UF receiver Josh Hammond spent about 11 words reflecting on Florida’s 2017 season.
“It sucks. A lot of guys are really hurt right now,” Hammond said. “But we’re a young team. … We’ve got a big future ahead of us. So I think that’s pretty much the focus right now.”
As Feleipe Franks watched his third interception of the day land in the arms Matthew Thomas, the only thing Florida’s quarterback could do was stare.
While the Gators (4-7) stumbled to a 38-22 loss on Saturday, falling to the Seminoles (5-6) for a fifth consecutive season, Hammond’s statement shows how eager UF is to move on from a forgettable 2017 campaign. In the spirit of looking ahead, here are the three most important things Florida fans learned about the future of their team this weekend:
1) The Gators’ next coach won’t be Chip Kelly.
The hardest news to accept came fewer than 15 minutes into Florida’s rivalry matchup with the Seminoles. UCLA announced that Florida coaching candidate Chip Kelly accepted the Bruins’ head coaching gig. Kelly agreed to a five-year, $23.3 million contract with the Pac-12 program that limped to a 4-8 finish this season.
With Kelly out of the picture, Florida fans’ next top choice is UCF coach Scott Frost, who led the Knights to an 11-0 regular season just two years after the team finished 0-12. Frost hasn’t said anything to indicate interest in the Florida job, but his representatives are reportedly expected to meet with UF officials.
If Florida can’t land Frost, who has been vocal about his commitment to UCF, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Oregon’s Willie Taggart have emerged as names to be taken seriously.
“The new coach has to come in here and just get us in position to win,” Hammond said. “That'll be the biggest thing. I think guys here are ready to play.”
2) Florida loses second 2018 recruit
The Gators ended their season the same way they started it: with a loss to Michigan.
Defensive end recruit Taylor Upshaw initially committed to Florida in June, but announced Friday night that he was flipping to the Wolverines.
“After long thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to decommit from the University of Florida and commit to The University of Michigan!” Upshaw posted on Twitter.
Upshaw, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound three-star recruit out of Bradenton, Florida, is the second 2018 prospect to decommit from Florida after the firing of head coach Jim McElwain.
Four-star receiver Ja’Marr Chase, ranked as the No. 12 receiving recruit in the nation according to 247Sports, announced that he was reopening his recruiting process after Florida’s 45-16 loss to Missouri.
3) Question marks surround quarterback situation
Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will be the only returning quarterback for Florida who has played in a game this season. In his last game of the year, Franks didn’t convince fans they have much to look forward to. Florida State scored 28 of its 38 points off four Franks turnovers — one fumble and three interceptions.
“It’s something I need to improve on going into the offseason,” Franks said.
With redshirt junior QB Luke Del Rio announcing that he won’t play another game as a Gator and Malik Zaire unlikely to participate in a sixth college season, Florida is left with two scholarship quarterbacks in addition to Franks, Kyle Trask and Jake Allen.
Both Trask and Allen redshirted this season, and give Florida a few options for 2018. Many Florida fans have already pinned their hopes recruit Matt Corral leading the UF offense next year, but there’s always a chance Corral could swap his commitment like Chase and Upshaw.
While Franks didn’t exactly ace his audition for next season, he still has confidence in what he and his team can do going forward.
“Through a coaching change, somebody right there and just a little more stability and things like that, we’re definitely going to rise,” Franks said after the loss to the Seminoles. “We can’t go any lower.”
You can follow Matt Brannon on Twitter @MattB_727, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.