2012 Gators are ‘Hardened'

A year ago Florida head coach Will Muschamp stood on the podium following the Florida-Florida State game and proclaimed his team soft after a 21-7 loss at home. Standing at 6-6 and a possible first losing season since 1979, he had just watched his team do nothing on offense against an FSU defense that was good, but not world beaters. His proclamation rang loud in the ears of his players.

If you want to attack a man, especially a man that plays a game as rugged as college football and even more so in a conference like the SEC, just call him soft. Soft guys don't make it in the SEC. Soft teams get beat week in and week out.

There is little doubt that Will Muschamp had a vision following that game and that vision has been worked to a great deal to get where the gators are today compared to 12 months ago.

Although the Florida defense held FSU to just 95 total yards of offense. They also took the comments that were directed at the entire team and made something of them.

"It was a huge role in the offseason, approaching it with those comments he made," senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said this week. "(Strength coach Jeff Dillman) coming in and preaching to us about mental and physical toughness overall, just improving in those areas and making the workouts a little tougher. The challenges we had in the workouts definitely made us tougher. "

The term ‘soft' really hit home for guys like Hunter.

"It's pretty bad, but guys took that comment hard and wanted to improve and get better," he said. "Coach loves us and this football team and this football team loves coach. Hearing that form him made us want to get better this season.

Junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins agrees and knows that is exactly why Muschamp chose to go with Dillman as the strength coach. Dillman is a guy that preaches toughness and outlasting your opponent and winning at the end of games. He is old school and a guy that wants to bring that hard physical play back to this Gator squad.

"I know this offseason Dillman came in to make us a tougher and stronger team," Jelani agreed.

These Gators may win ugly but not many Gator squads have won as much as they have. Only 13 gator teams in history have won at least 10 games and they stand 10-1 right now. With one more regular season game left on the schedule they are ranked fourth in the BCS rankings and need just a couple of things to happen this weekend to probably play for a nat5ional title.

These Gators have more wins against top12 teams than any other in America. Tell them they win ugly, and they will tell you they just win. And, they just seem to crave the come from behind, give your fans a heart attack, we fooled you, kind of win the most.

"I don't want to say anything (about winning ugly)," Florida junior center Jonothan Hunter said. "That is just our style and how we play football. We love winning those hard fought games. Those are the games where you really show people how tough this football team is… the ones' in the fourth quarter where we have to battle our way through."

"In my opinion a win is a win no matter how we end up winning as long as it's fair and legal," Harrison said. "If we win ugly it just shows there is something we need to work on. We need to perfect that weakness or flaw on our team that (to make us) a great team."

That Florida State game really did make an impression on the entire squad. Harrison says there are a few things different this time around that have them feeling better about the game going in.

"There are a couple of people that have changed positions and a new quarterback and what he can do with his feet is an addition to our offense," he said.

"It was a wake up call and made us work harder in the offseason. We took this whole season with a different mental approach. We need to uphold the standard for the University of Florida Gators.

"They are our huge in-state rivals. The fact that we lost the game last year made us realize that we need to work harder and that we can't just rely on athletic ability. We actually have to play the teams."

"It's just that much more reason and motivation to play this team to the best of our ability and to come out on top… the revenge from last year and the history against Florida State. We need to get Florida back to where Florida is supposed to be."

And for guys like Hunter, a hard loss a year ago helped push for a season like they are having this year. And with four less losses heading into the last game than a year ago, things are much better.

"The top thing is having fun playing football again," he said. "This team has so much fun. When we go out on defense we talk trash to each other. Everyone is just having fun playing the game of football.


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