Florida Focused on Starting Fast

The motto started as soon as the Gators congregated in the locker room after their Gator Bowl win over Ohio State in early January. That's where head coach Will Muschamp laid the groundwork for the 2012 season. The "Start Fast" slogan started that day and players can't remember a day in the offseason where they didn't hear it in the football offices, the weight room or the film room.

Starting fast has become the focus of the Florida football program.

"Right at the end of the Gator Bowl, that's the first thing and last thing he is talking about—starting fast," Florida safety Josh Evans said at Thursday's media day. "It's something we lacked last year. It's pretty much the motto now. Come out, start fast and get on top early. That way, it isn't questionable in the fourth quarter."

There are a few reasons for the motto. Muschamp noticed throughout the season that his team was constantly digging itself out of holes. A team that didn't have much offensive firepower couldn't do that easily. It was also hard for the Gators to regain momentum in games where they fell behind early.

The Gators fell behind early to Auburn, Florida State, LSU and South Carolina. The ending was predictable, as Florida fought but couldn't dig itself out of the hole.

It isn't just about the beginning of the game. Start fast is also referring to the beginning of the season.

The inconsistency that came with 2011 hasn't left the mind of players, coaches or even fans. Success early in the 2012 season would alleviate some of that. It won't be without a challenge either. Florida goes to Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second and third weeks of the season, respectively.

"It's about starting fast," Muschamp said. "You don't play yourself into this season. So we need to come out of the gate fast. It's been a great motivating factor for our football team over the summer and in the off season program and in spring to understand that."

The Florida players have heard it so much in the offseason that it didn't take long to buy in. Muschamp and the Florida assistant coaches have been preaching it. Strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman has been screaming it while the Gators workout.

The players understand the urgency involved in getting off to a fast start.

"We've got to start fast," Matt Elam said. "It's all about getting started in games and in the season. That gives you momentum and confidence. When you stat fast, you do the small things.

"It hurt us last year in games we know we should have won but lost by a field goal or something. It's those close games where we didn't start fast."

Before Muschamp made his way up to Touchdown Terrace for media day on Thursday, he addressed his team as they reported for the start of fall camp on Friday. The message wasn't a pep talk or trying to get them excited to hit the practice field Friday morning.

They've all heard the expectations and saw the No. 23 ranking that Florida was given in the Coaches' Poll on Thursday, but Muschamp didn't want to talk about it. He wanted the talk to end. It's time for production to show on the field.

"I told our players— 15-11 at the University of Florida, we need to quit talking and start playing at the end of the day, just get on the field and play," Muschamp said. "And that's what we need to do as a staff and what we need to do as a team."

Florida is hoping their team motto is what propels them to a season more like ones in the past.

"Start fast and finish strong," Marcus Roberson said. "With that, you can't go wrong."

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