Florida Gators can’t afford another bowl game no show

Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain gives out gum to his daughters, a post game ritual for the family, after losing to the University of Michigan Wolverines / Gator Country photo by David Bowie A 10-win inaugural season sure didn’t feel like a 10-win campaign after the Florida Gators finished with an overtime win over Florida Atlantic and then three losses by a cumulative score of 97-24.

“The expectation is you can never take your foot off the gas pedal. I think we had some guys satisfied when we won the East,” McElwain said after a Citrus Bowl loss to Michigan. “I think they’ve gotten a taste now of what you really have to do in preparation, in personal preparation moving forward.”

The Gators 2016 season has played out in similar fashion. They’ve been outscored 85-29 in losses to Florida State and Alabama and will face another Big 10 opponent in Iowa on January 2 in the Outback Bowl.

There is also a familiar set of circumstances that the Gators face. They have as many as nine players on defense, including five juniors that could leave for the NFL after this season and another in starting left tackle David Sharpe.

“We sent out all the things that we could to the NFL for those guys. We put those booklets together. We’ll sit down and meet with some of them after the bowl game as far as a direction and what they want to do,” McElwain said on Tuesday. “Just getting the information, not talk them in, talk them out – that’s not it. Just make sure they’ll well informed so their handlers and their families kind of know what at least is out there, and yet it’s not it’s not written in stone, either, once you get those reports.”

McElwain hopes that those players invest in the next three weeks of practice but it’s human nature to look ahead. Those juniors that are draft eligible this season have been working towards playing in the NFL since they first strapped on shoulder pads and a helmet in Pee Wee football. Seniors alike may be be starting to think about the next step in their careers. It doesn’t help when you look at the injuries that Florida has suffered. An injury in a mostly meaningless bowl game could derail those pans and future aspirations.

“I think the big piece, it’s a personal choice,” said McElwain. “We’re going to prepare to go win the ballgame and we’re going to need those guys to play well, play with energy and to give us an opportunity to go win it. You move forward and really it’s an individual choice by each one of those guys.”

Ultimately McElwain knows that it’s out of his control. You can’t want something for someone and he can’t go out there and play for them. The biggest thing he has to motivate his players is the fact that NFL teams will be looking to see how these draft eligible players finish the season. Sure, they’re going […]