UF coach Dan Mullen made his expectations for this year's Florida football team abundantly clear.
“I don’t know if there’s anybody out there that has higher expectations for the team as a program than I do,” Mullen said. “Instead of shying away from them, embrace those expectations, and try to live up to them and surpass the expectations out there for us as a team and for us as a program.”
The coach, along with quarterback Feleipe Franks, running back Lamical Perine and defensive end Jabari Zuniga all appeared in Hoover, Alabama, on Monday afternoon to talk about the upcoming season at SEC Media Days.
The Gators are coming off a huge year in 2018, winning 10 games and their first New Year’s Six Bowl victory since the 2009-10 season.
With all of the success UF saw in Mullen’s first year, Florida will look to live up to its expectations for the 2019-20 season.
This season, Florida will get the unique opportunity to open its year during “Week 0” in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes to help celebrate the 150th season of college football.
“I think it’s huge. I mean, there’s a lot that goes into that game,” Mullen said. “We’re the opening game of the 150th year of college football. So it’s a great honor to just be involved in that game. … It’s going to be a huge, you know, kind of catapult for one of the teams. UF jumped from four wins in 2017 to 10 in 2018 and, on Monday, Mullen was asked about the difficulty of possibly getting up to 11 or 12 wins in 2019.
“I think in year two, there’s a lot more comfort within the program. … Our guys knew what to expect coming into the offseason. It’s easier to attack the offseason. I think we’ve made bigger gains in a lot of ways this offseason than we did last year.”
The players had the opportunity to speak to the media as well, and Zuniga shared some of his eye-opening expectations for his senior season.
“First, I want to win the SEC East, win the SEC Championship and then get to a bowl game. Obviously, get to the National Championship,” Zuniga said. ”We, as a team, have very high expectations. We feel like we can do some special things this year.”
For UF to win the SEC East and get back to the SEC Championship for the first time in three years, they’ll have to beat Georgia, who has outscored the Gators 78-24 in the last two matchups.
As the 2019 season heads toward its opening next month, Florida wants to ride the momentum it gained from last season’s success.
“We are ready for this upcoming season,” Franks said. “We have done everything the right way this summer, going into fall camp, to prepare us for next season. So I think it is all just preparation-based, and our team has done a great job.”
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak and contact him at [email protected].