference teams for all but one defensive category including rushing, passing and total defense.
Despite being part of consistently dominant defenses throughout his time in Gainesville, Taylor believes this year’s unit has the potential to be one of the most successful ones that he has been a part. A lot of that potential is due to its cohesiveness.
“We’re playing together as a defense more than I’ve ever probably witnessed since I’ve been here,” Taylor said. “We’ve been playing together, there’s no pointing fingers, there’s no you should’ve did this you, should’ve did that. We all came together for a common goal to be the best defense, not it’s time for us to display it and actually do that.”
While Taylor is one of the veteran leaders on defense, returning quarterback Jeff Driskel is a leader both on offense and defense. Driskel, who will see the field for the first time since a season-ending injury suffered against Tennessee last September, has earned the respect of his teammates coming back from the injury so positively.
“A lot of us weren’t able to finish the season last year, so just that fact and knowing that we’re coming back and he’s coming back to lead the team, lead the offense,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him because we know a lot of our success will be in his hand.”
The backup quarterback spot for Idaho was finally settled, as Muschamp announced Tuesday that true freshman Treon Harris will be quarterback number two against the Vandals. Harris won the job for Saturday over early enrollee Will Grier.
“He just showed those leadership signs which is probably why Muschamp gave him the backup job,” Taylor said. “He has great elusive ability and can throw in the pocket and on the run, like I said he makes quick decisions which is very effective in this offense.”
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Mike Taylor (51) pursues Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk during the Gators' 36-17 loss to the Tigers on Oct. 19 in Columbia, Mo.