Veterans Holding the Gators Together

Frankie Hammond is only designated as a redshirt freshman. That's not what many people would classify as a leader on a team. In this case, Hammond doesn't have a choice. The Gators are in a situation that could cause them to grow closer or send the team into a tailspin. Hammond is doing his best to make sure they stay together.

"Leadership plays a role when it comes to a situation like this where the coach is stepping down," Frankie Hammond said. "The younger players have to lean on the older players to get them going. They came here for Meyer, and now that a new coach is coming, we have to keep that positive outlook."

The young players are now leaning on a senior class that hasn't dealt with anything like this. There have been plenty of position coaches that left Florida to move up in their coaching careers, but Meyer recruited all of the seniors on the team. They have never dealt with a switch at the top, except for the one day at last December when Meyer stepped down, only to return.

Hammond has been one of the older players that have done their best to hold the team together. The group he has focused on is the freshmen, who were recruited to Florida last year by Meyer. They signed with the Gators expecting him to be their coach throughout their college career.

"It hurts them, but in the end they know that another coach is coming," Hammond said. "We can't have a set back. In the end we know that if a coach leaves, the University of Florida will still be the University of Florida. We have to hold that standard."

Meyer's decision to step down as head coach was tough for the players to take after he held a team meeting to tell the players. Some were surprised, while others said they thought it could happen because Meyer looked different throughout the season.

However, the players realize there is still a game to be played this Saturday when they take on Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

"It was a setback, but we still have a bowl game to go to," Hammond said. "We still have to play in a bowl game and do what we can."

The players now are going through practices to prepare for the bowl, but they also serve a second purpose. Will Muschamp will take over as the head coach on January 2, and Meyer has invited him to watch as many practices as he wants.

It serves as an open tryout for players who could use a coaching change to boost their playing time.

"I think they've got the message," Hammond said of his younger teammates. "We're rolling from there."

There have been plenty of distractions in the last three weeks that could hurt Florida's focus for Saturday's bowl game, with Meyer's resignation at the top of that list. The challenge will be for the Gators to remain focused and prepare for the game how they should to send Meyer and the seniors out with a victory.

"It's hard nosed, tough guys," Hammond said. "They're athletes just like us and practice just like we do. We can't take them for granted in anything."

Hammond also said he isn't sure if he will be back on scholarship in January or in the fall. He said it will be Meyer's decision, and they haven't spoken about it recently.

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